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