2016 sees the second year of the successful partnership between TOC the automotive college with Caterham Motorsport, to provide technician support for the Prince Lubricants 2016 Caterham Motorsport Championship.

IMG_3496Caterham is the most successful one make motorsport championships and is known as the world’s most raced car with over 700 competitors in 11 countries across Europe, South and North America and Asia.  Originally designed over 50 years ago by the legendary Lotus Formula One engineer and team boss Colin Chapman, the lightweight sports car is now sold in 30 countries worldwide and in 2011 Caterham was acquired by Malaysian business entrepreneur Tan Sri Tony Fernandes.

Inline with the Caterham Motorsport vision of being the most accessible race series in Asia, Caterham has partnered with TOC to help further develop the talents of their students and give them real practical motor racing experience.

Motorsport is all about passion, excitement, adrenaline, precision and teamwork. Taking the students to the racing circuit of Sepang to work on the Caterham race cars, the TOC students learn the various aspects of a race weekend, giving them not only experience, but also a practical advantage in the industry even before they graduate.

The iconic Caterham Seven is based on decades of racing with the emphasis on driver ability. For that, meticulous preparation is required, aspiring to Formula One standards of professionalism, attention to detail and teamwork.  Everyone involved in the Caterham Championship contributes to the experience and developing a high level of service is essential to achieve the objective of enabling the drivers to become ambassadors for the series.

IMG_3499Under the professional guidance of the engineers from Nexus Motorsport, the TOC students learn all about race car preparation, what is required at a race meeting and attention to detail under real racing pressure.  Caterham Motorsport Asia CEO Campbell Tupling, who has been guiding the TOC students from the beginning, says that “the students are very eager to get involved in the racing and understand the potential of this experience.”

Now in the second year of the partnership, interest from the students is very high and there is acute competition for the number of positions available, with the TOC race crew being comprised of a mixture of those with experience, who can help and advise the new recruits.

In the week before the first race at Sepang, the students went through intensive briefing at TOC.  As the race weekend entails four 30 minute sessions for practice, qualifying and two races of 10 laps each, the briefing for the students was broken down into pre event, pre session for practice, qualifying and the races.

The emphasis is on check, check and check again, and if that is all done then ensure everything is clean and tidy.  At the briefing, TOC lecturer Peter Tiotangco explained in detail the car and the checklist requirements, so nothing is left to chance. That included: checking that all the bolts are suitably done up; checking all of the connections and condition of the various components of the car; checking for any leaks of any kind; checking that the correct fuel is onboard and the correct tyres are fitted with the correct pressures; checking the engine oil and coolant. The list is extensive and comprehensive, but essential for good car preparation.

IMG_0949For the race weekend there is one student who is responsible for the car, (normally referred to in race teams as the number one mechanic) who is supported by other students.  For the race the car has to be started and warmed up, the driver helped into the car and securely strapped in, mirrors checked, wheel nuts torqued and tyre pressures checked.  Once the car is ready in its correct place on the starting grid, the driver has to be kept cool shaded by an umbrella, which is especially important in the high temperatures of Sepang.

During the race, a group of students will set up the podium presentation, which is the same as used for the Formula One Grand Prix. This involves putting up the Prince Lubricants Caterham Motorsport back drop, getting the trophies ready and loosening the corks of the champagne to make it easier for the driver to open and spray!

After the race, it is essential that the car and driver are weighed, the driver is given an ice towel and water to rehydrate after 10 exhausting laps, and then it is time for the podium ceremony.

The cars have to stay in a restricted area called the ‘parc ferme’ for some 30 minutes after the race just in case there is a protest, and then the cars are taken back by the team to the garage for checking over and cleaning.  There is always something to do at a race meeting, so the students, as part of the team, are normally well occupied and if there are not, there is always more cleaning!

The start of the Prince Lubricants 2016 Caterham Motorsport Championship is at Sepang 28-30 May, with a fairly full quota of cars and the prospect of the 2015 Champion Gilbert Ang battling against the UK Champion Dave Robinson.  We are all looking forward to it.

Peter Burns
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