Category Archives: Costs

How much does it really cost to enter the Caterham Academy

Insurance 2016

Every year I get quotes for racing cover. This year is no exception. The most competitive quote I got was from BlueFin insurance. It may save some of you some time / energy from asking around.

The BlueFin deal covers all 7 race weekends plus all testing and track days up until the end of October. You don’t have to notify them if you’re going on a track/test day in advance.

Just to give the casual reader an idea of how much it costs to insure a race car for a season (remember this is a good deal I’ve found…)

Premium: £3.2k
Excess: £2k
Cover: £12k
Includes reinstatement clause (if you make a claim, the cover will return to £12k up to twice in one year.)

Speak to Richard Pellegrini ( ) if you’re interested in a similar deal and please mention Cheesy sent you!

If you’re an Academy driver, why not try for a better deal with them as you’re only doing 7 competitive events rather than 14? Let me know how you get on if you do enquire.

If you’re currently insuring your car on trackdays via your road insurance, just be aware that any claim made will affect your no claims bonus and that’s not always made clear!

Second Payment

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!

Optional / Semi-optional costs

Ok, so I’ve given myself a break from costing for a while. However, it’s time to get back to it. This time though, these costs would be considered to be optional or at least, semi-optional. They won’t raise my estimated ‘minimum’ cost of racing in he Academy as you can perhaps live without them.

Bag Seat

Bag SeatAlthough the car is supplied with Tillett race seats, many chose to race with a bag seat – a custom made moulded seat.

Reasons for using a bag seat being one or more of the following: sitting lower in the car (or higher); making sure that the helmet is clear of the roll-cage by the amount stipulated in the regulations; comfort and driving position; safety (a bag seat can support the body better in an accident).

It is possible to do a DIY bag seat using a bin liner/survival bag and 2-part expanding foam kit (about 5kg kit). This is cheap – the foam costs about £20-£30. (Here’s some you can buy!) – you then wrap the resultant seat in duct-tape.

However, don’t be surprised if it takes a couple of attempts to get it right. You’ll also need bodies around to help you with the process.

There are more advanced techniques using better quality materials (foam beads and resin mixes inside a special flexible bag). However, these come with additional cost.

You can also get someone to do it for you. I believe that Caterham offer the service for around £250.  You’re more likely to get a good result first time and some good advice on position – but that comes at a price.

If you do stick with the Tillett, the I believe it is best practice to pack expanding foam behind the seat to make it stronger.

Lap Timer

Lap TimerIn the academy, you’re not allowed any form of data logging throughout official events. The one concession on this is a basic lap-timer. Racecentre made T100 (£90 ex VAT) and T200  (£100 ex VAT) are the only ones allowed. Caterham can supply.

Because these devices are so basic, they aren’t really used outside of the Academy. The rest of the Caterham ladder allows more advanced data-logging and therefore don’t be surprised if lots of these devices become available at the end of the previous season!

Onboard Camera

Go Pro HD HeroRacelogic Video VBoxThere are lots and lots of options when it comes to recording your achievements on camera. They stretch from the budget end – say £100, to the Rolls Royce end – £2000. All vary in quality, size and features.

A lot of drivers opt for the GoPro HD (and now the GoPro HD2). At £250 ish, it’s not the cheapest option on the market but it offers big picture quality bang for the buck. It’s also used EVERYWHERE – so there are an absolute tonne of accessories and mounts. It’s light weight and waterproof. The HD2 also offers the capability to live broadcast!

I’ve personally used 2 companies before and had good service from both of them. – I purchased a Bullet Cam HD Wide (£129) (Here’s some helmet cam footage). – I have an HD Pro from them (£299) (Here’s some on-board footage). Both companies also sell the GoPro.

At the Rolls Royce end, there is the VBox family of cameras. Unlike the lower end cameras, these are real tools. As well as recording footage, they also have the capability to data-log using GPS. Having the video and GPS data means that post testing analysis can be done and directo comparison can be made between your laps and, say, an instructor. You can identify exactly where you are losing time.

However, all this capability comes at a cost. Prices don’t start until just short of £1000 and quickly rise to £2000. That’s a heck of an investment. It is also essential that the data logging is turned off if these cameras are used at official Academy events because the regulations strictly prohibit their use. If you’re tempted, you can find out what they can do and their heft price tags here.

The insurance debate

To insure or not to insure? That’s the question. And it’s one for which I haven’t got all the answers to at the moment. As the idea of this blog is to open up information for potential participants in the Academy, here’s what I’ve found out to date…

So long as enough of the Academy entrants are willing to sign up, there is often a ‘deal’ on the table to cover drivers at the sprint and circuit races for the year. I understand that the  price was £1600 for the year. Prices year on year will obviously vary – and I have every confidence that the previous years entrants have more than a slight impact on the kind of deal being offered! Especially if it were their cars doing the impacting!

Hopefully someone will be able to clarify the deal in the comments to this post, but this covers you for £12,000 total damage over the season. However, every claim made comes with a £2000 excess (which also counts towards this £12,000 total insured value). I believe the cover is only for the 4 races and 3 sprint events. No testing or track days are included in the cover.

So, let’s take some scenarios:

Insurance best case:

Your car is damaged to the tune of £12,000 (I hope you’re OK….). Insured, you’re out of pocket £3,600 (premium plus excess) and you’re off and running. Uninsured, you’re looking at £12,000 bill…. for most, that’s unlikely to be met! Likely end of season…

That would be the end of your insurance though, and if you wanted to continue onwards insured, you’d have to re-insure and you can be certain that you’re next premium/excess will be far greater.

Insurance worst case:

If accident damage through the year never exceeds £2,000, you’re always going to be out of pocket for the £1,600 premium and would have been better off not insuring.

In fact, accident damage lower than £3,600 still leaves you behind.

So, as far as the insurance gamble goes, you’re really insuring on a major accident. Or two biggies (say 2 x £5,000). It’s also worst enquiring whether the insurance will cover VAT costs and labour costs. I would imaging most in the Academy won’t be VAT registered for their season, so VAT on a hefty repair bill shouldn’t be left to chance! And labour costs could be major.

A new chasis costs £4,500. Ally paneling costs about £200 per side. Rear panels not far off £100. Floor panels around £120 per side. Nosecone £160. Front wings £50. Rear wings £100. Gearbox around £1,200. Engine – somewhere close enough to £4,000.

If you do have a big one – then you can see how costs will mount quite quickly.  If you manage to bend a chasis, then insurance will immediately pay off for you. (As well as having to start your build all over again!)

However, it will be interesting to hear what’s normal from the Academy point of view. It certainly seems that most years have at least one fairly sizeable crash shown on Youtube…  But what do most people experience. I guess you can fix a fair amount of damage well within the £3,600 premium + excess costs and multiple minor prangs won’t be covered by insurance.

There are obviously far more variables to consider as well…. for example, you can clearly go and get your own premium and I know some chose to only insure for the track races – taking the gamble on the less risky sprint races.

Then there’s cover to consider for track / test days…

I’m not decided yet. It feels like a deal or no deal ‘banker’ offer that is always just not quite offering what would make it a no-brainer… It would be pretty heart braking to duff up the car beyond your own bank balance and not have any choice but to pull out for the year…

Tow ball done

£345 fitted inc VAT and I have a tow ball ready for the trailer.

The Elise is being pampered at the moment and will be polished within an inch of it’s life geting ready for sale. The warm weather isn’t any good for plants at the moment, but if it continues, it could be great for selling a convertible!

Fingers crosses…

Also good to see some other Academy racers coming by the site. It would be brilliant if comments were left to see how my cost estimations are going? Are they accurate?

This in-between stage is hard to live with at the moment. I can’t get on track as I’m saving every penny at the moment and it’s still a long way off to the build. I’m sure time will scream by though. Especially as there are 2 payment stages in-between now and then!

One final update is that I’m going to speak to Caterham about sorting myself a visit to see options and test drive a 7! Buying a car without having sat in it or driven it is a bit barmy!

Racing gear

Next up to haunt the balance sheet is racing gear. It’s an area that you really don’t want to be scrimping on either. However, there’s also no reason to go completely overboard either.

Safety equipment all has to confirm to standards and you should look at those standards rather than the price tag as an indication of being suitable for purpose.

I intend to visit Grand Prix Racewear ( based at Silverstone once the car is built to make sure I get to try on everything. Up until then, here are the rough budgets for equipment:

  • Race suit: £400
  • Fireproof vest, long-johns, socks, balaclava: £140
  • Helmet: £500
  • HANS: £425
  • Boots: £120
  • Gloves: £50
  • Gumshield: £30

Another £1305 to add to our total. You could go way more here, especially if you’re brand concious. You could also go less if completely frugal and willing to be a brand mongrel.

The remaining costs that I haven’t yet covered are running costs (petrol, accommodation, brake pads incidentals), insurance, accident damage, track testing, tuition and a few optional extras, like a lap timer and on-board cameras. I think at this stage, I’ll leave them. Firstly to give myself a break from the reality of how expensive motorsport is but also as I don’t have figures to put against some of those items.

For the record, we’re now at a running total of somewhere between £25.5k to £32k.


Hidden costs

Again, at the moment, this information is all gleaned from the web and asking questions. I hope to update it with reality, once I’ve been through it! My pain will be others gain.

So, we’ve established that you’re looking at a bill between £22k and £24k for the car and it’s options. However, it doesn’t stop there. You need tooling to bolt the thing together, somewhere to build it, somewhere to store it, fluids to get the thing ready to start and then, the reality is, that you likely need a trailer and paraphernalia to get it to race meetings and to keep it running while you’re there.

Let’s start with a trailer. Now, it is possible to drive your car to the race meet; race; and then drive back home. Which sounds great and if you’re local to a track, is viable as I understand it. However, with races as dispersed as Liverpool, Castle Combe and Brands Hatch, you can see that the distances mean you’ll likely not want to do this unless absolutely necessary. A lot of people, therefore, opt to trailer their car up to events.

Looking around, it appears that Brian James Trailers (specifically the Minno Max at £1,779+VAT new £900 – £1200 second hand) and PRG Trailers (Specifically the MiniSporter (£4,350+VAT new around £3,300 – £3,800 second hand) are popular choices. Both can, apparently, fit inside a standard garage. If you only have a driveway, then a good second hand covered trailer is perhaps the best backup. Hiring a garage varies by you’re location, but looks to be around £14 – £20 per week (£700 – £1000 per year).

Tooling and fluids sound insignificant – but from one blog I read from back in 2004, you can attract fairly high costs here as well. They documented nearly £650, although if you have a decent tool set already, this would be reduced a lot. Looking through the list, there are around £220 of kit that you’re unlikely to have unless you already tinker/work on cars. However, if you have no tooling already, then £650 isn’t far off the mark from the looks of it.

Although Caterham claim that a single set of tyres will last the season, and this is backed up by comment, this doesn’t account for additional road based and track based driving that you will want to do between events and ahead of the season. The consensus appears to be to have one set that you use specifically for the Academy racing and another set that go on at other times. This keeps the Academy tyres in good enough shape should it rain at any event (so you’ve got some tread left) and are also road legal at the end of the event (part of regulations I believe). The tyres themselves (Avon CR322) are not expensive, at £51 per corner. A spare set of wheels to put the tyres on are roughly £120 a corner new. (You need to make sure you buy the correct wheel/tyre as the regulations for the Academy are tightly controlled.

So, where does that leave us?

If you’ve got most of the tools already and don’t require a trailer, then £330 is should see you get the car filled with fluids and a spare set of tyres.

If you need a trailer, want a spare set of wheels/tyres to be able to swap and don’t have the full set of tools required, then you’re could easily be looking at an additional cost of between £2100 and £5000.

We’re still not done with money yet unfortunately. Next up is racing gear – helmets/suits and the like. We’ll save that for the next post.


Options, options everywhere

The Academy package is fairly well defined in the car you are getting and the specification of the major components. At the time of writing, you are signing up to buy a Caterham Roadsport with:

  • Caterham Academy Car1.6l Ford Sigma Engine running at 125bhp
  • 5 speed gearbox
  • 13″ Avon CR322 Academy Tyres
  • Lowered floors
  • Composite Race seats and harnesses
  • Race safety (full roll cage, plumbed in fire extinguisher and battery master switch)
In addition to the car, your money goes towards the ‘Academy Race Package’. This consists of:
  • ARDS Race Licence test and medical
  • Technical seminar
  • Setup day
  • Circuit test day
  • Car control clinic
  • Entry/Registation to 7 race rounds (3xSprint, 4xCircuit)
  • Timing transponder
  • Circuit guides
  • Head/Arm restraints

This spec doesn’t really change from year to year. The price just goes up – normally by £1000 or so! At the time of writing, the base spec costs £20,495 inc (self-build) or £23,495 inc (factory build).

In addition to the base spec, my trawl around the net and speaking to the sales representative, the additional options that are considered important for the Academy are:

  • Push button start (if you stall on track, you don’t want to be desperately finding the key to turn.) (£55 inc)
  • Momo, quick release steering wheel (£300 inc)

The sales guy also said he recommends the weather pack, which includes doors, hood and heated windscreen (£510 inc).

From what I’ve read around blogs to date, some people opt to just run side doors for aero efficiency. Also, a lot of the cars on the grid go for the plain aluminium body with coloured composites (nose cone and wheel arches). This means that if you want to stand out a little more on track, it’s a good idea to take up the pained body option. There are differing paint options from basic paint schemes (£1,150 inc) to Delux paint schemes (£1,950 inc). You can have a bonet stripe and nosecone band added if you want (£275 inc) or just a noseband (£105 inc).

I have read that the paint adds roughly 4lbs of weight to the car. As the Academy runs a minimum car weight, this isn’t likely to be an issue unless a) you’re over 90kgs and b) are really that good you can notice an additional 4lbs when circulating the track!

One thing to bear in mind is that race support only carry spares in black. Therefore, if you lose a wheel arch out on track, you’ll be left with an odd corner on your car if you’re not already running black composites!

There are viable car wrapping options available now – which help eliminate the stone chip problem. I haven’t looked into the cost of this for a Caterham.

I understand that the Tonneau cover is useful when the weather gets bad. (£180 inc).

Two additional costs to bear in mind.

Delivery is based on your location in relation to the Caterham Factory. I don’t have a full breakdown, but I believe the minimum cost is in the region of £100 and my delivery radius of about 40mins south of the M25 was £240.

IVA inspection, road tax, registration fees and number plates also have to be covered. If you have a factory built car, you can opt for a £535 option to include all these. Self-builders are likely to see a bill in the region of £800 to get all these boxes ticked.

So, in conclusion, the reality of the Academy is:

  • An absolute minimum of £21,395 inc (self build) and £24,130 inc (factory build).
  • A more likely cost of £21,950 inc (self) and £24,635 inc (factory)
  • If you go for basic paint scheme and the options most seem to opt for £23,790 inc (self) £26,475 inc (factory)

Next post will go on to look at additional equipment costs! We’re not quite done with money yet!