Exclusive: Caterham pulls the plug on the R600 race series

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After we learned of the difficulties last November, Caterham has finally confirmed the R600 will not race in its own dedicated series in 2013.

In an email received this morning from Dave Ridley, Chief Commercial Officer of Caterham Cars, he said “At the start of last week, despite confirmed competitors, we took the very difficult decision to postpone the inaugural championship until 2014.

We had set a self-imposed target of 15 cars on the grid in Year 1 and, as we fell slightly under that target, due largely we think to economic conditions (a number of buyers were forced to withdraw due to individual and private financial reasons), we had the integrity to stick to that self-regulation on grid level. All those who had committed, understand and support our decision – a full grid is what every drivers wants.

In the meantime, we will be running our own two R600s in various races and endurance outings across the Continent this summer with prospective drivers, professionals and experienced media alike taking the wheel.

We’re extremely proud of what we’ve delivered in the R600. Proven by the 5-star reviews by all those trusted and respected journalists who’ve jumped behind the wheel to date (more to follow) plus, without doubt, our most exhaustive engineering, development and testing programme ever on a new race car. As I believe our PR team explained openly and honestly to Steve in their informal chat pre-Christmas.

I would hope that you convey this in the context of a number of much higher-profile championships currently struggling to fill their grids this season. It is a sign of the economic environment we’re all currently trading in and in no way a reflection on Caterham or the R600 in this instance. In fact we have already sold one full grid for the Academy in 2014, so rest assured Caterham Motorsport is in rude health!”

He went on to speak about the SP/300.R, which we also enquired about, saying:

“The cost of the new MY2013 SP/300.R – which you may have seen at Autosport – is £67,500 excluding VAT and if you chose to order one today it would be delivered within 10 to 12 weeks.”

We are obliged to take Caterham at their word, although we’re disappointed it took so long to engage in dialogue about the series, while continuing to promote the car in the ‘trusted’ media – as mentioned in Dave’s statement above.

The marketing of cars such as the Seven differs from that of regular cars because the customer is an intrinsic part of each model’s development. Trust plays a huge part in its success, because for such a low-volume product there are bound to be problems, kit shortages and developments which require the cooperation of both customer and car maker.

Caterham owners are ‘grounded’ people, who do not respond well to the marketing hyperbole observed in Caterham’s recent comms. As Caterham grapple with the task of defining its DNA for future cars, this is a point worth bearing in mind – Caterham is a no-BS brand as far as its customers are concerned and that’s what they expect to see from those who run the company.