Back from the brink, there are signs of life at Caterham once again

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Against all of the odds, Caterham appears to have prevented its own collapse – or, to be more precise, the new administration has done that, in spite of the mess that they were handed a few weeks ago.

For when Tony Fernandes and Engavest entered a war of words over the internet, the alarm bells were ringing louder than ever. Quite clearly, the Caterham ship was sinking. From jet-lagged drivers to a Romanian soccer player that became a cleaner and then a director, the whole thing was a farce.

So when administrator Finbarr O’Connell took over at Leafield, his goal of getting the team back on the grid this season seemed to be a bit far off – yet he appears to have just about done the impossible.

Today, Caterham confirmed its intention to race at the final round of the year in Abu Dhabi, saying that it was thanks to the support of the fans through a controversial crowdfunding campaign that such a feat was possible. The task had been to raise $3.7m from fan donations to get the team on the grid by 7pm ET tonight.

Now though, the goalposts have moved. The deadline was moved to 7pm ET on November 23rd, following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – the very race that the money was supposed to be going towards.

Here’s a quick run-down on how crowdfunding works. A group has a project (in this case, an F1 team) that needs funding. It asks strangers (in this case, fans) for donations in return for some perks. Said fans donate money that will only be taken from them if the whole target is met. If the target is met, the money is taken, the team dishes out the perks, and everyone is happy.

So in the case of Caterham, the crowdfunding was not a financially-driven project: it was to show that there was the support and care from the F1 community to make the team investable. Given that the team is now set to line up on the grid, it has certainly worked. O’Connell has pulled off a masterstroke.

Moving the goalposts may seem strange, but it is permitted in the small print of the crowdfunding agreement on the website used by Caterham called Crowdcube (which, interestingly, already has links to the company O’Connell works for). So really, it has been extended not to raise more money for Abu Dhabi, but instead to give the fans a chance to buy some very exclusive goods.

It will be interesting to see how the fundraising drive grows from here on in. In fact, this morning, I was in the process of writing an article on how the campaign was ailing, given that they were 40% shy of the target with less than 12 hours to go. Three hours later, they were just 20% short – it had jumped by hundreds of thousands of dollars, so I scrapped the article. On average – that is, dividing the number of backers by the figure raised; £1.89m by 5,276 backers – fans have donated £445, or $700. Curious that Caterham’s fan base has very deep pockets…

As the threat of three car teams lingers, it is for the good of the sport that Caterham does return. Let us hope that O’Connell’s drive does indeed get it on the grid in Abu Dhabi and perhaps lay down the foundations for a sale and rebrand in 2015 that will see it racing, even if it is at the back.

What must be stressed is that the list of creditors for the team is still very long indeed. There still needs to be a great deal of interest and investment to make the long-term future of the operation viable. For starters, though, the signs are quietly encouraging.

Christopher Bell wins third straight Chili Bowl

@cbnationals, Twitter
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Christopher Bell passed Kyle Larson on the final lap of the 55-lap A-Feature to win the 33rd Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. Bell is only the second driver in event history to win three consecutive Golden Drillers, joining Kevin Swindell who holds the record with four.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be able to win the Chili Bowl,” Bell said at ChiliBowl.com. “To do it three straight times is just unbelievable, but man, I don’t even care about three straight. What about that race? I don’t think I’ve ever really been a part of a last lap race like that, so I’m just glad that thing came out in the end.”

As the white flag waved on his eighth appearance in Saturday’s main event, it seemed Larson was finally going to walk away with his first Golden Driller. This was closest he’s been to the win.

Larson took the lead from Logan Seavey on Lap 21 after a five-lap hot pursuit. Bell moved into second for the first time on Lap 27 but a caution forced him back to third as the field realigned to the last completed lap.

On Lap 33, Bell passed Seavey again for second before another caution reset the field. On the next restart Bell road the rim diving to the hub in Turns 3 and 4. With Larson in sight, Bell started to think about where he was going to put his third trophy.

The final caution flag of the night waved with 20 to go to set up the Bell vs. Larson shootout fans had been waiting for since Larson retired early from the race last year. Larson pulled away on the highline in Turns 1 and 2. He switched to the low in 3 and 4.

With five laps to go Larson hit traffic. That gave Bell the opportunity to close the gap. With two to go Bell was on top of Larson and challenging for the lead. On the final lap Bell passed Larson in Turn 2 as they bumped tires. Glued together through the final pair of turns, they touched twice more before Bell pulled away on the final stretch.

The action wasn’t over, however. Bell wound up on his lid following the win. His donuts got a little out of control and he rolled his midget.

Justin Grant took third by passing Brady Bacon on Lap 36. Bacon followed for fourth with Zach Daum in tow to complete the top five.

Tyler Courtney was the hard charger of the night finishing sixth after starting in 22nd. Brad Sweet and CJ Leary finished seventh and eighth.

Seavey was able to hold onto third until late in the race but ultimately the pole sitter who led the first 20 laps faded to ninth.

Tanner Thorson rounded out the top ten.

Friday’s Main Event

1. Christopher Bell
2. Kyle Larson
3. Justin Grant
4. Brady Bacon
5. Zach Daum
6. Tyler Courtney
7. Brad Sweet
8. CJ Leary
9. Logan Seavey
10. Tanner Thorson
11. Danny Stratton
12. Jonathan Beason
13. Tucker Klaasmeyer
14. Colby Copeland
15. Rico Abreu
16. Michael Faccinto
17. Chad Boat
18. David Gravel
19. Cole Bodine
20. Robert Dalby
21. Jake Neuman
22. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23. Shane Golobic
24. Sean McClelland