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!
Please keep checking back as we will be updating the this Blog at every stage...Race 1 is very close now!
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