Sunday, 27 November 2011

Caterham Academy 2012 - Collecting the Car

Collecting the Car:

This morning my long suffering wife took me down to Caterham Dartford to collect my car following it`s post build check and IVA. To say the location is less than glamorous is an understatement, especially on a Saturday morning where the place looks deserted.  I got to meet the chap who had been working on my car, who said it was a good build, which was nice to hear. I suspect they say that to everyone who comes to collect their new-build after it's post build check, but it put a smile on my face none the less.

There was another owner there collecting his R500 after a service, so we had a bit of a chat. It turns out he has had endless problems with the car miss-firing, so is actually looking to get shot of it, which was a real shame. Still, I couldn't have been more excited to get in and drive mine away, even if it did take me a good 10 - 15 minutes to get in and buckled up (they may be quick cars, but you certainly don’t make a quick getaway). The drive back home was rather dull, round the M25 and up the A10, but driving a Caterham is such an event it makes even the most boring drive into a mini-adventure.

Initial impressions of the car are very good. It has strong acceleration up to 80mph, after which it tails off noticeably like all lower powered Caterhams with a windscreen in place. The engine sounds fine, with a nice exhaust roar and some lovely pops and bangs on the overrun, which give it some real character despite the humble origins. The most impressive aspect, as always, is the immediate response from the steering, throttle and brakes, which make you feel absolutely connected to the car. Even the ride is ok and certainly better than my last 7, but I haven't really pushed the handling too far as yet to see if this will cause compromises elsewhere.

Later on in the day I took the car for a proper blat along some of the narrower country roads around home and it came alive......there really is nothing like driving a Caterham on a pleasant evening with the roof down, the engine singing and the smells of the country filling your nose. It has been 5 years since I last owned one, but all the fantastic memories came flooding back in an instant....most fondly the easily controlled oversteer out of each and every roundabout! Goodness only knows how much fun the racing is going to be J

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Caterham Academy 2012 - Academy Seminar & IVA

On Saturday I went up to Caterham Midlands for a seminar on the Academy with my fellow 2012 Academics. It was a fantastic day and a great opportunity to meet many of the guys that I will be racing with throughout 2012.....they are a diverse, but great group, united by a shared passion. It was fascinating to compare build stories with those that are building their cars and share our fears as well as excitement for the year ahead. If truth be told I think we were also starting to eye each other up and work out who our main competition was going to be :-)

The Caterham team did a fantastic job of giving us an idea of what to expect from the year and answering all of our questions, no matter how silly (do we have to bring our own brolly girls? being the best). The highlight for me was having a couple of the guys from the 2011 Academy come and talk us through their experiences. What was absolutely clear was that it had been a great experience for them and that they had formed some fantastic friendships along the way. It was really apparent that they had caught the racing bug badly and were looking forward to their 2012 season.

We had presentations from Book a Track on track days and tuition, REIS on Insurance, PRG on trailers and Demon Tweaks on race wear. These were all really useful, but also highlighted how much money there is still to spend getting ready for next year. I hadn't even considered things like Hans devices for my helmet, but it became clear that it is something that I should really consider. However if I do go for a Hans device I also need to get my seatbelt mounts modified at the chassis manufacturer, for yet more expenditure in time and cost. At least I now know what I need to do between now and the first sprint in March and that I need to prioritise the key decisions. First off.....what colour race suit do I go for (as Simon said on Saturday, if you aren't winning, you need to be looking good!).

Today I got an e-mail from Caterham saying that my car had failed its IVA on a seatbelt issue. Being confused and slightly concerned as to exactly what the problem was, I phoned Kate at Caterham Dartford and she told me that the seatbelt buckle was faulty (a manufacturing issue) and that it needed to be replaced under warranty. Later that day I got a call to say that they had fixed it and put it in for a re-test, which it had passed. I have to say I am really glad I decided to get Caterham to put the car through for me, as it saved me the time and cost of taking time out for two tests as well as getting the faulty part fixed, which would likely have taken me several weeks in elapsed time and a couple of days out of really was money well spent!

I am obviously delighted and am now itching to pick the car up and get driving as soon as possible. Caterham are also doing the registration for me and if the DVLA are on top form there is a chance I might be able to pick her up on Saturday. I really do hope so as I started this journey over a year ago when my wife and little girls came down to Caterham with me to put the deposit down on the car as a birthday present (the photos below are of that day and are where I got the idea for the colour scheme for my car). The waiting has been painful at times, but as they say....good things come to those that wait....and I have done enough waiting :-)

Monday, 14 November 2011

Caterham Academy 2012 - Build (Post Build Check Update & Time Lapse Video)

Post Build Check Update & Time Lapse Video:

I heard back from Caterham today on my post build check, which went well, but highlighted a few issues that needed sorting. The comforting thing was that almost all of them were items that I had pointed out to them as being required because I had run out of time, but there was one of concern, which was a cracked A-frame. Caterham claim this was due to the diff not being properly spaced, but I am adamant that it was +/-2mm as per the instructions, so will have a chat with them about it. The rest are related to tidying up the engine bay wiring and replacing a couple of washers that were the wrong size, so not too bad a result for someone that has never done something like this before and did it largely un-aided in two weeks. I am pleased.

The car is booked in for its IVA test on the 22nd, which Caterham will do for me. Having thought long and hard about it I decided that the lack of time and lack of brownie points with the family made this the sensible option. They will also register the car for me, so it will be ready for collection from the 29th November onwards. To say I can't wait to collect her and go for that first drive is a massive understatement!

In the mean time I thought I would put up a link to the time lapse video of the build, which seems to show me displaying copious amounts of builders bum......enjoy :-) It is certainly a nice memory of the whole build process and I really enjoyed watching it back last night.