The final round of the championship was held at 'The Home of British Motorsport', Silverstone. The qualifying and race on the Saturday was the last round of the championship with Sunday's races constituting the non-championship Caterham Academy 'Trophy'.
We were using the 'International' configuration of the circuit, which is not the full Grand Prix circuit, but uses the part of the circuit which utilises the Formula One pits.
As I had not been to the track before, I decided to practice on Thursday morning and in the Friday overspill sessions, as the normal sessions were fully booked by the time I booked on for Friday.
On both days, the weather was very sketchy and I got to practice in both wet and dry conditions. The practice went smoothly again, but I was unsure how I would fare against my competitors as there was no lap timing available in the practice sessions; qualifying would reveal all!
I woke up on Saturday morning to a very damp day. Qualifying was wet, which had the potential to shake up the order! As it turns out, all the main suspects were, in fact, in the top positions, with a couple of surprises thrown in. I managed to get my third pole position in succession, which I was really happy to get as it showed I am just as quick in the wet as I am in the dry.
By the time the race came round on Saturday afternoon, the track had dried up, apart from the inside of the start/finish straight, which is where pole position was on the grid. As a result, I got a lot of wheelspin off the line and I dropped to third position on the first lap, but I was right on the tail of the two leaders. A fantastic battle then ensued which lasted until the chequered flag! There were too many overtakes to list, but I lead on to the last lap, but I got slipstreamed down the back straight and couldn't get ahead before the end of the lap so I had to settle for second. I was very happy though as it was definitely the best race of my life in terms of fun and I had wrapped up second in the championship!
The Caterham Academy Trophy races were scheduled for sunday, where the two Academy groups were amalgamated into one race, up to the circuit's capacity limit. As a result, there were 42 cars on the grid and the grid was based on championship points for the 2 groups. I started 4th on the grid.
The first race was held at around midday and the conditions were rather tricky. There was heavy overnight rain and the track had mostly dried up since. The track was wet off line and the inside of the first corner was a bit damp and the inside of Stowe, the corner at the end of the back straight was fully wet.
In the first race, I made a great start and got the holeshot, only hit a damp patch in the first corner and surrender the lead. Like the first race, there was a three way battle for the lead between me and two others. This time it was with William Smith who won the championship in my group and Henry Heaton who won the championship in the other group. The first half of the race involved us three battling tooth and nail, but at just over half way through, Henry Heaton overshot the turn at the end of the back straight as a result of sliding on the wet track. This meant that it was again between me and William Smith. We started to hit backmarkers around three quarters through the race and we both had some close moments getting through them. I managed to take advantage of the backmarkers with around three laps remaining and made a decisive move to take the lead and I managed to have a good lap and open out a slight advantage of a couple of tenths of a second. I then managed to eke this out to around half a second on the penultimate lap where I took advantage of some backmarkers. Coming into the last lap I thought I had built up enough of a lead, however William was just about within range to pick up my slipstream and I saw him close me in when we were going down the back straight and the Jaws music went through my head! He had enough of a run to try and go up the inside of me, but I just about managed to hold on and take the victory! Needless to say I was ecstatic!
Unfortunately it rained before race two, and it rained so hard that the track became flooded and the race had to be cancelled as a result. I was disappointed as I really wanted to have a wet race, but safety has to come first and the last race that went ahead before the meeting was abandoned, cars were crashing left, right and centre; which is certainly not a lot of fun!
So there we go, my first season of car racing has come to an end.
It's been a fantastic year with two wins, three pole positions and six podiums. Another fact I'm quite proud of is that I haven't spun or crashed all year and have only had £15 worth of damage when my rear fog light was knocked off at Rockingham. It certainly makes it easier on the wallet when you have a clean season - lets hope its not a fluke!
Next year I will be competing in the Caterham Roadsport championship. The main differences on the car are better tyres, the use of a rear anti-rollbar and a brake bias adjuster. The championship consists of fourteen races held over seven weekends, one of which is held abroad. I do not yet know the calendar for next year; this is expected to be announced at the end of November. Once this is announced I can start planning for next year!
Thank you for reading my race reports for this year and I look forward to writing many more next year!
The next round of the championship was at Rockingham Motor Speedway, which is situated near Corby in the midlands.
Me and my parents drove up on the Thursday evening so we would be up early and feeling fresh for the practice day on the Friday. Heavy rain was forecast for all of Friday and showers forecast for Saturday, but the rain didn't materialise until after the race had finished on Saturday! How lucky is that!
We were in for a treat on the Friday, as there were a few classic cars practicing in a different session as a prelude to the Goodwood Revival meeting. There were some beautiful 1960s single seaters and a couple of stunning E-Type Jaguars which kept many of us entertained between sessions!
The actual practice on Friday went very well and everything ran very smoothly. I felt that I had a good pace and that I was in with a shout of the podium once again.
Both qualifying and the race took place on the Saturday this time round with the qualifying at 11:30 in the morning and the race taking place at 4 in the afternoon. Qualifying felt like it went fairly smoothly, however I had not been able to go as fast as I had done the day before in practice. However, this was still enough for me to get pole position on the grid for the race once again, after the successful qualifying performance at Brands Hatch. I was delighted to find that the apparent pace I had found at Brands Hatch (my local circuit) was not a fluke, or because of any 'local knowledge' advantage I may have had.
I had learned a lot from the race at Brands Hatch, where I had lost the lead early on due to a small error on my part and I was unable to re-take it. I was determined to hold on to it this time! I made a good start and managed to hold on to the lead in the always frantic opening lap. I then concentrated on trying to get into a rhythm and trying to set a good pace without making any mistakes. I was able to do this to a certain degree, however I could not produce the laptimes I was able to do earlier in the weekend. Whether this was down to me being a little nervous (as it was the first time I had lead more than 1 lap in car racing) or whether I was trying very hard not to make a mistake, I do not know. I was unable to eke out much of a gap to my pursuers and I was soon being put under a lot of pressure by them. I was having to defend from second place from about one third of the way through the race and was trying to make a compromise between defending my position at every corner and trying to maintain good laptimes so I wasn't joined by more than just a couple of my competitors battling for the win. I concentrated on covering the inside line on the way into the corners, hitting my braking points, clipping all the corner apexes and getting good exits from each corner.
After what seemed like an eternity, the final lap board was shown and it was between me and two other competitors for the win; fourth place was over fifteen seconds behind at this point due to there being an almightly scrap for that position. I went from compromising defensive driving and maintaining a good pace to concentrating purely on holding onto my lead. At Rockingham, the finish line is quite a long way down the start/finish straight, so if you are second, it is possible to slipstream the leader and beat them to the line provided you get a better exit than them out of the final corner. I was leading through the last corner and I made sure I got the best exit possible from it; squaring it off and holding a tight line and I managed to hold on to take my first win of the season, my first win in car racing and my first proper race victory in almost five years!
As you could imagine, I was absolutely ecstatic with the result! It also strengthened my second position in the championship. It is no longer possible to win the championship however as my good friend and great rival William Smith wrapped up the championship at Rockingham and desevedly so. He had got up to speed very early in the year whereas I, along with a few others, have taken a little longer to do so and have therefore been playing catch up during the early part of the year. I do, however, fully expect to be challenging for the championship in next year's Caterham Roadsport championship!
The final round of the season will be held at Silverstone on Saturday the 19th October. I will also be competing in two non-championship races on Sunday the 20th October at Silverstone, where the two Caterham Academy groups will be amalgamated into one big grid of up to forty-four cars, which will be very interesting!
Brands Hatch, the track I had been dreaming of racing at for most of my life, was to host the next round of the Caterham Academy Championship.
Like Donington, I arrived at the track on Friday to get some pre-qualifying practice in and to try a couple of things with the setup of my car. Unlike Donington, I had been to the circuit before, so I did not have to learn the track on the Friday test day, so treated the day as warming up for the race weekend and trying to improve my driving. I felt it was a good day as I felt good in the car and could do some competitive lap times.
There was no track action on Saturday as the organisers had decided to do our qualifying on the Sunday as well as the race. I went along to watch as I had a free ticket for the weekend, I love racing so I enjoy being at a race track anyway, plus I watched the racing on the Saturday to look to see what others were doing with regards to overtaking spots.
I had to be up early on Sunday morning to sign on and get my car scrutineered before qualifying at 10:25. Qualifying seemed to go fairly smoothly, although I thought I could have done better. Very much to my surprise I was on pole position which was obviously a very good result for me and it gave me quite a lot of confidence for the race.
There was an oil spillage in the race before ours so our race was delayed by 15 minutes whilst the organiser cleared the spillage up. I got a good start off the line and managed to hold on to the lead at the start of the race, however, on the last corner of the first lap, I got slightly caught out on the oil residue and went wide, allowing one of my competitors past. In trying to re-take the position I unfortunately got overtaken again and dropped down to third, however this was not for long as I was able to re-take second place one lap later and start to hunt down the leader, who had opened up a small gap. I managed to close the gap on the leader, William Smith within a couple of laps and he started to take defensive lines, and fair play to him, he drove a faultless race and was hard but fair. I was not quite able to overtake him, I had got very close a couple of times and in hindsight, I could have taken a couple more risks, but there was a very real chance that would have put me in the gravel and ended my race completely. So, I finished second, but as you can see from the picture below, it was very close! I also got the fastest lap of the race, meaning it really was an almost perfect day.
I left Brands Hatch feeling very pleased with my performace and I was certainly very happy to be back on the podium! A lot of my family and friends came up to watch me race and I was glad to have put on a good show for them with a very close battle for the lead. I now look forward to racing at Rockingham up in the midlands on the 7th September.
Mobile: 07545 221966
Photos courtesy of Rick Wilson, Chris Middleton, Jon Bryant (snappyracers.com) and John Hutchinson