When Krazy Horse take on a new brand we like to immerse ourselves in the whole ethos of their business so we can fully understand every element of the business to give our customers the most knowledgable information we can.
This is why we have entered the 2021 Academy and our Caterham Salesman Ian Beddis was quick to put his hand up to volunteer to race...as were most of the team!
We asked Ian to document his experiences from start to finish so our customers can come along with us and experience exactly what it is like to become a Racing Driver...
Who am I? What am I doing here?
Thanks for searching for, or stumbling across, this blog which will follow my experience of the Caterham Academy 2021 and becoming a racing driver.
I am Ian and I look after Caterham for Krazy Horse. I was enlisted into the Krazy Horse team back in October 2020 when Caterham joined our stable of brands. My background is in supercars but I was keen to join Krazy Horse and experience cars without computer aids. At Krazy Horse we want to be fully immersed in all aspects of Caterham activity, so, it was decided that as well as selling racing packages we would run our own car too – the absolutely brilliant part is that I got offered to drive it!
What is Caterham Academy?
The Caterham Academy is a UK racing Championship aimed solely at drivers who have not previously held a racing licence, the cars are the same so racing is down to the skill of the driver.
The championship is so popular that the grid is split in two with one grid called Green and the other, White. The two grids are split randomly, and I will be racing on the green grid.
What has happened already?
The pre-season prep officially began with a group web call with the team at Caterham Motorsport and all the other 2021 Academy drivers. We were also joined by some previous Academy drivers and champions who lent their experiences to us novice lot. In a non-covid year this call would have been a meeting at the Caterham HQ. Whilst we missed out on the personal bonding bit we have all been sharing knowledge and encouragement on a WhatsApp group chat. This has proven really useful to gain reassurance and advice as well as fun banter, it really feels like bonds have already been made between us.
What does the year have in store?
The next planned events are the setup morning, the ARDS Test and the test day. Following that the season begins with our first competitive event, a sprint race at Curborough.
Due to the ongoing pandemic the setup morning, which would normally be hosted at Caterham HQ, will now be held online via Zoom. I expect this session to be advice about how to adjust your car to achieve the best setup for each circuit and your individual driving style and preference.
The ARDS test is an exam and practical test which you must pass in order to be allowed to race. On the written side you need to prove you understand the meanings of all the track marshalls flags and on the practical side you must demonstrate a good level of technical ability and awareness of track conditions – fundamentally they want to ensure you will be safe personally and safe amongst and for your fellow drivers.
The test day is aimed at teaching drifting and car control, I haven’t had much experience of this, but I understand that the skills taught on this day are vital to performing well during the season.
The Curborough Sprint is designed to give us our first taste of competitive motorsport but without the added pressure of all the other cars on the grid darting around at the same time, it also gives a chance to test the cars further before our first race at Mallory Park.
What kit has been bought?
Krazy Horse owner Paul ordered our car before I joined the team. The options list is not very long for an Academy car as the fundamentals have to be the same for each car on the grid, but you can make some cosmetic changes. To suit our brand, our car has been left as a bare aluminium body with black paint wings. The nose is also black but has a red painted band leading into a single bonnet stripe. The red theme continues with the roll cage which has been painted to match. It was also chosen as part of the factory spec to include the optional VBOX HD package – I’ll come back to this later in the blog!
The Academy package includes lots of goodies, the main two being the car and entry to the full season of racing. I’ll go into more detail of what else comes with the package later in the blog. There are however some items which you must have or purchase, this is your personal protective equipment such as your helmet, FHR device, race suit etc. As Demon Tweeks are one of the championship sponsors I decided to order all of my PPE with them. Dave Kimberley guided me through the options and given that he has previously raced a Caterham as well as single-seaters his advice is more from the perspective of a driver rather than a salesman. For my race suit I chose to go with the suit Dave and Caterham had chosen as the Caterham Motorsport suit, the suit is an OMP Technica which is triple layer, the Caterham Motorsport logo gets stitched on but we also added the Krazy Horse Wild Rides logo to the front and back. As I want to be as “racing driver” like as possible my name and the Union Flag will also be stitched on the belt – they say you are halfway there if you look the part, don't they?!
Choosing a helmet was a critical purchase to get right, I have a Bell motorbike helmet but it does not necessarily translate that the same size would be the best fit for an automotive racing helmet. The other reason for wanting to ensure the size and fit was perfect, or as close to perfect as I could get, is that I want to get my “lid” painted with my own livery – more on that later too!
I looked at a couple of brands for the fireproof underwear but decided to stick with OMP to match the suit. Being an "all the gear, no idea" driver at this point I decided to keep all the rest of the kit matching too, so chose OMP gloves and boots. By taking advice from Dave I chose better quality boots and gloves than I had intended to, for example opting for leather boots to provide a better chance of maintaining the finish of them rather than cheaper suede ones. By contrast, I ended up with a cheaper Hans device, than the one I thought I would choose, I chose a Stand21 for the simple reason that it fitted me and my shoulders the best.
How is the build going?
Many of my fellow drivers have opted for their cars to be factory-built meaning that Caterham build the car at the factory and deliver to the customer via their dealer with the IVA completed and road fund license included. Others have opted, like us, to build our cars.
The car gets delivered as the body along with parts in about 16 boxes. The body arrives with roughly 40 hours of work already completed at the factory, the bodywork has been married to the chassis, the dashboard installed, brake lines fitted and the loom attached.
The build is being completed by our Technicians Connell and Ben and as of right now the roll cage has been fitted, the shafts and suspension installed and the engine lifted in.
Have I got a Flat Floor? Caster is not sugar. In non-covid times the setup morning would be held at Caterham HQ but as we are still under Government restriction the session was held on Zoom instead. This training explained to us all the meanings behind some of the engineering terms for car setup and what affect the changes would make.
It turns out that Flat Floor is actually a good thing and is the general term used for balancing the car and adjustments to the wheel geometry. It also turns out that Caster is all about the angle by which the wheel is pushed from the car and is not a type of sugar!
Whilst I have worked in Motorsport in the past and have followed F1 and other formulas for many years the session was useful to clarify the terms which matter to the setup of my racing car.
The Build continues
Like many builds whether they be a vehicle or a building have stages when progress is being made but it doesn’t really feel like it’s getting any closer to being completed. Ben has been busy connecting cables, fitting seatbelts, installing seats and lots of other finishing jobs.
We are getting very close to firing up the engine for the first time as liquids have been poured and topped up, now time to bleed the brakes and clutch.
The ARDS Day Test
It was exciting to be finally meeting in person half of my fellow drivers for the year and some new faces from Caterham.
Following a welcome and briefing we were split into four small groups, my group started with a briefing from Darren about car setup, regulations and more about what to expect on a race weekend.
The second session was the best bit in my opinion, we headed over to a different area the track and were handed the keys to a BMW. All of the computer aids had been removed or switched off and we were sent out with a brief to go as fast as we could around the short course which was covered in an oil like substance. We quickly discovered that we needed our hands to be as fast as possible with the steering wheel to avoid a spin. After a few fun laps we were brought in to discuss our experience and be guided on best practice to perfect the delicate art of drifting. The advice we were given seemed too simple, one, when you feel the loss of traction dip the clutch and two, look much further ahead than just the corner you are navigating. Amazingly these two simple things meant very little hand movement was required and whilst I had not suddenly become a drifting god the difference in control was astounding. I would have loved to have spent the rest of the day doing this but the ARDS practical and theory tests loomed.
After a lunch spent getting to know some of the other drivers, we were off on track in small fleet of red Fiesta’s for the track practical test. I was taken out by one of the circuit instructors who drove a few laps first to guide me around the lap and the ideal line and gears. Then it was my turn to take control. The aim was to prove I can be safe on track for both me and my fellow drivers, so I was driving well within mine and the cars capabilities. After a few laps the instructor explained that he would go quiet for two laps, during which my skills would be assessed – it wasn’t very likely, but I had to ensure I didn’t have a spin as that would be an instant fail of the test. Thankfully my laps were all clean and the instructor was pleased with my driving and made particular note of my braking.
The final section of the day was the theory test, I had to be 100% on flags to pass.
I had expected to be presented with pictures of the flags and to write the correct meaning of the flag, but the test was the other way around. As well as questions about all twelve flags there were also 30 odd multiple-choice questions related to a race weekend and track racing.
The tests were marked straight after and thankfully and excitingly we had all passed – we had all become Racing Driver Licence Holders!
It all felt more real after the day and official a few days later when our Licence cards arrived.
First taste of competition – The Curbourugh Sprint
The day before had been spent getting the finishing touches to ensure the legality of the car, as I do not yet have a towing licence my car was transported up by our driver Albert the afternoon before. Due to my having been off for nearly three weeks over Easter I had not yet had the opportunity to put miles on the car or even sit in the car properly with all of my race gear on so the first run out was going to be interesting!
The drivers briefing was scheduled for 8.30am so I decided to arrive early so I could practice strapping myself into the car properly, I am glad I did as I discovered by anti-submarining straps were about two foot too long. Thankfully Lee from Caterham was on hand to take my seat out and make the necessary adjustment to the straps.
The Clerk of the course briefed us about the format of the day then guided us around a track walk. The track walk was particularly important as the route around the track was not straightforward.
Time came for my first run, we would have two practice runs during the morning sessions followed by three timed runs through the afternoon. I had left my helmet in the truck over night so it was cold and this caused it to fog up despite leaving a little air gap for the visor, EXCUSE ALERT, so my first lap was very slow as I couldn’t see where to go properly! My first run was 85 seconds, slow but at least it was clean.
I was much better prepared for practice 2 so after a reasonable standing start I felt confident to up the speed compared to the first run, it turns out that I was too confident and too fast too! I unsettled the car going through the first turn and lost it in corner two. Thankfully, despite it feeling and sounding bad, the rear wheels had stayed withing track limits so after reversing and re-joining the track I completed the rest of the lap and actually improved by 2 seconds.
Something changed after lunch and for my first timed run I again managed a clean lap which resulted in a significant reduction of time down to 74 seconds.
I hadn’t learned from my experience in the morning and for the second timed run I tried too hard and despite being clean I was sliding the car too much which actually slowed me down so I ended with a 75 second run.
With encouragement from Albert I tried hard for the final run and managed to get around in 73 seconds, despite the leaders hitting 66 seconds I was really pleased given that I had only sat in the car properly for the first time that morning and most of the field had completed over 1000 miles in their cars. I was also pleased with the progress made throughout the day – the Caterham team keep encouraging me that faster times will come and by the season end the grid is a lot closer together.
One of our clients is racing this year too, Freddie is driving car 66 within the White Grid. Freddie hinted at his potential track speed when he set a blistering time in the Caterham simulator which we had in the showroom when Freddie signed up to the championship, his speed was confirmed with a third place for the White Grid – the first taste of motorsport silverware (it was actually a glass trophy this time!) and champagne! Nice one Freddie!
The Academy Package includes a Test Day which was at Mallory Park and as our first race was to be at Mallory at the other end of the week so I decided to use this as my race test day.
Mallory in an oval circuit with a hairpin stretching out of one corner. We were split into our White and Green groups with the whites going out first. It quickly became apparent that the cars were too loud for what was a quiet day at the circuit. Thankfully we were still able to run but without the hairpin, a chicane was introduced near the end of the back straight so the circuit still has some interest.
I managed to dial into this circuit quite well, in particular the first corner Gerrards which is a long right-hander. I found the quickest way was to take it in fourth gear with a slight lift after the main straight then progressively reapply the power, this took me out wide but the grip came to me and guided me well to the apex. The chicane was good fun but as I have not yet learned the dark art of heel and toe I kept squealing my tyres – and for this, I got black flagged – three times!
A bit annoying about the sound issue but a very useful day to prepare for our first race weekend.
First Race – Round 1 - Mallory Park
It was damp for qualifying in the morning, I had confidence in the first few corners but this session was my first driving the full circuit which now included the hairpin. My main aim was to stay on track and complete at least the three laps which is the minimum required to qualify, after that, I aimed to be as fast as possible and qualify as best as I could.
Live timing showed me in 18th place which is pretty much what I was expecting, albeit I had hoped to be a few places higher!
Our First Race
I didn’t have too many nerves, our first lap or Green Flag lap was from the pits with us then being lined up by the marshals in our grid positions – I was grateful for this as I am not sure I would have found the correct place otherwise. I was expecting the grid to be two long staggered rows but it was more like four staggered rows. This didn’t matter to me at first however it became annoying as soon as the lights went out. The start process begins when the last driver has lined up which is signalled by a marshal waving a green flag to signify all is well. At that point 5 red lights go on for anything from 2 to 7 seconds, when they go out, we go. So, I saw the lights go out and wanted to go but it seemed that the drivers surrounding me did not react as quickly and as I was boxed in I had to wait for them to go before I could get going too. At the time this seemed to be a long time but reviewing the footage it must have been half a second if that! I lost a couple of places and use the first couple of laps to settle in and maintain my position. On lap 3 I picked up Charles Vincent in car 59 which began a 9 lap battle for position. I felt I was quicker, particularly on the long sweeping Gerrards corner but I lacked the pace and perhaps the bravery to lunge into a corner or sling past on a straight. I was trying different lines and approaches to corners, but nothing was working. However, at the end of lap 12, Charles made a slight mistake coming through the last corner into the main straight which compromised his speed down the straight, this allowed me to go for it and at the end of the straight going into Gerrards, I took the inside line to take the position. Charles saw me and courteously gave me the space I needed, and I was through. Brilliant, a self-made overtake, one of my season's targets achieved within race one!
The next few laps were all a good pace and on laps 18 I lapped John Vincent in car 28. Then, later on, on the same lap, as I was approaching the hairpin I was shown the blue flag meaning that faster drivers were coming through. I slowed down and stayed as wide to the right as I could which allowed Marc Jones in car 2 through first, he was closely followed by a chasing pack of five cars.
Over the next couple of laps a few other quicker drivers flashed past, including the Championship sponsor Paul Woodman in his Lovercars car 69 and our client Freddie Chiddicks in car 66 who were enjoying a very close fought battle for 6th, Paul eventually won out but by one of the tightest margins, I have ever seen.
I took the chequered flag on lap 21, what an amazing feeling and another of my targets achieved – finishing a race (and in one piece).
After the cool-down lap which included lots of waving and thumbs up to the marshals, we were guided to Parc Ferme. What an atmosphere, all cars finished the race and there were smiles all round – we could all now call ourselves racing drivers!
I started 18th, dropped to 20th, pulled one place back and finished 19th.
Round 2 – Race 2 & 3 – Knockhill
I understand that the Academy has not competed at Knockhill for a while, despite the long journeys for most competitors I think we were all looking forward to what many describe as an “epic” circuit.
I had a three-session test day booked for the Friday before the race weekend, session 1 gave me my first experience of the blind entry to corner one, the onboard youtube footage of racing there really doesn’t prepare you for the elevation change. Further around the lap, you get the uphill blind chicanes – wow! I went into the gravel whilst finding my lines and braking points but that is what testing is for. In session two I caused a red flag when I went too deep into the first corner and spread the cones from corner two across the track, for me the red flag wasn’t shown yet so I kept going at speed into the hairpin and had a slight off there too! I could then see the red lights and flags along the straight. I went into the pits and was told off but I can only act on a flag if one is shown!
When the cones had been put back and we were allowed out again I drove well and got my times consistently in the 1minute 4-second zone. The driving wasn’t pretty but it seemed to work.
During the last session I tried to be consistent, smooth and accurate, I had expected that to bring speed but it worked out 2 seconds slower! Taking the track by the scruff of the neck and putting additional faith in the car seemed to be the only way to be rewarded here.
As usual, we would have 15 minutes and would need 3 laps to qualify. I didn’t feel quite as brave as I had done on Friday morning but kept the car on track and qualified in 21st position for the afternoons' race.
Amazingly, the weather on Friday had been okay and mostly dry but the weekend was sunny too.
A good start but I didn’t capitalise on it and struggled to keep up although I did manage to pick up one position, the race was rather uneventful aside from being lapped by the front runners of the 12th lap. That was when I stupidly let through a driver who I thought I should be blue flagged for but it was for position! C’est la vie! I finished 21st and therefore would be 21st on the grid for race two on Sunday.
Where race one was mostly uneventful, this race certainly made up for it! I was in a better mood today to drive a bit harder and be a bit more aggressive. I had another good start and kept up well with the pack and within a few laps, I had made an overtake and gained another position through another driver having an unfortunate spin. I was driving well and consistent with my times and holding my position well. And then… four of the fast boys at the front crashed which caused a red flag, there seemed to be a lot of damage to cars, but all drivers involved were okay. A race result can be declared when 75% of the race has been reached but we still had 6 minutes to go so after a long wait we had another green flag lap before a fresh grid restart. Despite my normal good start, all I managed this time was lots of wheel spin and a slow launch as a result, this however might have saved me! I arrived over the brow of corner 1 to find a cloud of dust and tyre smoke and what I think was at least four cars spinning and bumping into each other, I came to a standstill to ensure I avoided any contact and picked my way through the debris strewn across the track. The race was again black flagged and this time the chequered flag was also shown. The initial result, and mainly as a result of the crashes, put me in 15th place. Racing can be cruel at times but selfishly I was and am grateful for my best result so far and the associated haul of points.
It took a while for the Clerk of the Course and the BRSCC to publish the final race classification – amazingly I was upgraded to 14th position!
Silverstone next time out, and we get to drive with the White Group as well!
Round 3 – Silverstone GP – Race 4
The format was open pitlane for testing which means that we could go out whenever we want throughout the day and for as few or as many laps as we like at a time.
After making a few adjustments to the car I headed out on circuit, I spent the first couple of laps getting used to the track, trying to learn which corner was coming up next. I also had to acclimatise to it not only being Caterhams on track but Porsche GT3s, Aston Martins and other much more powerful racing cars with closing speeds far higher than mine. It was a bit off-putting however the general rule is to stay on the racing line, so you are predictable for faster cars to make their way around you safely.
Learning the track was tough, some of the corners are very similar looking but demand very different approaches and whilst I was finding my way I went far too quickly into some and was forced into the vast Silverstone run-off. What the circuit did allow me was the space to practice putting in more acceleration when I was starting to lose control, I had been advised it was the best thing to do but had never been brave enough to try, sure enough, it works!
I got my times down to 2 minutes 45 seconds but the fast boys were getting down to 2 minutes 35 seconds, a lot of work to do but actually this is a similar pace difference as this is a much longer circuit than the previous races.
There were ominously dark clouds incoming on the horizon but despite rain being forecast it seemed to be holding.
This would be the first time all of the Academy cars would be on track together and as Silverstone is a long circuit I and some of the other backmarkers had planned to head to the assembly area last so we would not be in anyone's way and could go at our own pace without having to keep a constant lookout for fast cars on flying laps.
The plan, however, did not go to plan. Firstly, the heavens opened and soaked us and the track and secondly, we somehow managed to line up mid-pack.
Our green flag lap was my first experience of driving the car in proper wet conditions and even went off on the runoff! We had to complete at least three laps to qualify and although that was in my mind I was also thinking that this is the day I could be brave and get a great qualifying result. I put my foot down and went for it. I was making good time and got a short toe down Hanger Straight then lost it at Stowe and had a full 360! The new plan was to go steady, keep trying to find grip and get the three laps done! I qualified 43rd on the grid and 21st of the greens.
We had been enjoying lovely sunny weather ever since the heavy rainfall of qualifying, but there were more dark clouds on the horizon and a few drops in the air. I had my fingers crossed that it would stay dry as I wanted to push as hard as I could rather than tiptoeing around in the wet.
Thankfully it stayed dry and we were all able to go for it.
Being so far back it was a bit hard to see the start lights so although I had a slight delay, my start was good and I had the outside line into the first corner. My progress was somewhat hindered by a couple of cars having a coming together which allowed some other cars to get ahead of me. There were a couple of other spin collisions on the lap which were signposted by the marshals waving yellow flags. I made back the lost places and started to find my rhythm.
One of the cars which were out of place was Robert Beke pedalling car No. 13 from the White Group, I could see he was about the length of a straight behind which I managed to maintain for a while but Robert found his pace and managed to catch up, I thought I might be able to keep him at bay but he found his way around. I was tempted to push hard to get the place back but he was quicker than me and he was in the white grid so aside from pride it wouldn’t get me any more points.
In the closing minutes of the lap, I came close to Alan Bateman in his Lotus 78 inspired car and wanted to try to overtake him be he was driving well and he is also of the white group so it wasn’t worth risking any potential move for position.
We managed to get 8 laps in for our 20-minute race and I could now say I have competed at Silverstone on the full Grand Prix circuit. It was brilliant to have driven alongside the white group and experienced such a full grid, as I had finished this race I now have 4 classifications towards the required 6 to lose my novice cross!
Brand Hatch is fast approaching on the 7th August! And we believe spectators are now able to watch.
Professional images by Insta tag @snappyracers
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