Cheesy’s Guide to Roadsport – Upgrading / Inspecting

A few people have asked me about the Roadsport upgrading process both from the point of view of the car and also the racing.

The Caterham Academy is a great introduction to motorsport and, although you don’t always know it at the time, having dedicated co-ordinators on hand to point you in the right direction and prevent you from making mistakes is a complete blessing.

Every time you left your upgrade card behind or forgot about a briefing, someone was there to pick up the pieces. In ‘real’ club motorsport, you’d be left off the grid or with a fine to pay.

I’m going to split this guide up into a couple of articles, as otherwise it will be overwhelming (and boring.)

Upgrading

Your first task is to get your car into Roadsport specification. Some of this you can do yourself but some of it also needs to be done by the factory or a team. In reality, most people drop their car off and pick it up again once it’s done.

You don’t have a mandatory engine upgrade this year, so the only bit that you can’t realistically take on yourself is the fitment of the brake bias valve.

There are some optional upgrades available and regulations allow for some other alterations to the car as well.

Rear Anti-Roll Bar. This is technically ‘optional’ but in reality, it’s going to be essential for your car and, in any case, is a very desirable addition. It stabilises the backend, especially on turn in and makes the car far more stable. If also offers 4 levels of stiffness so you can start to play with car balance through setup.

Green front anit-roll bar. Not everyone purchased the green ARB but I found it essential. That will depend lots on your own driving preferences. Again, it offers flexibility in finding a car balance. (Hint: Lots of these bars will be hanging about for purchase from last years Roadsport group – as well as Red if you haven’t already got one of those.) With the addition of the rear anti-roll bar to the car, the Red bar becomes essential if you haven’t got one already.

High effort brake pedal: The regulations allow you to run this alternative pedal. Essentially, it puts more effort through the pedal for less movement. This really helps keep the pedal firm and solid for heel toe. For me, this was another essential purchase.

Adjustable rear brake valve: This valve offers a way to restrict rear brakes on the car. Essentially, it allows you to move the balance of the braking forwards and backwards. With the valve fitted, you have more options on brake pads open to you because you don’t need to have 100% naturally balanced pads. It also becomes extremely useful in wet conditions when trying to prevent front lockups.

Brake pad choice: The brake pad choice is free in Roadsport. Again, this is preference and don’t believe that spending more is always the best course of action. Speak to Caterham/teams and ask for advice. The choice you make will vary depending on if you have a bias valve fitted.

Wheels / tyres: Although the new tyres are going to be unknown entities to everyone on the grid next year, you can be sure that they will wear far more than the Academy tyres. If you haven’t already invested in spare wheel sets, now is probably the time to think about it. Most people end up with 3 sets. One set is kept new for wet conditions. The other two sets are managed carefully to make sure you’ve always got a set ready to race.

Inspecting

As well as the mandatory upgrades, there are other parts of the car that will have suffered an amount of wear and tear through the year. How much will very much depend on your antics on track and an element of luck.

Take the time over winter to inspect the car closely. Get it up on axle stands and give it a really good clean. It’s the only way you can tell exactly what’s going on. (I mean clean suspension / major components – not just the outer skin!)

Be methodical and inspect all the major components. Get a powerful torch and pay special attention to the radius arms, De-Dion tube and A-Frame welds. Each of these parts is susceptible to breaking and one or other will most likely break in Roadsport if you are not careful to remain vigilant.

On the radius arms and A-Frame, look at each of the welds. If any are showing signs of rust or tiny crack lines where the weld meets the main body, you should replace that part. Neither of these parts is ultra expensive, and so you may chose to consider these parts as consumable and replace them yearly.

On the De-Dion tube, you should pay close attention to the main weld near where the silver ‘ears’ attach at each end. Make sure you look all the way around. Again, use a torch look carefully for any signs that the weld is cracking or pulling away. Again, rust spots can be a sign of issues developing.

You should also pay close attention to the Diff Cage. Again, get a torch in and inspect each of the welds and look for cracking on the attachment arms.

If you haven’t done a nut and bolt check in a while – it’s really important to get this done (you should be doing this after every track day – and for key nuts/bolts, after every session.) I don’t go as far as setting the torque on each but I double check they haven’t come lose.

The older gearbox often needed reconditioning after a seasons racing. It may well be that the new box is more resilient.  If you start feeling any weakness/notchyness/crunchiness in the gearbox, it may be time to have it re-conditioned. If you get Caterham or a race team to do this for you, much of the cost is actually the time taken to remove / replace the engine. Doing this job yourself can save you lots of money but shouldn’t be undertaken lightly!

If you do have the gearbox reconditioned, then it’s also a good opportunity to replace the clutch / clutch release bearing. I did have a clutch explode on me over winter but I know of nobody else who has had that happen!

Make sure you change the oil and filter on the engine. You should really be doing that fairly regularly though the year but if you haven’t been keeping up with this, then you should certainly do that now.

Up next…

In the next article I’ll talk about the differences in the race weekends between Academy and Roadsport.

Is it really all over already?

Ridiculous that we’re already at the end of the 2014 season. Yesterday I was at Snetterton shaking everyone’s hand before the season started and today, I’m home from Silverstone having competed 14 races of relentless battling.

I’m not overly keen on Silverstone International as a track. It’s fun to initially learn but once you’ve found the commitment it needs, ultimately, the pace is not found with driving skill, but with following someone. However, that does lead to some truly epic battles being fought out as clumps of cars circulate and can’t shake each other off and, sure enough, the Roadsport grid put on a great show for the large crowd of spectators that had all turned up to support.

Qualification was soaking wet. Having not driven Silverstone in the wet wince the monsoon of our final Academy race last year, the first part of the session was figuring out if there was any grip anywhere… (there isn’t.) Having made the call at Snetterton and Croft to leave the car very stiff on setup, I again plumped for that decision. However, the front end of the car just wasn’t prepared to grip enough in these conditions and I struggled to get turned while retaining any speed. That left me in 6th on the grid and off the pace. Half way through the session, I was down in 12th.

It was a great battle. It’s always a great battle. One day, I will figure out how to win!

6th is my worst starting position ever. Rockingham would have been 6th but for the fact we had a split grid. However, the track was drying fast in the afternoon and the left side of the grid was far drier than the right. As the lights went out, my car shot forward, whilst those on the right of the track bogged down with wheel spin. That immediately saw me in 3rd place. Once a frustrating combination of yellow flags went away in the early stages, I was free to push on and having made it to the lead I pushed as hard as I could to try and break away from the mob of cars still fighting it out.

That worked, to the tune of 1.5 seconds lead. However, that wasn’t enough to shake off Jack Sales, who had also broken clear out of the pack. Over the following couple of laps, the DRS like tow pulled Jack back to my car and he sat there, waiting! All the time, we were pulling away from the battle for 3rd and all the time, I knew that Jack was just waiting for the last lap board to show!

Last time down hanger straight, I tried to double bluff him and we went into Stowe side by side. But Jack had his nose ahead coming out of the corner. Into Vale I was on the outside. I braked as late as I dared and, as it transpired, too late. I went wide at the corner, but Jack had gone wider, and off the track. However, I couldn’t pull it back around as there wasn’t the space and the outside of the track was still wet. Around club I tried another cut back but the line at Silverstone comes very quickly out the final corner and I ended up a 10th back.

It was a great battle. It’s always a great battle. One day, I will figure out how to win!

Will ended up finishing 7th. This saw the Championship close up dramatically. It was all going down to the last race of the season. That only seemed right after the year we’ve had.

Race 2 saw a very damp track again. This time, the early morning sun and lack of cars running around hadn’t had a chance to create a dry line. But, as the sun got stronger, it was only going to get better as out race went on.

Again, I made the decision to keep the car stiff and at the start of the race. Off the line, I got too much wheel spin and immediately dropped to 6th. Through lap 2 that had seen me slide down to 8th and on lap 3, I started in 9th place. The car was not enjoying the conditions and I was trying too hard to make up the difference. However, as I learned the track conditions and as the drying line appeared, I picked up the pace. Once I’d got back past James and Will, I was able to span the gap that had formed to the battle for 3rd. I used the tow that had been used by Jack the day before to skip past and get to 3rd. However, Dan wasn’t going to sit down and take that and we swapped places once more before I finally got a small gap.

It’s been a fantastic year. I’ve had a brilliant time. There’s nothing I want to do more.

That gap just hung on through the race and although I was catching Jack and Tim out front at the end of the race, I couldn’t get back in contention and I crossed the line in 3rd.

Jack had once again won the race and with Will having only recovered back to 5th, that saw them tied on points. However, countback on number of wins saw Jack take the title. I ended the season 4 points back from the top two. Stats are a bitch! I had a great weekend, with great results, but I still managed to lose 2nd place in the Championship!

It’s been a fantastic year. I’ve had a brilliant time. There’s nothing I want to do more. Best of all, I get to share every weekend with friends and family who love it just as much.

Thank you to EVERYONE who makes this happen. See you next year for more of the same!

2014 season drawing to a close

Next weekend sees us arrive at the final round of the 2014 Caterham Roadsport Championship. It’s hard to believe that we’ve reached this stage. Snetterton only feels a short time ago, yet we’ve crammed in so much since that weekend back in April.

After the adventures in Croft last time out, I’m now in second place in the championship and, with the way the scoring system works, the chances of me winning outright are pretty much gone. However, there is still very much a fight to be had for 2nd and 3rd place and that’s got to be my primary goal going into the weekend.

Silverstone is such a lottery in a Caterham. The massively wide track, the massively fast corners and the massively long straights all lead to it being a slip-stream focussed circuit. Where we normally have a gaggle of 9 cars in the lead pack, I can see this being more like 15 or so this time out – with everyone capable of working the traffic to spring a surprise.

However, the weather has also turned very Autumnal and a damp track is sure to play a role over the weekend. I’d certainly like to see wet weather to throw a spanner in the works. Although, I’d like it to stop short of the monsoon we had last year for the Academy race!

I can’t wait for the racing. I can’t wait to see friends and family. I can’t wait to see how this big adventure will end up!

  • Sat 18th 10:00 – Qualification
  • Sat 18th 14:40 – Race 1
  • Sun 19th 10:30 – Race 2

Catch all the live timing at http://www.tsl-timing.com (search for Caterham)

See you on track!