How much does it cost to do the Caterham Academy? Well, over the past few months I’ve been compiling all the costs I can think to do with the Caterham Academy – covering all the standard and less standard costs I can find out.
There’s a lot of ‘burying head in ground’ about how much is actually spent to go racing and if you are one of these people, please don’t use the new ‘Cost Calculator’ tool! It will only frighten you.
For anyone who does actually want to budget for the season properly, you should definitely use the tool as a starting point. It lets you see the effect of all those ‘nice to have’ items and also accounts for costs which are easy to overlook.
Lots of the options are input via a slider as, for example, suitable helmets range from £300 – £3000! Again, hopefully this tool will steer your purchase choices so you can spend your money where it’s important.
Click the image below to go to the Caterham Academy Cost Calculator.
Whilst I was away enjoying the Moto GP at Silverstone over the weekend, a nice letter from Tim Ward at Caterham arrived on my mat… asking for money! As upsetting as being asked for a second instalment of £6000 is, it is also exciting! It means that I am now in the region of 12 weeks ahead of receiving my kit.
Weeks are going by fast at the moment, so 12 weeks almost sounds soon!
I made a late decision to go along to the final 2012 sprint event for this years Academy, taking place at Snetterton, in Norfolk. I was very grateful to Jenny Grace at Caterham for sorting me a ticket so late in the day.
I wanted to go along for a few reasons. Firstly, I really wanted to see the Academy setup. How it runs and feels at an event. I’ve been to enough circuit races over the years to know roughly how they run. Sprint races are a slightly different animal.
Secondly, I wanted to meet a chat to a number of different racers from this year to get a feel for the season so far.
Lastly, I just love motorsport in all guises and so, getting to attend a race meet is always fun for me. I’ve never been to Snetterton before, although I’ve seen it on TV many times over the years and even raced around it on simulators. Seeing the track first hand and so getting a feel for the place was also nice.
Firstly, wow – the Academy is huge! There are so many cars, drives and vehicles all around that it’s a bit overwhelming really! At Snetterton, group 1 and 2 were all racing on the same day, so that’s 52 Caterhams, their drivers and their friends/family as well as 2 Caterham support trucks, mechanics, organising team, marshalls and officials.
I arrived ahead of the driver briefing and so got to listen in all day, right from the start. Each driver is given a sequential sprint number and everyone shuffled themselves into a rough and ready queue for final scruteneering and sound checking. There was definitely an air of intensity coming from the drivers. This year, the drivers aren’t allowed to attend test days at the sprint event tracks – however, the Snetterton 100 sprint course is essentially the new infield section of the Snetterton 300 course and some racers had booked themselves onto track days on the 300 to maximise their knowledge.
That showed in the early times, with some of group 2 getting on the pace right from the first practice run. Others needed that practice time! There were some exciting moments out there, some spins, squeals and run-offs!
Over the day, the times for all did drop. Group 2 appears to have a number of very rapid drivers and is around a second ahead of group 1. Speaking to some of the group 2 racers, they were strongly of the opinion that there is no substitute for track time – something that they felt they couldn’t give the same attention as the leading drivers.
I was also put into two minds again about the wiseness of me doing a self build. Most that I asked said that, given their time again, they wouldn’t go through it and they would spend the £3000 to have Caterham do it. The feeling being that it’s fiddly, the build manual isn’t up to scratch and ultimately, getting Caterham to do it will mean you have your car earlier and can therefore get in the driving seat and get the miles on the clock sooner.
At the moment, I want to do it both ways!
As with most events, there is an awful lot of waiting around for each driver, followed by a tiny amount of track action. At sprint events, this is even more exaggerated. With 5 timed runs through the day, each lasting a little over 1 minute! That’s around 6 minutes of driving through the whole day! It’s not a lot. I know what to expect – even race meets are short action bursts followed by long waits, but I got the impression that some drivers were extremely keen to get to the real racing on track to feel like they were getting more out of their time.
In one interesting conversation I had with a group 2 driver, they said they would have been happier with several organised track days at the beginning of the season, with lots of running for all drivers through the day – followed but a couple of timed laps at the end of the day for everyone to add the competitive element. To me, that sounds like a really good idea – I have no idea of the practicality of it or whether it’s possible for 2013 but I think it would get my vote.
I’m very glad I made the effort to go to a sprint event this year. It was a treck to get over to Norfolk but I do think it was worthwhile. The less you have to think about during a race day, the more you can concentrate on the track and the reason you’re there!
I hope to also make it along to to a circuit race at some point this season. I think it might be fun to go to an event where the Academy joins up with all the other Caterham classes (I believe that’s at Rockingham this year but will need to do some investigation! All those Caterhams together really will be a sight to behold!