With only two races remaining in the truncated Season 4 of 2014, the UK&I Skip Barber League made the short journey from Road America to Barber Motorsports Park for a 15 lap sprint. Last time out Marc Mercer grabbed the championship by the horns and lept ahead of Dominic Brennan with 83 points to Brennan’s 79. To keep his championship hopes alive Brennan would definitely need to finish ahead of Mercer in at least one of the two remaining races, not an easy task. Taking pole position, and currently P19 in the points was former champion Wojciech Swirydowicz with Tom Ward alongside him. Everybody’s eyes were on Row Two though, with Mercer taking third while Brennan started fourth.
As the clutches dropped and the Skippies launched the top guys all slotted into position for the run down to the first corner without much in the way of passing attempts. The midfield was a different situation entirely, as everyone jostled for position and tried to make-up whatever positions they could in the opening lap. As the field filtered through the tricky Turn Eight there was contact between Brendan O’Brien and Tim Adcock. Adcock clipped the back of O’Brien which had the unfortunate result of spinning him into the path of Rob Swindells. With the memories of Road America fresh in their minds, I’m sure everyone was thankful the damage didn’t extend beyond those three sim-racers.
After two laps of reconnaissance the top four finally began to break ranks as Ward took the inside line for Turn Five to grab the lead from Swirydowicz without much drama.
Swirydowicz came back at Ward a few miles later on Lap Five, also with the inside line for Turn Five; but when he went deep into the corner Ward made the undercut and pulled back alongside Swirydowicz exiting the hairpin. Ward had the difficult job of trying to hang around the outside of Turn Seven while Swirydowicz merely needed to hug the inside line. Ward didn’t quite nail the braking and Swirydowicz completed the move at Turn Eight.
Ward came straight back at Swirydowicz the next lap, once again at Turn Five, and made a much less eventful overtake than Swirydowicz had executed the previous lap. Ward slipped up the inside and got the better exit to take the lead once again.
With Swirydowicz’ exit speed compromised from the battle with Ward, Mercer had the perfect opportunity to attack. Swirydowicz defended to the inside but Mercer did the unbelievable and overtook Swirydowicz at the outside of Turn Seven.
Mercer tried for a few laps to find a way around Ward but struggled to crack that nut. In the process, he came under attack from Swirydowicz behind. Swirydowicz made his move on Lap 13 at Turn Seven but got the braking wrong and ran wide. He, in turn, came under attack from Brennan at Turn 11. Despite having the inside line, Swirydowicz struggled and his line for Turn 12 was significantly hindered and he ran wide into the grass, losing two positions in the process.
At the start of the penultimate lap Stuart Adcock launched an attack on Brennan, taking the inside line for Turn One and the outside line for Turns Two and Three. They came out of Turn Three side-by-side with neither seeming to have an edge. In fact, a trailing Swirydowicz carried much more speed through the corners and the three sim racers went side-by-side-by-side into Turn Five, with Brennan in the middle. Adcock completed his overtake for third on the inside while Swirydowicz made his pass for P4 on the outside, dropping Brennan to fifth in the bargain.
Brennan’s lap continued to get worse when contact with a following Jonathan Maycock sent him spinning towards the barrier exiting Turn 14. Brennan saved the Skippy and managed to keep it out of the Armco, but lost positions to Maycock, Fahim Antoniades and Rafal Drzaszcz with only one lap remaining.
With a large gap between the top two and the rest of the field, the best Swirydowicz could manage would be third, assuming he could pass Adcock. Conveniently, Adcock stayed wide through Turn Four and lost speed, enabling Swirydowicz to make the overtake before the Turn Five braking zone and thus take a normal racing line into the hairpin.
The battling went right to the bitter end. With only two corners remaining, Maycock and Antoniades got together with Maycock spinning in a similar fashion to Brennan on the prior lap. Like Brennan, Maycock saved the slide and actually didn’t lose any positions as a result. Antoniades, on the other hand, nearly understeered off the track and lost sixth place to Drzaszcz through the final corner of the final lap.
In the championship, Mercer’s second place finish behind Ward garnered many more points than Brennan managed; thus, the gap between them extends to 16 points with Mercer on 108 and Brennan on 92. Ward’s win was obviously pretty good for his championship as he jumps nine positions into fifth with 57 points, while Swirydowicz’s podium moved him ten positions into P9 with 42.