Provisional Calendar Released!

The provisional calendar has been released for the 2013 Caterham Academy. And it looks like a good’un! It will stay provisional until the regulations are released.

ARDS Day

  • Group 1: Wed 13th Feb, Castle Combe
  • Group 2: Wed 20th Feb, Castle Combe

Set-up Morning

  • Sat 2nd March, Dartford

Handling Day

  • Group 1: Sat 16th March
  • Group 2: Sun 17th March

Official Test Day

  • Wed, 17th April, Castle Combe (?)

Sprint Events

  • Sat, 27th April, Aintree
  • Sat, 18th May, Snetterton 100
  • Sat, 15th June, Blyton Park

Races

  • Sat, 13th / Sun, 14th July, Donnington Park
  • Sat, 3rd / Sun, 4th Aug, Brands Hatch Indy (Caterham 40th Festival)
  • Sat, 7th September, Rockingham
  • Sat, 19th / Sun, 20th October, Silverstone International

The Academy will be racing alongside the other Caterham series at 3 out of the 4 races this year – which will have ups and downs associated with it, but it will certainly be a great years intro to racing!

Pick up and first drive

The weather report got it right. Sunny but cold weather saw me on my way to pick up the Caterham from Dartford. A long and painful journey by train and taxi eventually got me to the factory.

We went through the paperwork and I spoke to a technician about the parts of the car that were rectified post build. The majority of these were relatively minor and he kindly said that my build was good. Most people have longer fix lists apparently! Likely, he was just being kind!

I’ll list out at the end the nuggets of info I picked up from this chat.

After a nice chat with Kate, Mark and Lee it was time to get in the car and get home. The light was running out and that meant that the warmth was as well! And there wasn’t that much of it about to start with!

Lee and Mark both suggested that earplugs would be a good idea for the journey back due to the wind noise. I am extremely grateful for this advice, because it saved me both a headache and earache. A good tip for anyone without doors and roof!

By the end of the journey, I had added a hat and gloves to my garb and it was still utterly freezing. Next drive, I’ll include even more layers. I’m lucky my nose and lips are still on my face! It was still great fun though. Even only using low revs it’s still got a great engine note and it pops and burbles nicely to let you know it wants to do more.

Everything feels very immediate and tight. The steering is incredibly direct. Far more than anything I’ve ever driven before. The Elise had amazing steering and feel but this is far more sensitive. The wheel is much smaller as well, which emphasises that even more.

It’s impossible to tell about the power at the moment as the limit of 4000 revs pulls the car short just as it’s starting to get into its sweet spot. Again, something else to look forward to at the track day on Saturday.

If you haven’t watched the video to the end, you should!

Build tips and corrections:

Engine Wiring and Cooling

I’ve not looked at the end result yet but apparently there are some IVA inspectors that are very particular about the way the engine bay is presented. Therefore, Caterham always make sure that customer cars are presented the same way, to ensure it doesn’t matter which inspectors are on duty for the IVA! Nearly all post builds have a cost for correction of engine bay wiring.

Front Brake Hoses

Make sure that even at the absolute extremes of wheel turn, the brake cables are clear from even a hint of any kinking.

Drivers Seat

Apparently, the trick is to start with the seat forward, put in the rear bolts and bend the release handle down just enough to allow the release to work. To be honest, It still sounds overly hard to me! The manual needs much more on this method for the lowered floor car.

Nyloc Nuts

For the car to pass IVA, there are a certain number of threads that must be protruding through nyloc nuts. Sometimes, adding additional washers where none are required can mean not enough of the bolt comes through the nut to pass this.

Handbrake Cable

The manual doesn’t mention this, but the handbrake cable should be crossed in the tunnel, just ahead before you attach it to the pulley on the end of the lever. It gives better clearance inside the tunnel and makes sense.

Inner Starter Motor Bolt

Apparently, with a wobble head allen key and a very short extension bar, it is possible to get to this bolt from underneath the car.

Car pick up should be Thursday… track day booked for Saturday

I just couldn’t resist. I hope I don’t live to regret the impatience! I’ve been told that the registration documents should be back at Caterham on Thursday morning. I can therefore pick it up on Thursday afternoon… The first problem being getting to Dartford. The trains are shocking from here and it’s going to take around 2.5 hours to get there, rather than just over an hour in the car.

I will then have a couple of days to put some miles on the car (wet/freezing miles no doubt) before I drive it over to Keevil Airfield for it’s first track action!

There are lots of differing opinions on whether you should wear in the engine, whether it makes no difference or whether it’s beneficial to rag it from day 1. So, after listening to many of them, I’ve come to the conclusion that after its IVA double trip – which will likely mean I pick it up with 120 miles on the clock – and with the trip over to Keevil being over 100 miles plus any additional miles that I can manage for the fun of it, I’ll be well over half way along the normal wear in cycle that is recommended for reduced revs.

That’s enough right 🙂

Following on from Keevil, if the car goes well, there are still spaces available and the weather doesn’t look utterly shocking, I’ll also sign up for Donnington on 8th December, where a number of the 2012 Academy and several 2013 Academy drivers will be in attendance.

(Big grin)

It passed IVA… eventually

Great news, the car passed its IVA today. It didn’t pass first time – apparently it failed on the brake warning light. This was something that Caterham had on the list of fixes – but I’m guessing it got overlooked somewhere along the line.

Still, that’s another hurdle done. Just registration now. Hopefully Kate will give me a shout tomorrow and let me know when I can come an pick up the car.

With it not passing first time, I think Lee got to put a fair few miles on the clock, which should mean that it’s already on the way to being warn in. This may well open up the possibility of being at Keevil on 1st December, taking it on track for the first time.

I’m tempted by Donnington on the 8th December as well. I’m waiting for the weather reports on that at the moment. If I don’t get to Keevil, then I’ll almost certainly be there.

Caterham Academy 2013 Seminar

On Saturday, we had the first official event of the 2013 calendar year. The Seminar day.

If you’re not as damn nosey as I am and haven’t done a lot of asking and digging around already, this day really is the first time that you get to hear all about the Academy year and really get the impression that something is happening!

Nearly everyone from both groups of the Academy had made it up to Caterham Midlands, near Leicester for a 9am start. Jenny Grace kicked off proceedings by taking everyone through the way that the season would run, what would be expected of us and what we can expect from Caterham. We got to hear our provisional sprint dates and venues.

Next year, we’ll be kicking off with Aintree as normal, provisionally on the 27th April. We then move to Snetterton 100 on 18th May. Finally we end the sprint events at Blyton Park on 15th June. Blyton is a new venue for the Academy – and being based in Scunthorpe, is another long old trek up North for those based on the South coast!

Sadly, we still don’t know our track venues or dates yet. We’ve been told these will be announced on 30th November.

Jenny also covered some of the more administrative aspects of the Academy. Talking us though race licences and the paper work we would be asked to complete shortly.

Simon Lambert took us through towing :). Who knew there was sooo much interesting stuff to cover on the subject… ahem. Simon covered some the driving and competitive aspects of the year as well as the personal aspects of all being shoved into the same situation with other like minded people and coming away friends at the end of it.

He covered the topic of insurance… I’ve covered that before in this blog. Essentially, £1600 to cover a big accident. Most accidents won’t break through the £2000 excess.

He also walked everyone through the potential pitfalls of spending £’000s on tuition, gadgets and gear. He acknowledged the fact that this would go straight in one ear and out the other with some, but he insisted that there was very little advantage spending out on team support between races and extensive tuition. That there is no magical setup for a Caterham and that you’re better off concentrating on your own performance than that of your car.

Porky and Zoli from the 2012 Academy year were on hand to offer the competitors point of view on proceedings and the support crew took everyone through what their role was through the year – essentially, they fix things when you brake them at the track – they don’t prepare cars! Unless, of course, you pay them to! They are also on hand to answer questions and to help the Academy drivers help themselves with tips, tricks and guidance.

Jonny from Book-a-track then took us through how important track days are to get used to track driving (of course he’s gonna say that!) but he also made it clear the differences between track days and testing days. Jonny is always great to listen to and he did a great job.

Lunch offered everyone the chance to have a good old natter. The day started out quite quiet but by the end, it was amazing how noisy the chatting had become! For me, this was the best part of the whole day. We’d seen the names on the first newsletter of all the drivers but seeing a whole room full of the faces that go along with the names was absolutely great. Personally, my biggest criticism of the day would be that there wasn’t enough of an opportunity to chat to everyone. I would certainly have been up for a social after the formalities had finished.

After lunch, the support team demoed how to correctly load a car on a trailer – which was great to see – and is good to know that I didn’t get anything majorly wrong when I took my car over to Dartford!

The day ended with a chat from Dave Kimberley of Demon Tweaks. He took us through the kit we’d need and the official Caterham suit on offer if enough people signed up.

The big news this year is that we are going to be able to officially use data logging equipment at Caterham events. I already have my V Box, and now, being able to use it without having to constantly remember to remove the logging aspects of it at official events is going to be great.

Like I said, meeting and chatting to so many people was great. The ‘excitementometer’ has been cranked up another notch and assuming that the IVA and registration goes well, I should be actually driving the car next week. Perhaps even on track with it next weekend!

Bring it.

That what needs to be done…

So, I’ve had ‘the list’ back from the Post Build Check. I can’t say that the list is unexpected but there are a fair few things on there that need to be resolved to make everything correct.

So, here’s the list of things Caterham will be finishing off/correcting for me.

  • Engine wiring and hose tidying in a correct manor for IVA
    • Expected this one
  • Rectify front left brake hose
    • No idea what’s up with this… perhaps not enough clearance when turning wheel?
  • Rectify drivers seat (on my list)
    • As I hadn’t done this, it was expected!
  • Remove fan washers
    • Guess I added some where none were needed!
  • Rectify tunnel wiring (on my list)
    • Relates to attaching the wire to the wrong terminal on the handbrake. Was on my list of things to resolve.
  • Trim knee trim panels
    • Guessing this was trim that needs to be added to one of the edges of the panel – and I guess I hadn’t done it. Can’t remember seeing this in the IVA guide.
  • Fit wheel nut spacers
    • These aren’t mentioned in the manual, but they resemble large washers with a chamfered edge. I hadn’t noticed them in my kit and didn’t know they needed fitting. Not even sure how they are fitted! But anyway, they need adding!
  • Rectify ear bolts and washers
    • The manual is so utterly crap here that I’m not surprised I got some of it wrong. This section of the manual needs urgent attention! It mixes references from one bag of parts to another with gay abandon and doesn’t make anything clear!
  • Fit locknut on 3-way
    • Guessing this is the brake hose 3-way on the de-dion. Not sure what the manual says on this but it’s ether me or it that is wrong.
  • Correct washers on rear brake hose
    • Missed off the correct washers where the de-dion flexiblebrake hose meets the chassis fixed hose. Think it needs anti-shake washer and plain.
  • Spring washers to passenger seat bolts
    • Manual say plain washer but clearly, it needs to be a spring washers.
  • Rectify crossed handbrake cable
    • Doh! Can’t say I noticed this at all and I’m surprised I did… the adjuster was on the correct side of the diff so it must have been when attaching to the handbrake cable I made a boob… strange that I didn’t notice this though.
  • Rectify rear wiring
    • No idea on this. All lights appeared to work OK before I left! Guessing it’s IVA related but I could be wrong.
  • Rectify starter motor bolt (on my list)
    • Bolt half in. Knew it would need resolving! So no surprises here.
  • Rectify engine mount bolts
    • No idea! One did appear longer than the others and again, the manual isn’t very clear here so I’m not surprised something wasn’t quite right.
  • Bleed brakes
    • Of course… and good thing as I never got the pedal as firm as I would like. Glad that I used Caterham standard fluid rather than anything more exotic.
  • Tighten handbrake cable
    • Fair enough after un-crossing.

All that adds up to £408 + VAT Ouchy.

I’m way way over my monthly budget this month. Road insurance, IVA fee, Caterham IVA presentation, road tax, car registration and now this! Sigh.

Car’s back with Caterham!

OK, another step along the route towards actually getting to drive my car! It’s back with Caterham for its post build check. Apparently, it’s the first one back for checking…

I met one of the support team for the Academy, Mark, who was brilliant and let me have a good nosey around the factory production lines and answered as many of my questions as he was allowed to. (See below for a summary of my IVA/Build queries and the answers)

I also spoke to Lee, the IVA specialist in the factory and a 2013 Academy Racer! Group 2 though, so I’m allowed to talk to him 🙂

There were still Academy kits going down the line and some very shiny complete builds all looking ready to go, so there must still be some excited people out there! And all different colours at that! Mark said that this years groups seem to have gone to town on colour combinations for their cars – much more than in previous years. It seems that you may stand out more this year if you stick with no paint!!

Finally, I also saw the media car going down the line. Each year, one of the positions in Group 1 is taken up by a media partner to race through the year. There’s been no announcement on who will be racing with us yet, but the car is lime green – which may or may not be a clue.

So, one more week to go until the seminar up in Leicester and then, all being well, I should have the car ready to be picked up during the following week! So close I can smell the petrol!

1. Drivers seat

In the factory, they bend the adjustment arm so that it still has clearance when the seat is in the forward position. They also start with the rear bolts (where the manual says to start with the front ones). Another case of the manual not catering correctly for the latest rails and the lowered floor option that the Academy car comes with.

I would still be tempted to go with hex head bolts in the rails rather than the allen key bolts if I were attempting it again. But I’m not! (And hopefully never will again!)

2. Inner starter motor bolt

Mark confirmed that a lot of people just leave this bolt out and it isn’t a problem.

3. Rear A-Frame torque

Confirmed you just need 2 deep sockets for this, but that they also need to be thin walled to enable them to sit correctly.

4. Brake bleed nipple – different sizes

Apparently, there isn’t an issue when bleed nipples are a different spanner size. The size can vary.

5. Tethering the fuel tank cap

This isn’t needed on the new Rover cover apparently.

6. Bending exhaust spring brackets down

It’s not clear what the IVA guide means by this, but essentially, on the two hooks on the outer edge of the exhaust, the whole hook needs to be bent back in towards the car, so the ook sits further under the cat.

7. Forward popper base on boot cover (near hood stick mounting point)

This isn’t fitted by the factory as it’s part of the hood assembly and is done during that process. If you aren’t fitting a hood, then you need to fit this yourself if you want it.

8. Fire extinguisher handle

Mark said most people just leave the handle in for Caterham to remove when they present for IVA. However, if you need to remove it, you unhook the cable from the fire extinguisher bottle and then pull the cable all the way through from the dashboard. He said it’s an easy job to feed it all back through when you need to put it back on. Not sure if that’s “Caterham” easy, or “Normal Person” easy.

9. Handbrake position and warning light

There are two settings that the handbrake can be connected to the chassis. One makes it lie flat up against the tunnel cover material, the other makes the handle stick upwards very slightly away from the material. Mine lies flat against the material, which initially I thought was incorrect but actually, Mark confirmed this isn’t an issue and, in fact, will be fairly useful next year when I have to gaffer tape over the handle when racing.

He also confirmed that the warning light that comes on when the handbrake is off/goes out when the handbrake is on is because I connected the wire to the wrong terminal on the handbrake lever switch.

First race with the Caterham…. of sorts

Because I’ve got to wait an inordinately long time before I’m actually going to get into my Caterham and drive it, I’ve decided I’m going to race it… kind of.

You may also have spotted from my pictures and videos, I’m carrying a spare tyre of my own which isn’t needed for racing.

So, combining these two facts, my race will be to lose another stone by the time I first drive the car. That’s going to leave around 4 weeks to do it.

I’ll let you know how I get on.