With a grid of only 15 sim-racers to do battle over the 3.4 mile long Circuit of the Americas you’d expect a relatively tame event for the UK&I Skip Barber League, but the ten lap sprint proved to be anything but tame. In qualifying it was two-time race winner Sebastian Job who stamped his authority over the competition after posting a time of 2:29.548, a time over eight tenths faster than that of Stuart Adcock (whose run of good performance continued with a front row start. To put it in perspective, the gap between first and second in qualifying was bigger than the gap between second and seventh.
As the lights went green and the pedals were pushed to the proverbial metal, Adcock moved for the inside line at Turn One, looking to take the early lead rather than being forced to follow Job heading into the most difficult part of the track. Job maintained his composure and stayed to the outside, giving him the inside line for Turn Two and the lead with it. Adcock stayed behind Job through the twisting Sector One until a powerful slipstream down the long back straight gave him more than enough speed to take the lead heading into Turn 12.
The nature of this track promotes overtaking at a few locations, so once again Job kept his wits about it him and buckled down, focusing on the task of regaining his lead. Adcock defended into Turn One of the second lap, but Job seemed uninterested in attacking there anyway, possibly opting to use the back straight instead. But when Adcock got oversteer for the second left in The Esses the opportunity was too much for Job, who went to the inside of Turn Six, outside of Turn Seven, and finally the inside of Turn Eight as a final blow to regain the lead.
Averystarted the race in third, but had yet to trouble either of the top two for position. After witnessing Adcock’s oversteer moment he seemed to come alive. As the front runners rounded the Turn 11 hairpin coming on to the back straightaway a strategic battle of car positioning ensued. Adcock moved left to try and prevent Job from getting a tow, inadvertently giving one to Avery instead. Tom Ward in fourth moved left behind Avery, and Job struggling. Adcock swung right to try and get the outside line (therefore giving him the inside line for Turn 13) but when Avery grabbed the inside line and they went three-wide under braking it was Avery who came out on top with Ward dropping Adcock to fourth in the bargain.
Once again, Job was unfazed by the overtake and stuck with Avery. The very next lap he got his chance: An excellent exit out of Turn 11, coupled with another strong tow, Job retook the lead at over 120mph down the back straight, completing one of the easier overtakes of the day.
After passing the halfway point of the race Fahim Antoniades was up to fifth from his seventh place starting position, but with Mark Jarvis, Dominic Brennan, and George Lambert not far behind. Antoniades did his best to separate himself from the pack behind and latch-on to Adcock’s slipstream ahead, but struggled to make any progress on the leaders. Slowing for Turn 12 from top speed, Brennan missed his braking point and ran deep into the corner, intersecting with Antoniades’ normal racing line. The resulting collision sent Antoniades tumbling and also inflicted damage to Jarvis who couldn’t avoid the spinning Brennan.
By Lap Eight a visible gap began to form between Ward in third and Adcock in fourth, so Ward turned his attention to the duo of Job and Avery ahead. Likely a moment of “Holy cow, I might be able to win this race” went through Ward’s head with only a few laps remaining. When Avery attacked Job at the inside of Turn 11, Ward saw his opportunity; he took the normal racing line and carried much more speed on to the straight. Ward moved to the inside for Turn 12, as once again they went three-wide under braking, and took both positions in one maneuver, with just over two laps remaining.
As expected, Ward came under attack from both Avery and Job straight away. Avery even regained the lead briefly at the end of Lap Eight, only to be overtaken straight away by Ward at Turn One of Lap Nine. As the trio came onto the back straight Ward stayed very, very far to the left and gave no opportunities to either driver. They went three-wide yet again into Turn 12, but more surprisingly Turn 13 as well. Ward kept his F2000 in all the right places, though, and held on to the lead as they finished the penultimate lap.
At the start of the final lap Adcock was back in the hunt for a podium position until very light contact between Avery and Job sent the latter into his car, which then put Adcock into a spin and dropped him to sixth, behind Clive Armstrong.
In the end Ward hung on to his lead, finishing 0.158s ahead of Avery, with Job only 0.304s behind that — less than half a second separating the top three — while Adcock ran out of time to overtake Armstrong for fifth. George Lambert finished in a relatively quiet fourth after a solid performance, less than three seconds behind Ward after the ten lap race.
In the championship, Graham Carroll’s absence from Texas drops him two positions out of the lead, still at 141 points, while Avery takes the top spot with 165 points to Job’s 148. Lambert’s fourth moves him, ironically, into fourth in the points with 119, two more than Simon Povey who was also AWOL from COTA. Ward’s first win of the season launched him seven places in the points, tied with Jarvis for P14 now at 60 apiece.