Lars Hoffmann impresses at Caterham Academy

Alone among the British

Kurt Hoffmann, head of Caterham Deutschland, is a pragmatist. This quickly becomes clear when the importer of ultra-light sports cars from England disarmingly states: “I sell what nobody really needs”. But Kurt Hoffmann is also a passionate driving dynamics expert. And so one thing led to another, when the Rover dealer – it must have been around 1999 – received an offer he could not refuse. “I was leasing a Caterham at the time. Caterham UK said to me ‘If you become a dealer, you can have the car at the dealer’s retail price’.” Sceptical at first because he did not suspect that there could actually be as many madmen as himself, Kurt Hoffmann agreed and became a Caterham dealer.

At the same time, the enthusiastic motor sportsman naturally also drove races with his sports cars based on the old Seven from Lotus. The numerous trophies that Kurt Hoffmann won in endurance races on various Porsche cars were joined by many more in the following years.

His enthusiasm for motorsport in general and for Caterham in particular was also passed on to his son Lars. “We’d always say, ‘When you grow up, you’ll go to Caterham Academy’, and then one day the time had come.” And Lars Hoffmann indeed grew up to become tall. So tall that one wonders how this 2-metre man fits into a rather compact Caterham.

Lars Hoffmann showed quite impressively how this fits: In his first season at Caterham Academy, which is designed for motorsport newcomers, Hoffmann junior immediately took second place in the championship, which is exclusively held at race tracks in England.

Why England of all places, why Caterham Academy of all places? It is a cost-effective way to get seriously into motorsports. The Caterham Academy has a multi-level structure, introduces newbies to racing at a reasonable cost and allows them to gain their first circuit experience. But things do not proceed cautiously there. “The English really get down to business,” reports Kurt Hofmann. But for his son, Caterham Academy was to prove the perfect base.

One year later, in 2019, Lars started one level higher in the Caterham Roadsport Championship, again as the only German among all the British. “I don’t think it makes a big difference whether it is Germany or England,” says Lars Hoffmann. “I may get a little more attention, but I don’t have a special status and have been well received. “Perhaps a little too well: in 2019 the now 24-year-old won the championship in his class – with a one-point lead!

“It hasn’t been an easy season,” says Lars. In two races the young racer had to start from the back of the grid. “We have very strict stewards at Caterham Academy,” who punish even the smallest misdemeanours. If you get a penalty, you have to accept it, keep your composure and concentration – even if you have to plough through the whole field to get the points”.

In 2020 the next leap is waiting: The trained automotive mechatronics engineer will start one level higher in the Caterham Seven 270R Championship, whose regulations include some technical innovations. After all, the strictly regulated technical upgrades of the cars are a special feature of the Caterham Academy. All vehicles are equipped with BILSTEIN monotube gas-pressure coilovers. Caterham has been relying on our suspension expertise for their road and motor sports vehicles for 25 years: every year, as exclusive supplier, we produce over 1,000 shock absorbers for Caterham.

Academy cars will continue to be driven In the Caterham Motul 270R Championship, but they are equipped with some performance upgrades. In 2020, Lars will be driving a much tighter version of BILSTEIN’s prescribed shock absorbers in the 270/R Championship. “A harder stabiliser can be installed at the front, and larger master brake cylinders are also required. That alone accounts for two seconds on the track,” Lars is convinced.

The perfect suspension setup is of great importance for the largely identical racing machines. “The series is so tight that any change is very noticeable,” explains Hoffmann senior.

Despite the tough competition, one thing is clear for Lars: “My goal is of course to win the title again, also to prove that I am capable of achieving more”.