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.