Week 11 of the UK&I Skip Barber League headed to the gorgeous surroundings of Bathurst, New South Wales for ten laps of what would certainly be one of the deciding races of the season, while providing sim racing action throughout a field of almost three dozen competitors. At this the penultimate race of the season, current championship leader Marcus Hamilton could clinch the title in Australia by outscoring his rival Wojciech Rabsztyn. Since only the top ten of each sim-racer’s finishes during the 12 race season count, the math was a bit messy and confusing for the final two races. The easiest way to look at it? If Hamilton outscored Rabsztyn then he would be looking good for the championship would be looking good for him.
In qualifying Hamilton took third but with Rabsztyn alongside in fourth. Simon Povey captured pole position with a 2:30.030 with Tom Ward just behind with a .091s, the pair of them over three tenths faster than the rest of the field. Wojciech Swirydowicz started from fifth followed by Simon Hulbert, Clive Armstrong and Richard Avery, with Marc Mercer and Blake Townend finishing the top ten. The importance of this race was evidenced immediately as a battle for the lead broke out on the long run down Mountain Straight to Griffins Bend. The slipstream Ward was getting off of Povey was matched only by the draft Hamilton got from the two leaders. Povey stayed defensive for Griffins and forced Ward to take the outside line, while Hamilton used the best of both worlds to move past Ward at the exit of the corner.
Ward’s exit speed from Griffins was subpar, putting him on the defensive into The Cutting from Rabsztyn who pulled off an impressive move around the outside of the very steep left-hand hairpin to take third place (and keep his championship hopes alive).
Hamilton made his first move for the lead on the Conrod Straight with the aid of slipstream and took the position from Povey. Further back in the field Marc Mercer was also making early gains on the front runners as he first dispatched of Avery in the first half of the lap, and then turned his focus to Armstrong ahead. Armstrong went deep into the ever-important Forrest’s Elbow which severely compromised his speed all the way down the very long straight, towards the end of the lap. Mercer took advantage and used the slipstream to breeze past before even reaching The Chase.
At the start of Lap Two Povey looked to regain his lead and nearly did exactly that on the run down towards Griffins Bend, but Hamilton had enough speed and braked late enough that Povey had to stay to the outside of the corner, which he might not have expected. Rabsztyn and Ward (just behind) took advantage of the poor corner speed from Povey and Hamilton and looked to make simultaneous overtakes heading into The Cutting.
Rabsztyn shot up from third to first before braking for The Cutting, while Ward was forced to try and pull off the same move Rabsztyn had used on him the lap prior. A wobble mid-corner gave Povey the space he needed to keep second place. Povey needn’t worry long however, as the slipstream effect on the long back straight is so powerful that Rabsztyn couldn’t keep him (or even Ward) behind him. Hamilton seemed to be struggling with the frantic racing as well, and was overtaken by Swirydowicz at the Murray’s Corner on Lap Two.
Lap Three continued where Two had left off with Povey and Ward trading places for the lead with a majestic display of speed and skill. A bit farther behind, Povey’s teammate Hulbert got a bit heavy on the curb at the exiting Skyline and spun left into the barrier, removing the nose of his F2000 and spinning 900 degrees and forcing him to get a tow back to the pits.
At the end of Lap Three Hamilton went back on the offensive, trying to retake fourth position from Swirydowicz. The pair went side-by-side through the final corner, with neither gaining an advantage, and were forced to go through Hell Corner in tandem as well, hindering their exit speed for Mountain Straight straight. Mercer took the normal racing line for Turn One and squeezed between the battling duo to take P4 (with Townend trying to do the same) at Griffins Bend.
Mercer’s charge through the field continued later on Lap Four when he turned his attention towards championship contender Rabsztyn for the final podium position. Mercer used the slipstream on the back straight to ease past the rival sim-racer.
And that’s where we’ll leave things for now. To find out who won the race and the title, ead Part II tomorrow . . .