Caterham Motorsport Mid Season Review 2016

Unbelievably, Saturday evening at Snetterton marked the halfway point of the 2016 Caterham Motorsport season. For those at the top of their respective tables, there still feels like ample opportunities to throw it all away. For those looking to make up ground, opportunities feel like they are waning.

There have been some fantastic races throughout the opening half of the season and it’s all still to play for if other seasons are anything to go by.

Caterham Academy 2016 – Green Group

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Tom John leads a busy Pack at Rockingham. Pic SnappyRacers

The first race of the season for the Green Group started in the Aintree hotel bar. This was a race that was very much lost by Pete Spencer. One of the pre-season favourites absolutely destroyed by the rest of the field. Sprinting in general didn’t seem to be Pete’s forté with only a clutch of 4th places to show for his efforts. However, the season has now moved into the race phase and after a fabulous Rockingham, with a win and fastest lap – he very much backed this up by just missing out over the line at Snetterton for race 2.

It’s Steve Tozer that took the win at Snetterton and he trails by a single point in the standings. A point that should have been in the bag, but he threw it away on the last lap at Rockingham. Still, the win at Snetterton was a great way to bounce back and he’ll be looking to continue that form into the latter half of the year. Hopefully the point lost at the Rock won’t come back to haunt him.

The third of a high speed green group trio is Tom John. In true NASCAR form, he has two first names – and in true NASCAR form, he’s also settled into the slipstream well with a dominant lap record at Snetterton. However, after a win at the first sprint, he threw away a result in Curborough and looked to have done it again at Snetterton with a spin on the opening lap of the restart. In one of the longest ‘spins’ ever recorded – he dropped deep into the field and only a stellar recovery drive got him back to the podium.

Outside of the top three – things are a little more fluid. Pete Walters heads the chasers with a great set of results. He had an intense battle with Nick Graham at Snetterton and it looked like it got too close a couple of times with some contact leading to Nick spinning. Once as a direct result and then again out of frustration. Both are in a battle with Matt Gray and Marcus Rawlinson who have shown equal speed and will be looking to break into the podiums in the remaining 3 races.

There are plenty in the mid-tables who, once dropped scores are taken into account, are far from out of the running. Whether that be through having missed a round due to outside commitments or having issues out on track.

The quality of the racing on show has been great so far and as everyone’s confidence and experience levels rise, it looks like we’re in for a great finale to the Green Group’s Academy campaign.

Caterham Academy Championship 2016 – White Group

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The Academy in their first race. Close racing is a guarantee in Caterhams. Pic SnappyRacers

Ben Gillias leads the White Group by a fairly comfortable 7 points thanks to 2 wins and 2 seconds places over the opening 4 rounds. However, with dropped points taken into account, things are very much closer. Ben’s earned his lead by fact of being consistent and always being in the mix. A lucky reprieve from a bad start in Rockingham, where the race needed to be reset may point to luck also being on his side. That’s an ingredient that is hard to come by but great to have.

It’s been Jay McCormack who looks to be closest to challenging Ben in the races. Leading the vast majority of laps at Rockingham and Snetterton he certainly knows how to race. Only a last lap track limits transgression cost him the Snetterton win. His relaxed style and insistence on tooting his horn at his family on every lap shows there’s additional capacity to spare and he will surely figure in the second half of the season.

It’s James Beardwell that is actually second in the championship currently with a win and two thirds to his name already. However, at Rockingham and Snetterton he made costly mistakes that took him out of the running for the wins and back into the clutches of a busy pack of drivers. If he can cut out these mistakes, he’ll challenge for the championship.

Speaking of that busy pack of drivers, Phillip Bianchi, Richard Toomey and Eric Tiv joined James Beardwell at Snetterton for a ding dong battle from lights to flag. It was great to watch. All three drivers are going well but need to find an additional level if they want to win it.

The mid pack can’t be ignored in this group either. There are some quick drivers that haven’t yet had a run of luck – or have just managed to have poor luck – and there’s nothing to say the top drivers will have it all their own way for the final 3 races.

Caterham Roadsport Championship 2016

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A stream of cars has been a regular sight through the Roadsport races this year. Pic SnappyRacers

The Roadsport grid has given some brilliant track action in the opening half of 2016. The races have been close and hard fought between a large bunch of closely matched drivers.

Russ Olivant has continued his great form from the end of the Academy year and leads the standings by a huge 32 points. However, that’s largely down to the majority of the other contenders having DNF’s against their name as well as several with penalty points as well.

Accounting for drop scores, this championship is still very much within the reach of at least 6 drivers. New comer Guy Hawkins has seen an incredible run of form, starting strong and getting stronger as the season has progressed. A double win at Snetterton is a highly impressive way to lay down intent for the second half of the year.

Dan Quintaro is also on the podium more often than not and a highly impressive fight back through the field in race 2 at Snetterton has kept his championship challenge alive.

Rob Watts, David Bevan and Alan Cooper all made an impressive train of cars at Snetterton and are showing speed coming into the second half of the season. Rui Frreria is suffering an uncharacteristic lull in form, after a strong start to the season. It’s hard to believe that it will continue for much longer and he’s sure to figure on the podium more in the final races of the year.

It’s telling that strong point scores appear all the way down the Roadsport table and so it’s simply not possible to call how things will settle. There’s still plenty of opportunity for people lower down the scores to push higher and if the opening half of the season is anything to go by, it’s guaranteed there are surprises yet to come.

Caterham Tracksport Championship 2016

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Barnes and Bremner have consistently been ahead of the chasing pack this year. Pic SnappyRacers

Anthony Barnes came into this season as favourite to take home the trophy. Certainly, he’s had a great run through the opening half of the season with 4 wins and 4 second places. 3 fastest laps to boot and things are looking rosy for the Team Parker racer.

A slightly smaller grid than the rest of the championships this year it didn’t look like anyone would have the fire power and consistency to deal with Barnes. However, Dan Bremner skipping Roadsport in favour of moving to Tracksport has meant that Barnes hasn’t had it all his own way. The speeding tandem of Bremner and Barnes have consistently left the remaining field in their wake. Bemner’s score card isn’t quite as good as Barnes with 2 wins and 2 seconds. However, the killer for him has been a couple of lower finishes and crucially, at Snetterton, penalty points and exclusion from the second race results. There’s still time to recover but it’s a long shot.

Damian Milkins currently lies 2nd in the championship after a consistent set of results. He has only one podium spot to show for his efforts as yet. Still, consistency pays and the remaining races offer chances to solidify. When drop scores come into play, it will be hard to keep the championship podium though.

Andy Ebdon is currently 4th, Paul Wells sits 6th. They are both in the same boat as Milkins. A really solid set of results so far but with the addition of some more fast drivers at head of the field could see this slide unless they can find some more time on track.

It won’t be helped by a resurgent field at Snetterton, where it wasn’t all about Bremner and Barnes. Newcomer Matt Lambert shocked everyone with the pace to win the double. And it wasn’t only Matt joining the leading two this time. Paul Aram made a welcome return to the field after a guest appearance at Anglesey. This time, competing for the win in the leading group.

Barry Moore showed some brilliant pace at Snetterton. In a season where he hasn’t been able to keep up with the leading two so far, could Snetterton show the shape of the rest of the year? Moore will be hoping so.

The mid field is as fluid as ever. Some drivers have missed rounds – so dropped scores are very much in play. Rimer and McCulley have both been there or thereabouts.

If we see a return to the Championship of Al Calvert and Joe Draper at some point this year, that lead group we saw at Snetterton could grow further and we’d finally see the championship that this could have been.

Caterham Supersport Championship 2016

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Will Smith leads a high speed carpark. Pic SnappyRacers

44 drivers have so far scored points in the 2016 Caterham Supersport Championship. And it’s a championship that’s so tightly fought that nearly everyone has seen mixed results from round to round. Everyone, apart from Will Smith that is.

Even over the the long, technical and challenging Snetterton 300 track, the top 16 were covered by 1.5s in qualifying – the top 13 all within 1 second of pole. It’s fairly unfathomable therefore how Will has managed to win 7 out of 8 races. Where he didn’t win, he finished a lowly 4th place! Just a fantastic run of form for the DPR Motorsport driver borne out of racing skill, because it’s certainly not been easy.

A whole gaggle of cars have routinely hounded him and reminded him that any false step could see those wins turn into 10th places.

Leading those chasers is Henry Heaton. Henry won where Will couldn’t and, apart from one blip, has finished on the podium in every race. Any other year and this would have been in touching distance of the lead, however, he currently sits 20 points down on Will. But, with the drop scores, it’s at least possible for him to be right in the title fight heading into the final round.

Jack Brown has also had a strong start to the year. Pre-season, he looked to be the one to beat and his outright pace is untouchable on some tracks. His focus and concentration this year have also been steely. However, he’s slipped off the podium a few times and with some penalty points counting against him, he will need to have a fantastic end to the season if he wants to win. Having said that, we’re coming into Oulton Park, where Jack made everyone look slow last year.

Then comes a gaggle of drivers who have all taken podiums but who have also slipped down the highly competitive grids at times. Christian Szaruta, Max McDonagh, Chris Hutchinson and Andres Sinclair have all seen varied results but have generally kept it on the black stuff and near the pointy end of the grid. Szaruta has often been fighting right at the front and only a few bad results in qualifying are holding him back. He’s come through the field many times this year already but Snetterton was his worst weekend so far and it’s cost points. Max McDonagh, on the other hand, is in the ascendency. Now out of the Tracksport which he never fully mastered and fully to grips with the Supersport car, results are starting to flow.

It’s close between these two and Andres, but Andres had to miss Snetterton owing to exams and this has put him artificially down the standings currently. He’ll be fighting for the championship podiums once he’s back in the cockpit at Oulton.

Hutchinson looks set to be in a season long battle in between the top of the grid and the chasing pack. A position that’s seen varied results from podium to 11th place. Not as strong a start to the year as he’s become accustomed to but hoping, I’m sure, to turn that around for the second half of the year.

And what of that ferocious mid field? Gore, Evans, Mingoia, Maple, Weaver, Tuck, Robinson, Powell, Dickens and Ainscough to name a few. It’s insulting to call that the mid grid as all regularly figure in lead battles. But all, for one reason or another, have suffered some lower finishes or DNFs that have likely taken them out of the fight for the ultimate win.

What is sure is that there will be plenty of people looking to turn their seasons around starting from Oulton, and there are lots of others who will be nervously looking in their rearview mirrors waiting for them to arrive.

Caterham R300-S Superlight Championship 2016

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Aaron head on pole at Snetterton. A common sight this year. Pic SnappyRacers

It’s been an epic spectacle to behold a full grid of R300’s through this years events. The R300-S is a true beast of a machine and watching the field go hammer and tongs at each round has been a treat.

As pre-season favourite, Aaron Head has lived up to high expectations and has come home in front in 7 of the 8 rounds and taken 5 of the fastest laps to boot. It’s been a highly impressive run of form from the DPR Motorsport driver but he hasn’t always given himself an easy ride. It’s been necessary to come back through the field more than once to secure his results.

Lee Wiggins has again been highly consistent and has again seen that result in a string of second places. He took the win that Aaron couldn’t manage and also has a fastest lap to his name. But it just seems that Aaron has an edge that Wiggins, and the rest of the field, haven’t quite matched yet.

Jack Sales took the decision to prematurely finish a frustrating Tracksport season in 2015 so as to make the jump straight to the R300 class this year. And he’s made an immediate impression on the field, qualifying high at every round and finishing on, or near to, the podium at all rounds. The high temperatures have caused him, like others, to suffer power issues when running in the pack but so far, these have not proved too detrimental and he sits an excellent 3rd in the standings.

Clive Richards and Stephen Nuttall are next up. They have had also been scoring heavy points this year but both have had hiccups along the way. Stephen suffering a broken drive shaft in Zolder and Clive running low down the order in the opening round at Brands Hatch. Both will be working hard to change things around and take further podiums in the remaining rounds. Nutall, finally finding out what it feels to be human this year.

Behind this regular leading pack, there are others that are sitting lower in the standings. However, for some, this is due to DNFs or having to miss rounds of the season. We also saw the withdrawal of Jon Mortimer from the championship. And Danny Winstanley broke his car at Zolder and has yet to return to the fold. Jon and Danny were strong podium contenders.

Jeremy Ellis has put in a good run of form, but when dropped scores are taken into account, he’ll have to up his results to stay ahead of Philip Gladman – who’s having a varied but strong inaugural year in his R300 – Danny Killeen – who couldn’t attend Snetterton – and Matt Dyer – who had mechanical issues at Zolder in both races.

The top of the championship may be all but won, however, it will be fascinating to see how the rest of the order settles itself in the second half of the year.

Have I missed something in my report? Someone having a stellar season that didn’t even get a mention? Why not comment and put the records straight!

Feeling the slide at Snetterton

It’s been a short while since Snetterton. Certainly a little longer than it normally takes me to write up my report. I left after Saturday’s race feeling quite down and annoyed with my performance. Some of this eased after Sunday but it’s taken a little while to try and process and work out a plan of action for the rest of the season.

Testing had gone OK. My ultimate pace at the moment isn’t setting the track alight but the car was really balanced and I was feeling good that I could turn in a good lap quickly when it came to qualifying.

When qualifying arrived, the track temperatures had increased and the car was slightly less balanced as a result. Until the end of the qualifying session, I’d not got ‘one in the bag’ having made mistakes or getting caught up in traffic. However, my last lap all came together and I set my best lap time of the weekend by a margin.

Sadly, it was only good enough for 8th place on the grid. But given the time I was expecting, I considered this a bit of a rescue and actually higher than I would have expected.

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Into race one, and the temperatures rose throughout the day. I made a great start to the race and was in 5th place a few corners in. However, I was immediately aware that the car balance was now way off. I struggled with oversteeer from the off and this only got worse as time went by.

This saw the gradual slip from 5th to 11th in a very frustrating 30mins of racing. I don’t care so much about position so long as I feel like the car and I are able to compete. Sadly, I was only able to hold onto the coat tails of people around me. It all left me feeling frustrated.

One of my bonnet catches also came undone part way into the race – which was distracting at times.

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Sunday dawned hotter again that Saturday and I made a tweak to the setup to try and help with the oversteer I’d had on Saturday. I made another storming start and was again in 5th place by the end of the first lap.

I couldn’t keep hold of the front runners but this time, I was able to keep in the mix with others and the front of the race remained in sight.

The higher temperatures seemed to help as others started to suffer. I had a great battle with Dan Gore through the race. I expect Dan felt I was a nuisance to his progress to the front of the field, but the racing was close, fair and generally a pleasure to be part of.

I got close to the 3rd 4th battle but just wasn’t able to get on their pace once their battle settled down.

A mistake 1 lap from the finish left me across the grass at Brundle and stuck in 6th. After the frustration of Saturday, I was much more enthused by the performance. Still not quite where I want to be on ultimate position but closer again.

Onwards to Oulton.

 

Hot and Bothered in Zolder

Zolder holds some great memories from my Roadsport year in 2014. It was a hot hot weekend but I also had one of the most hard fought races to date.

I was therefore looking forward to my return to this iconic Belgian track. With bad flooding all over Europe and with thunderstorms and heavy rain predicted all weekend, I wasn’t too sure what to expect out on track. But with 2 days of testing ahead of the weekend, there was going to be plenty of time to get to grips with the place once more.

As it transpired, the threat of rain disappeared over the weekend and we were left with a hot, sticky weekend on the continent. Unfortunately, hot and sticky seems to be the worst conditions for me and my car at the moment.

The tyres we run overheat and quickly cause the car to become unbalanced. Some drivers seem to cope with this OK but I find it doesn’t suit my driving style at all.

Qualification was damp to begin with but was always going to dry out by the end of the 20 minute session. I set a good banker time early on and had ‘the one that got away’ late on. However, 7th on the grid wasn’t too shabby and I matched my fastest testing times.

However, come race time, the temperatures had risen out on track and a fairly aggressive setup choice meant that as we got under way, it was only a couple of laps into the race before I started to suffer from the tyre related oversteer issues. About half way into the race, the car was also running hot and seemed to suffer with lack of eagerness in 4th gear.

All this saw a gradual slipping down the order throughout the race and an ultimately disappointing 12th place at the flag.

The second race took place in slightly cooler conditions and with a tweaked setup. This did see an improvement in the cars performance, and I was running well early on. However, the rot did eventually set in as the car got hot again and I made silly mistakes trying too hard to defend positions and push to maintain speed.

Again, this saw me dropping down the order and even say a high speed trip across the gravel at one point. Certainly not my finest hour.

I crossed the line a disappointed 11th place.

I said ahead of the year that there would be very little in it across the top 15 or so drivers in the championship this year. Being slightly off the pace means you inevitably finish down the order. Zolder was confirmation of this. Qualification saw the majority of the field covered by a second and in race 2, the top 11 cars were nose to tail at the flag after 30 minutes of frantic racing.

Being in such a competitive field is both a blessing and a curse.

I like Snetterton as a track and we’re headed there next. I’m really hoping that we get some cool weather – dare I even hope for wet conditions! Perhaps unlikely for our July event! But whatever happens, I’ll be out on track, pushing hard as ever.

Seaside racing at Anglesey

There’s no denying that Anglesey is an awfully long way from most places. It took around 6 hours to get to the track for 2 days of testing ahead of the weekend. However, there’s also no doubt that the effort is worth it.

The track is perched right on the coast of the Irish Sea and it takes all the weather that is thrown at it. We experienced it all, from strong winds and heavy rain, through to barmy summer sun.

Testing highlighted how tricky the track was to master. With increasing temperatures, the times actually got slower on track as the weekend approached. I therefore set my best time on day 1 testing and didn’t match it again until race 1. That’s rather off putting and dispiriting. However, it all comes out in the wash in the end and I went into qualification with no knowledge of where I was going to end up.

It was raining right up until we left assembly in qualification. The track was therefore damp, but with much higher ambient temperatures, it quickly became obvious that my completely wet setup wasn’t ideal as the track dried within a few laps. Most others were in a similar situation though, so not all was lost.

As ever in Caterhams, the tow was extremely important for lap time. However, with a red flag interruption to the session, there were gaggles of cars all fighting to take – but not give – a tow. Several people backing out of laps mid corner, or making space for themselves at the end of the lap, meant that I didn’t have a good lap on the board as the clock approached zero. However, the final lap was a good one and I snuck 5th on the grid. Better than expected. It wasn’t a session without excitement though, with possibly my closest near miss to date taking place just after the restart after the red flag.

Boosted by a good performance. race 1 dawned and although the weather was changeable through the day, by the time our slot came up, it had dried out fully.

After a good start, the race settled in and I was following nose to tail with Andres Sinclair. I felt comfortable and fast and felt I had something in hand to go for 3rd at the end of the race.

However, a fast recovering Christian Szaruta put the pressure on as the clock counted down, and when I tried to make use of the additional pace I felt I had at the start of the race, it wasn’t there any more. On the second last lap, Christian took full advantage of a poor piece of track positioning by me to take away 4th. That left me in a comfortable 5th at the flag. Happy with the result but certainly feeling I’d left something on the table.

Sunday was a scorcher. This isn’t a good thing on the Avons we run on currently. They seem to have an ideal operating temperature, beyond which they lose grip and begin degrading really fast. In the car, the grip feels low and what can only be described as ‘squelchy’! (You never hear that said in F1!)

Still, conditions were the same for everyone and it all led to a pretty epic battle. Another reasonable start saw me in 4th. However, it wasn’t a lonely affair and I had battles with Andres, Christian, Tony Mingoia and Alastair Weaver variously through the course of the hot 30 mins.

I was relatively pleased to end up in 6th at the flag. That could easily have been 8-10th place if circumstances had played out even slightly differently.

It was a weekend of good points. But it was also one that I would have liked to have gone slightly better. The other lead rivals in the championship had brilliant weekends and so gaps are starting to appear in the points. With some others having had bad starts to the year, it’s also going to be important to make hay whilst the sun shines.

Next up on the calendar is Zolder in Belgium. I got on well with the track in Roadsport when we were last there and so I’m looking forward to returning. However, I’d also like it to be a few degrees cooler than last time.

Time to head to Wales

Next weekend is another race weekend. Having to post this early as it’s in Anglesey – which is approx. 1 million miles away.

Quali: Sat 7th May – 1150 – 1210
Race 1: Sat 7th May – 1555 – 1625
Race 2: Sun 8th May – 1430 – 1500

Follow everything along on TSL Timing: http://www.tsl-timing.com/event/161832

Think one of the days is being recorded and I’ll post TV times when available.

Back in the mix at Brands

Two days of testing and two days of race action draw to a close on the first weekends racing of the 2016 Caterham Supersport Championship.

It’s fair to say that my 2015 campaign didn’t exactly go without issue and so the first round was always going to be one of discovery. With 44 cars entered for the first event of the year, there were too many cars to run on a single grid. We therefore had to run a split grid format.

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That’s never ideal and it’s a shame that we haven’t yet seen all the lead drivers together on track. From the four races that took place at Brands, that’s an extremely tasty proposition. Fingers crossed, Anglesey will see everyone together.

Qualification was fully wet and generally went to plan. There’s always ‘the lap that got away’ and this session was no different. However, 3rd fastest in session was a good result and with the combined qualification times and the way the grids were decided, I would start 2nd on the grid for race one.

I made a good, initial, start at the lights but second gear bounced out briefly, so I settled in behind Jack Brown and keeping an eye on the swarm of cars in the mirrors. The fairly traditional lap one safety car came out after Max Robinson was caught out by a spinning Andy West and left immobile in the gravel.

At the restart, Jack went almost as soon as the safety car lights went out. This was a stroke of genius as we pulled a huge gap on the whole field – with the exception of Richard Ainscough, who was slightly stuck in the middle ground. As I was clinging on to Jack Brown’s car for all I could, Richard slowly caught me and as soon as we started dicing for position, we gave Jack the perfect opportunity to tootle further up the road.

The rest of the race was a too and fro battle with Richard for 2nd place. Fantastic close racing. The back-markers certainly played their part in proceedings. One driver being lapped perhaps four times in a 20 minute period – the speed differential through the corners meant that it was hard to judge how and where to try and get by without compromising race position.

The final run to the flag was an equally tight affair, with Richard pulling alongside early on the straight and I wasn’t sure whether I’d managed to hold him off over the line. As it goes, I just managed it by a few thousandths. 2nd place. Back on the podium and back in contention.

It was a superb feeling and quite a relief after 2015.

Race 2 took place on the Sunday and was a much sunnier and far more blustery day. Half of the grid were made of new drivers compared to race 1 and all, as ever, eager for a good result.

I made a reasonable start, although a slightly cautious 2nd gear change meant I slipped to 3rd behind the fast starting Mike Evans by turn one. Christian Szaruta lead early doors as everyone else tussled for their running order behind.

It became quickly apparent in my car that the rear end grip wasn’t what it had been through the rest of the weekend and I struggled to get the power down and control the cars backside. This left me without much attack once things settled down as I was constantly having to defend along the back straight rather than move forward.

Ultimately, this saw me gently fall through the front pack as the race went along. I did briefly make it to the front of the field but it wasn’t to last.

To cut a long and extremely exciting, close and frantic story short, I ended up 5th over the line, with a missing rear wing, curtesy of Adam West – who clearly fancied a nibble of cheese on his way to 4th place! Sadly, it was one of my original Academy wings – so now I’m down to just one remaining!

For all the excitement that the races brought to the table, there was always a feeling of ‘what will it be like when we’re all together?’ That’s an extremely enticing prospect and one which we’ll hopefully get to see at Anglesey in May.

I’ll have just turned 38 by then…. I’m getting too old for all this!

Round 1 Ready to Go

So, we’re rapidly approaching the first race weekend of 2016 for Supersport. We’re heading to Brands Hatch on the 9th and 10th April for what’s surely going to be a fantastic and chaotic weekends racing.

The Supersport grid is over-subscribed for racing at Brands, so we’re having to run a split grid format. That means there will be plenty of Supersport action on track, with 2 qualification sessions and 4 races. Each driver will be part of one qualification session and one race on Saturday and one race on Sunday. The exact races I’ll be in will not be known until after quali and race 1.

Qualification: Sat 9th April 0950 – 1005
Race 1: Sat 9th April  12:00 – 12:30 / 13:45 – 14:15
Race 2: Sun 10th April 12:10 – 12:40 / 16:35 – 17:05

Live timing will be available over the weekend if you want to follow along: http://www.tsl-timing.com/event/161431

The racing on Sunday is being recorded for TV and will air on Motors TV – normally the week following the race meeting.

There are a lot of variables this year, with plenty of extremely competitive drivers – some new to our grid and many who’ll be familiar.  Who’ll come out on top? We’ll soon find out.

2016 Caterham Supersport is go

Finally got my first outing in the 2016 Supersport version of the Cheesemobile. It’s got a touch more power, a touch less flywheel and a good deal more sideways potential with the limited slip differential.

I got to try it out in all manner of different conditions through the day – which was ideal. No real setup work possible due to each session having completely different conditions but I loved how the car felt.

My neck and shoulders are killing me after such a long period of no driving – but hopefully they will all be fixed in time for the next outing at Snetterton.

Counting the days!

Thanks to SnappyRacers for picture.

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 (Richard.Pellegrini@bluefingroup.co.uk ) 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!

2016 Caterham Motorsport Preview

The long winter months are still with us, but we’ve popped into 2016 now, so it’s time to take stock and preview the upcoming Caterham Motorsport season. Registration numbers look absolutely stellar this year and it’s guaranteed to mean ultra-competitive racing in all categories.

2016 Caterham Academy Championship

One of the best things about the Caterham Championship ladder is the fact that so many people start out in the Academy and then stick around all the way through to Supersport 4 years later (often times even longer than that.)

It means that most people in the paddock have experienced the nerves, excitement, elation and pains that the first years racing brings. It’s a shared experience.

It’s also means that people really do pay attention to the Academy races and watch, with enjoyment, all the highs and lows as they play out.

This years Academy grid numbers are back on full song and there are plenty who have taken the opportunity to build their own car. That’s a great sign.

Some have already taken to the track with their shiny new cars to get a taste of what’s to come. Some are even showing early pace, but the beauty of the Academy is that everyone starts from scratch and learns at different speeds.

There’s still plenty of time ahead of the first sprint in April and the first circuit race is still a mile off. All the paddock wish the Academy best of luck for 2016. Keep an eye out for the mid-term report later in the season to see which Academites are taking like ducks to water and which are sinking.

2016 Caterham Roadsport Championship

The combination of the White and Green Academy groups from 2015 is an exciting proposition. The grid is looking healthy in numbers and the front runners all proved that they could run  up to the ultimate pace.

The Roadsport spec. car is a big step change from the Academy car. It takes some re-working of driving approach and so, whilst most who are fast in the Academy car will find the pace in Roadsport, those that didn’t get along with the Academy car often take a huge leap forward in pace.

Andy Perry and Rui Ferreira headed home their respective groups in 2015 and were both class acts. Andrew Perry had a harder fight on his hands and so could well come into Roadsports more battle hardened than Rui. But Rui’s systematic approach and consistency will be important with the longer races that Roadsport offers. Both will certainly feature at the head of races and both will fight for the title.

They won’t be alone though. Russ Olivant would be a sensible bet. He ended the Academy year with a fantastic run of results and took honors in the combined grid Caterham Trophy race at the tail end of the season. He’s fast, he can win races and will do so in 2016.

Will Lloyd will feature up front as well. Another season that picked up through the year and ended with a visit to the top step of the podium at Oulton.

Rob Watts and Lee Collins will be looking to see if they can emulate Lloys and step higher on the podium. Kieran McAleer and David Bevan had rather boom or bust Academy years. Bevan managed the top step and Kieran got close (but for a time penalty). However, both had incident as well, with spins and crashes. If that can be dialed out in Roadsport, they will be regular contenders.

With 14 chances to get on the podium in Roadsport, rather than just the 7 in Academy, there will be others wanting their share. Jon Curry managed one in 2015 and we’d all love to see the tears again in 2016.

The Porter family are doubling their chances with Sarah’s husband Paul joining in the fun.

There will also be at least two people I have completely overlooked here who come out of the woodwork and throw a spanner in the works. If you’re reading this and your name isn’t mentioned as being in with a chance – go for it – it’s all up for grabs.

2016 Caterham Tracksport Championship

The Academy class of 2014 have now made it to the Tracksport series. It’s been a highly attritional few years racing and the grid is more focussed for 2016, with 19 drivers registered so far. There are some big names from the 2015 season missing at the moment and that may just leave a way clear for some varied podium visits through the year.

Anthony Barnes put in a highly consistent Roadsport campaign. Often keeping his head when other around were losing theirs. That consistency may well pay dividends with the longer race length that Tracksport brings. Barnes also improved massively through the year and ended the season with visits to the top of the podium. He’s going to be one to watch in Tracksport and if his improvement continues, he may be hard to beat.

Al Calvert will also be in for a win at the rounds he competes. Should he put in a full campaign, he would likely be favourite to take the trophy but that looks unlikely currently with family commitments.

Draper, McCulley and Milkins are also well within a shout of securing their first Championship. McCulley and Draper both seem to suffer from more bad luck than they are entitled to expect and with a swing in fortune, both have the raw speed necessary. Milkins needs to find a touch more consistency across the whole season but has proven more than enough that he can be in with a shout.

Graham Williams, Peter Rimer and Barry Moore all need to keep facing the right way long enough to stay in contention more often. All have shone at times. All have had bad results that detract from mounting a championship charge. All are capable of getting it together, especially in a grid which will be a little more forgiving with gaps to get some consistent laps.

There are also a couple of new additions to the grid. A pair of Lamberts. The father, son combo both bring with them racing experience and ambitions to show the existing drivers how it’s done. In a grid that’s so open, they might just be in contention if they can get to grips with the car quickly.

2016 Caterham Supersport Championship

With the majority of the 2015 Tracksport grid moving up to be 2016 Supersport drivers and a lot of the class of 2015 remaining in the Supersport, the category has a huge grid of 46 entries.

It’s not yet clear which drivers will be mounting a full championship campaign, with some likely to miss a few rounds. However, Will Smith and Phil Jenkins have got to be pre season favourites.

Will is back racing against his Roadsport competitors having skipped to the Supersport grid a year early. He made a great impression on his debut year and took the top step of the podium against fierce competition. Phil made a lightening start to the 2015 Supersport season, and at the half way point, it didn’t seem possible for the rest of the pack to catch him. However, some late season reliability issues saw the championship slip from his grasp.

Andres Sinclair, Alistair Weaver and Tony Mingoia could well lead the charge for the other 2015 Supersport competitors. All proved podium potential in 2015 but  couldn’t find the consistency to challenge at every round of the season. Nick Portlock and David Russell also proved that they could compete at times.

However, the huge influx of new drivers from the 2015 Tracksport grid should keep all the returning Supersport drivers something to think about. Their Tracksport races were often competed by a lead pack of 15 drivers, all capable of podium finishes. That’s a lot of cars to fit into gaps on the Supersport grid that are already close.

Tim Dickens had a dream 2015. Everything fell into line after a tricky Roadsport season and he proved the most consistent driver, regularly appearing from nowhere to take podium spots. If he, and the rest of the grid, where honest, a double win at the opening round of the 2015 season was a shock! But the fact he turned in result after result proved that it wasn’t a fluke and the Championship was deserved.

But it wasn’t a sure thing. Henry Heaton was biting at his tails all season and such was the closeness of the championship, nobody knew for a good 5 mins after the final race who had won. Henry will be right at the front of the grid again in 2016 and with his penchant for sideways driving, the limited slip diff could well elevate him yet more.

Jack Brown was another star of 2015 and but for a brief lull in form at a couple of rounds, he would have been right in the title fight. If his progress continues into Supersport then there’s no doubt that the top step of the podium will be his on more than one occasion.

McDonah, Robinson, Szaruta, Evans, Ainscough and Hutchinson will all be wanting to better their 2015 seasons. All showed pace. All competed for podiums and all wanted more of them come the flag.

However, if there was a book running for Supersport, an each way bet on Dan Gore would be a very wise choice. Dan finally ‘got it’ (whatever ‘it’ is) at the tail end of the Roadsport season and took his speed into Tracksport extremely well. But for being taken out of podium positions by errant Frenchman, Dan’s championship challenge could have been even stronger. Given that he came 3rd in the Championship, that’s saying something.

There are also some new names on the grid. Ben Tuck looks to be a young driver with big ambitions. Already with a season’s Mazda racing behind him, he’s used to close driving and as a member of the MSA Academy for young drivers you can be sure his focus will be strong and he’ll know all about racing dietary requirements.

One thing’s for certain. The lead pack is going to be super sized for Supersport. It will be competitive beyond bounds and it will certainly worth getting up on the banks to watch the action.

2016 Caterham Superlight R300 Championship

The R300 grid in 2016 is looking fantastically healthy. The new R300s car has proved itself to be extremely reliable, cheap to run and rewarding to drive. With the potential gremlins all out of the way since introduction, this year sees in excess of 30 cars ready to take the starting grid in April. 2015 Champion, Dave Robinson, has headed out in search of the next challenge – the whole paddock wishes him well in this aim and I’m sure he will be right at the sharp end of any grid he puts himself on.

We lose our Champion, but the grid is chock full of talent for 2016 and it’s a genuinely hard job to pick out a winner ahead of the season.

The safe bet is to go for 2014 Champion, Aaron Head. It’s a certainty that he will be at the front of the charge for the championship and he’s proved he can wrap up a whole season with Supersport and R300 Championships already in the locker. Nothing ever gets left out on the track and an ability to string lightening fast laps together throughout the 30 min races means he will be hard to beat.

But that’s not to say he can’t be beaten and so, who’s most likely to challenge strongest? Lee Wiggins has been racing at the front of Caterham grids since 2009. The perennial bridesmaid, having always finished 2nd or 3rd – but never managing to bring hope the biggest cup at the end of the year. There’s nothing to say he won’t be equally competitive in 2016.

Danny Winstanley is making a return to the R300 grid after a brief foray away during 2015. Danny made an immediate impact on the grid in 2014 and was a regular front running and winner. But for some overheating issues suffered during the season, he would have been right in the running for the crown. Extremely quick and talented, the No.78 will definitely feature on the podiums through the year.

Other’s returning to the grid include Jon Mortimer, Matt Dyer and Paul Thacker. All featured in the front pack at various points in the season. Jon Mortimer often being best of the rest but taking 2 wins at the tail end of the season means he comes to 2016 with good momentum and he’s proved he can find the additional 10ths to mount a charge on the front pack. Matt Dyer and Paul Thacker are still looking to find those 10ths but both have proved that, on their day, they can do so.

They will make a strong chasing pack and given the additional numbers on the grid this year, if could be enough for them to stay in the lead pack to the end of the race.

Of those joining the grid for the first time, we have the exciting proposition of Steve Nuttall aiming to make it 5 championships in a row. 2012 Academy, 2013 Roadsport, 2014 Tracksport, 2015 Supersport – 2016 R300? There are a lot of people in the paddock that would dearly like to see that. Sadly for Steve, those people aren’t going to be on the grid alongside him! Steve’s been fast out of the box in all the Caterhams he’s driven, and the R300 will be no different. The driving style in the top machine in the Caterham ladder is slightly different, so he will need to adapt fast in order to keep in the running alongside the returnees who will be fast out of the gate.

Clive Richards has been racing for decades and racing Caterhams for many of those years. There’s nothing Clive hasn’t seen many times before and that means he’s always at the front of the grid and he’s an extremely hard man to out manoeuvre.

We’ve also got Dany Killeen and Justin Armstrong making a full campaign in 2016 after a few outings during 2015 to get warmed up. Danny especially has proved rapid on many occasions and could challenge – so long as he keeps it facing the right way and out of danger. Justin had a frustrating Tracksport year in a car that wasn’t performing. He’ll be looking to pull everything together and move up the grid in 2016.

We’ve also got Roadsport 2014 Champion Jack Sales jumping past the Supersport category and straight into R300. Jack has proved untouchable at times in the other categories, winning multiple races and holding things together under high pressure. It would be unwise of people to overlook Jack as a possible podium contender and a potential future R300 champion.

With over 30 cars on the grid, it’s going to be a sight and a sound to behold. I’m almost certain that this preview will have overlooked / ignored multiple drivers who should have been included. But that’s part of the fun of having a race series that’s the complete opposite to the predictable F1 results.

Taking to the track with the Caterham Academy