DAVID ROBINSON – CATERHAM WORLD TOUR ENGLAND, WALES, GERMANY, HOLLAND, BELGIUM, SPAIN, TAIWAN, COLOMBIA
22nd January 2016
The last 3 years have certainly been an opportunity to see a few different sides to racing in more than a few countries! But how have they compared? And, in particular, how does Caterham racing vary around the globe?
Well let’s bracket these countries a little because technically there are only three Caterham championships to consider here: the UK series, the Taiwanese Option Cup, and the La Monomarca series in Colombia.
The UK championships have been very kind to me over the last 5 years, starting in the Academy in 2011 before stepping through Tracksport, Supersport and R300-S, I have enjoyed the experience and enjoyed picking up 3 titles along the way. The atmosphere has always been outstanding, as has the competition, whether fighting Terry Langley in 2012, Mike Hart in 2013 (I never thought I would escape Team Quantamatic at one point!) or Aaron Head over the last two seasons. The UK really does stand alone in the breadth and depth of drivers competing, from first time racers to seasoned drivers – those who have already competed in other series or will go on to do so (a la Paul Wilson and Stuart Leonard in Blancpain).
Caterham racing in the UK, as you doubtless already know, also features the closest racing of all. The nature of the circuits exaggerates the tow effect meaning that you always have to race a lap ahead, being aware of what is coming next and how you can use that to your advantage. Lap times are almost entirely secondary to this. And one more thing that makes the UK special aside from the drivers and the close racing? The marshals. Certainly these are the most enthusiastic and professional of all those I have come across, and the fact that they are all volunteers is extraordinary (thank you!)
So that’s the home championship (and I’m going to bracket the European rounds into that same group). But where to next? Pen Bay International, Taiwan. At the beginning of this season the invite came from Caterham Taiwan and I jumped at the opportunity to race somewhere new in the country’s first ever one make series. Taiwan only has one track and as the time approached the social media coverage started to build and build, to the extent that I felt like a minor celebrity before even flying out! Unfortunately on arrival there were no screaming fans in the airport but there were 18 Caterhams in various states of build with two days to go to the main event. All hands on deck then to get these together and it was interesting to see just how new all this was – even the mechanics had not worked on that many cars at this time, but their willingness to learn, sheer passion for the sport and dedication to the job meant that by race weekend it was already a well drilled operation.
I really think this sums up the Taiwanese championship. It was so passionate and exciting, from the mechanics to the 5000 race fans over the weekend, from the entrepreneur importer to the Showgirls on race day (they have an hour just for photos and selfies!), and everything was about enjoying the sport and the opportunity to race. Ok, the drivers were a little off the pace of myself and Danny Winstanley, but with the commitment they were showing I have no doubt that they are now quick and pushing the capability of the R300 SVs.
Taiwan is a hazy memory of 9 months ago, but I write this fresh off the plane from 2 and a half days in Colombia, my final ‘new’ experience and another chance to see another way of approaching motorsport. As with Taiwan, social media and the local newspapers were fanatical about the event in the preceding week, building the hype on the ‘foreigner’ and his ambition to take on the local champions of Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina and Colombia – no pressure then. And this has to be the strongest memory of Colombia; the driving standards of the grid of 15 was simply unbelievable. There is only one track in the country and each person knew the layout – with all of its bumps and cambers – like the back of their hand, making it one of the toughest race weekends I have ever competed in. I had to learn everything from scratch, building from a 6th place qualifying result on Saturday (8 tenths off pole!) to finally taking a win on Sunday afternoon, something that I was immensely proud of but something that also showed another side of the series.
And that other side? Well that’s just like the UK and Taiwan – it’s the supportive nature of the paddock. Wherever and wherever you are competing, your closest competitors are there to drive you forward and to challenge you. To make you push harder and harder toward your goal, whether that’s a new personal best, a podium, breaking into the top 20, or simply getting on track. After all, it’s ‘just’ racing.
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