[ home ]
When I first started doing trackdays, I used to do it in an MX-5. It was my introduction to RWD proper and my only car. It was cheap and fun. Then one fateful day at Elvington, I drove a Caterham for the first time. It was a costly mistake.
soft focus makes tatty look good
The Caterham in question was a particularly tired Caterham Classic. The live axle one with a Vauxhall 8v motor. I'd be surprised if it was anywhere near 100hp. Yet you could still drive it sideways everywhere. It was like nothing I've ever driven before and within a month or so I'd sold the MX-5, bought a Citroen, and was on the lookout for my own Caterfield. I ended up with a mental shed of a Westfield Cosworth that I adored, but that's another story. Caterhams continued to feature on and off for the next 10 years or so and they're something I just seem to keep coming back to.
There's something about the purity of that old Classic that for me is what Lotus 7's are all about. It didn't have any power, it wasn't equipped with any trick bits, it was crude, slow (but didn't seem it) and an absolute blast. It had a character not unlike an old Mini Cooper. You just smack it's arse, hold on and deal with whatever it throws at you.
a failed attempt at being arty...
The BaT Cat fleet chopped and changed many times over the years and I drove most of them. One thing you notice quickly is that they're ALL different, even examples of the same model. Some are amazing, some a little dissapointing and some are just perfect. The two notable ones for me though are the original BaT Cat above and the Superlight.
The Superlight was one of those perfect marriages again. The power train was just right. It had a 130-odd horsepower K-Series. Now I'm not a fan of the robustness of the K to say the least. But there is no denying it's light weight and that it's revvy power delivery is just perfectly suited to light cars, and indeed the Caterham six speed box. Which again is perfect, along with a proper LSD and a DeDion back end. Quick rack, bigger brakes and track biased suspension completed the package.
This to me was the Caterham that most captured the essence of the early car. Not too much power and everything just being about driving. Nothing else. The higher powered cars added grip and go certainly. For me, they were impressive, but they became more about the squirt between the corners and less about getting the absolute maximum out of a better balanced car.
BaT 6 - possibly the best Cat EVER
Now don't get me wrong, this is a much faster car than the old Classic. By miles. But everything about it is quicker and in proportion, which is why it works. I personally preferred it on 13x6" Yokohama A539 road tyres. They gave the car a massive power to grip ratio and in all honesty, made it a bit of a handful. But I love that, it felt so alive. Indeed when you put the bigger proper Avons on, it goes hellishly quicker and you have to drive it properly. But I found that got a bit, well, dull. It's much more fun the other way and trying to drive it properly on the crappy tires is much more of a challenge.
The video beneath is a excerpt of me chasing down someone in a R400 on Avons, with me in the Superlight on the A539s. I got by him in the end and he followed me around for a bit, the pair of us had a bloody good laugh. Crappy video quality. It was a bit grim that day.
SL vs R400
However in this configuration it was lairy and cornering usually featured an armful of opposite lock at some point. Massive fun, even more so in the wet as what little grip you had all but vanished. The video below demonstrates this. Admittedly I'm intentionally throwing it around, but you get the idea. I will apologise in advance for the tyre squeal. I threw the recorder in the boot box which is directly between the back wheels. Back off the vol a bit!
gooning in the wet
I consider that car to be the best fun and most suited car out there for enjoying track days. No it won't post the numbers like the more powerful ones, but that's not what track days are all about, well not for me anyhow. That might seem massively hypocritical considering I run around in a Juno these days. That came about because I faniced a new challenge driving-wise, rather than having a microscopic penis and needing the fastest car on track (honest!). Running the Juno comes with a tonne of compromises about where you can run it and it's massive speed differential with other punters. To the point that it isn't really suitable if I'm honest. When the time comes to get shot of the Juno, I can see me getting an R300 or an old Superlight.
standard cornering technique
Now for a bit of plugging (steady!); I've hired Caterhams from Jonny at BookaTrack for years now and I recommend it highly. It's not the cheapest, but it's still a hell of a lot cheaper if you honestly add up the costs of owning, storing, maintaining, transporting, repairing, insuring and fueling your own car vs arrive and drive. BaT hire is nailing made easy.
fat lad in a Cat
Right, that's the BaT licking done, have a pic of a fat lad actually stuck in a Caterham. I was caught on the belt. The other pictures are even less flattering would you believe.
[ back ]