- 1 History
- 2 Current Caterham Racing
- 2.1 The Caterham Motorsport Ladder
- 2.2 Caterham Graduates Racing Club
- 3 References
- 4 External links
The Caterham Seven (or Caterham 7) is a small sports car produced by Caterham Cars in the United Kingdom. It is based on the Lotus Seven, a lightweight sports car sold in kit and pre-built form by Lotus Cars, from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. After Lotus ended production of the Lotus Seven, in 1972, Caterham bought the rights to the design, and today make both kits and fully assembled cars. 2007 marked the 50th year of production of the Lotus/Caterham 7.
The Lotus 7 was conceived by Colin Chapman as a car to be raced. Whilst still a prototype, in September 1957, it was raced at the Brighton Speed Trials and by the end of 1958 Graham Hill was winning races with the Coventry Climax-engined 'Super Seven' The car has had a strong racing history throughout its life under both Lotus and Caterham stewardship. Amongst the marques more famous races was victory in the Nelson Ledges 24-hour race in Ohio when, against a field including works teams from Honda and Mazda, a four-man team from Caterham (including both Jez Coates and Robert Nearn) won by seven laps (after 990 laps) in a modified Vauxhall HPC.
After dominating open class races for decades Caterham Super 7 Racing, a one-make championship for Caterhams, was begun in 1986. Caterham 7 races have since expanded to include club and competitive races in the United Kingdom, continental Europe, Canada, the United States and Asia.
The car was banned from racing in the USA in the 1960s, as being "Too fast to race" and again in the UK in the 1970s for the same reasons, which prompted Caterham Cars boss Graham Nearn to produce 'T' shirts with "Caterham Seven, the car that's "Too Fast to Race. ..". Both bans were later lifted. In 2002 an R400 won its class (and came 11th overall out of 200 starters) at the 24 Hours Nürburgring race by 10 laps, ahead of competition that included Porsche and BMW racecars, leading, once again, to a ban on entry in subsequent years.
Current Caterham Racing
There are many Caterham Racing Championships across the world, the majority administered in some way by Caterham Cars. It is estimated that there are over 700 competitors in 20 Caterham championships across 11 countries, and many more that compete in sprint and hillclimb events.
The Caterham Motorsport Ladder
The Caterham Motorsport Ladder is a progression through the various Caterham Cars championships, starting with the Caterham Academy, and moving through ultimately to their most prestigious European events. The championships which form the ladder are:
In 1995 the Caterham Academy, a novices-only format, was introduced in the UK as the Caterham Scholarship. For £17,995 (2009 price), entrants get a modified Roadsport kit (a factory-built option is available for extra cost) with a sealed Ford Sigma engine engine and 5-speed gearbox. Having completed the ARDS (racing) licence qualification, the season then consists of a setup day, three speed events (sprints and hillclimbs), and four circuit races.
Since 2000, the popularity of the Academy has led to Caterham providing two parallel Academy championships (Group 1 & Group 2), each resulting in an Academy champion at the end of the year. Approximately 700 racing drivers have been created through the Caterham Academy.
Roadsport B is largely for drivers that have come through the previous season's Academy. Some minor modifications are permitted to the car, including fitting a rear anti-roll bar and sticky Avon CR500 tyres. Technical support is still provided by the factory, and professional team support is not permitted. RSB has 20-minute races at 7 or 8 'double-header' meetings over the course of the season, usually all in the UK. For 2009, RSB will be available exclusively to Sigma-engined cars.
Roadsport A cars are still ex-Academy cars, with no engine upgrades. However a number of performance upgrades such removing the windscreens and lights, widetrack front suspension and uprated dampers are allowed, as is professional team support. RSA races at the same events as RSB, but has longer 30-minute races.
The Superlight R300 is a new class for 2009, designed to bridge the gap between RSA and the existing Superlight R400 class. It is expected to be popular with experienced RSA racers wanting to move on to the next level in speed. 2009 Champion, Jon Walker - DPR Motorsport
The Superlight R400 series is Caterham Motorsport’s premier British championship. The R400 is a 220 bhp Cosworth powered dedicated race car with a Quaife six-speed sequential gearbox replacing the standard Caterham unit used in the R300. As with all series above Academy, it runs ons Avon CR500 tyres. 2009 Champion Dan Denis, Matt Blyth Racing
The Superlight R500 series is the latest of Caterham Motorsport's Superlight series of RSA Racing cars. Powered by a 2.0-litre Ford Duratec engine producing max horsepower (bhp/rpm) 263 bhp @ 8500rpm and max torque (lbs ft/rpm) 177 lbs/ft @ 7200rpm. With a weight of 506 kg (516 kg sequential gearbox it is capable of 0-60 mph 2.88 seconds and a staggering power-to-weight ratio of 520 bhp-per-tonne. Advertised top speed 150 mph.
Caterham Graduates Racing Club
The Caterham Graduates Championship was started in 1998 by competitors from the 1997 Caterham Scholarship. In its first two years, it was a multi-discipline series, with the rounds being made up of sprints, hillclimbs and circuit races, similar to the Caterham Scholarship format. The emphasis moved more and more towards circuit races, and from 2000-on the series has been entirely circuit races.
The Grads Club is independent of the Caterham Motorsport Ladder, and is run by its members. The series is one of the largest in the UK, if not the largest, with well over 100 registered competitors. The competitors come from a variety of backgrounds. A number have "graduated" from the novice Caterham Scholarship and Academy series, whilst many others have made it their first foray into motorsport.
Current classes are:
Uprated 1600cc Rover K-series Caterham Sevens with independent (DeDion) rear suspension from the Caterham Academy 2001 - 2008. These cars are semi-road legal (no lights or windscreen) and with controlled modifications produce around 150 bhp.
Using the 1600cc Ford Sigma engined cars used in the Academy from 2008 onwards with around 120 hp. Screens are optional and normally removed but lights are required. The only other change from Academy specification (apart from tyres) is the optional rear anti-roll bar.
All classes run on Yokohama road legal tyres. Classic Graduates race on list 1A A539s, whilst Supers, Megas and Sigmas use the stickier list 1B A048R
The cars in the series are genuinely road-going, although Mega-Graduates spec is moving away from this with the deletion of lights, and indeed a few are driven to (and hopefully) from races. Many are used by drivers mid-week for transport to work and for shopping, needing no more than the covering up of competition numbers to make them road-legal. No changes from the standard specification are allowed, putting the emphasis firmly on driving ability rather than car development and set-up. Along with low consumable costs, this keeps the costs of running a car very much under control, making it one of the most cost-effective ways to go racing. The large grid sizes are a testament to this low-cost formula.
Affordability is a key ingredient to Caterham Graduates racing. Strict regulations allow only limited modifications and work on the sealed engines is limited to a single nominated engine builder.
Other Caterham Championships around the world
There are a large number of championships around the world both exclusively for Caterham Seven cars, and in which Caterhams compete alongside other cars. Caterham Academies have been introduced in the Netherlands, Portugal, and other countries.