Round Five of the Skip Barber 2K Cup ventured to Okayama for a 23 lap race and one mandatory pit stop, as per usual. Simon Hulbert took pole position for the first time this season after posting a lap of 1:45.733, only four hundredths faster than Vinicius Rocha in second. Ricardo Ferreira looked to build on his good result at New Hampshire and started in third place ahead of last week’s race winner Sebastian Job. Behind Job came Kevin Vaughn in the unfortunate position of sixth, ahead of race winners Philippe Leybaert and LJ Garnett.
As 30+ sim-racers revved their F2000s to the limiter and the lights went green the whole top ten filed into their qualifying positions. Leybaert had a look on Vaughn coming out of the Turn Five hairpin but wouldn’t complete the overtake until the long Turn Nine. The real shocker on Lap One, however, came from Graham Carroll and Michele Mancusi when contact between them at Turn Nine sent Carroll into an (extremely) early retirement.
Lap Two was the start of movement at the front as not one but two overtakes in the top four drivers unfolded within the space of two corners. First it was Rocha who picked up the slipstream on Hulbert on the back straight, giving him the inside line for Turn Five and the lead of the race with it. After Hulbert lost out to Rocha he immediately came under attack from Job who tried a move around the outside of the very next corner, Revolver. Job dipped a wheel in the grass at the entrance for the corner, however, and lost a position to Ferreira instead.
The excitement continued on Lap Three and a little bit further back in the pack when Leybaert lost fifth to Garnett at Revolver as well. Leybaert suffered further bad luck at Redman Corner when Vaughn made contact with his rear left wheel. Leybaert suffered mechanical damage as a result and when Vaughn slowed down as well it was Bart de Laat who took full advantage by sweeping through the inside of Hobbs Corner to grab two positions at once while Leybaert opted to enter the pits for repairs just a couple of corners later.
Fahim Antoniades started the race in P14 and by the start of Lap Four was already into the top ten. Not to be outdone by De Laat’s double overtake on Lap Three, Antoniades came out of the Attwood Curve in the slipstream of Paul F. Grillo who was attacking Vaughn. When Grillo left room on the right side of the straight Antoniades took the opportunity, made it three-wide into the Turn Five hairpin, and with the inside line grabbed eighth in the space of a single corner.
Lap Five started poorly for Rocha as Hulbert used the slipstream on the Start/Finish straight to regain his lead, but the lap got even worse when Ferreira did the same on the back straight, dropping Rocha to third.
Ferreira continued his charge just a couple of laps later and at the same place he’d passed Rocha. Hulbert stayed defensive for the Turn Five hairpin, though, and forced Ferreira to go the long way around. Ferreira’s braking was better than Hulbert’s, however, and he took the normal racing line and the lead of the race.
After seven laps of sim racing the tension and competitiveness was rising, and farther back in the pack there were fierce battles developing for positions outside the top ten. Enzo Canta had started P18 and was into P14 at the start of Lap Eight, but light contact with Christian Manzini at the entrance to Turn One damaged Canta’s suspension. Canta’s damage wasn’t bad during the right-hander at Turn One, but immediately after turning left for Williams corner the car spun and caused a multi-car incident involving Victor Asensio, Mike McCormick and Ron Charette.
Ferreira’s reign at the tip of the spear didn’t last long after contact with Hulbert at Redman corner sent Ferreira into a spin on Lap Nine and dropped him to fifth behind Garnett while Rocha took the lead.
Hulbert began attacking Rocha as soon as he was within striking distance. By Lap 11 he was side-by-side with Rocha through the hairpin, Revolver, and Piper but couldn’t get past. Because of their battling Hulbert had a slow exit speed from Piper and caught-out Job who was taking the normal racing line. Job hit the back of Hulbert, sending him into the barrier where he lost his nose cose before spinning back onto the track and retiring.
On Lap 13 the top drivers dove into the pits for their compulsory stop for fuel and probably tires, with Rocha still in the lead. Job attacked the pit lane in a fashion he is known for at this point, and jumped into the lead as they exited to start Lap 14. Ferreira had another surprise upon exiting the pits on Lap 14 when Mancusi went flying by and dropped Ferreira another position, into a net fifth at the time (Matt Dafoe had yet to pit at this point and was currently running in first). Ferreira applied pressure at Turn One and put Mancusi out of rhythm for Williams corner where Ferreira got an excellent run, enabling him to pull alongside for Attwood Curve. With the inside line Ferreira appeared to have the upper hand but Mancusi stuck it around the outside and they continued side-by-side down the back straight.
Mancusi came out ahead with the inside line for Revolver and Piper but Ferreira attacked again at Redman. Ferreira made a bit of a dive bomb for the inside line but understeer sent him into the side of Mancusi who suffered mechanical damage and retired. Ferreira ended-up finishing fifth in the end anyway as De Laat overtook him the very next lap and held the position for the rest of the race.
In the end Job finished ahead of Rocha by less than a second (becoming the series’ first two time winner), followed by Garnett in a quiet third, with a four second gap ahead of him and also behind him. De Laat took fourth ahead of Ferreira with Vaughn hot on his heels in sixth. Sebastian Taper, Grillo, Antoniades, and Clive Armstrong rounded out the top ten.
In the points, Job’s win moves him ahead of Leybaert (who finished P12 at Okayama) and gives him a 12 point gap (the same gap Leybaert had after New Hampshire). Rocha’s second place finish moves him ahead of Ferreira and Garnett moves into fifth ahead of Carroll (who DNF’d) and Mattia Branchini (who DNS’d). The full race with commentary can be viewed on ARLtv here: http://youtu.be/xewF9PEscZs