Heading down the home stretch of the season, the Skip Barber 2k World Cup is at Oran Park this week.  The championship is still up for grabs by a few people, but could be decided in this race.   Richard Avery held a 14 point lead over Vinicius Rocha, with Philippe Leybaert and Ricardo Faria still in the picture. Coming off of the recent run of draft tracks, Oran Park is a great change. It is a tight and technical course that demands precision and focus throughout the entire race.

Qualifying

A lap around Oran Park lasts only 75 seconds, so the two lap qualifying session is over in a flash.  After the first lap the top three were Faria, Avery and Leybaert. Continuing into the second and final lap, Avery improved his time to take pole position away from Faria. Following them were Leybaert, Arjan de Vreede, Juha Norolampi, Brian Doell, Peter Classon, Paul Grillo, David Stefanini and Johnny Guindi.  The most notable story from qualifying was the absence of Vinicius Rocha. With Rocha missing the race, he was not be able to improve his championship position.

Race

At the start, the whole field got away cleanly. Avery and Faria got through Turns 1 and 2 without incident or challenge. Behind them Leybaert was battling side-by-side with de Vreede. That battle was settled in Turn 3 with Leybaert coming out ahead. Behind the leaders, Tom Ward moved into ninth place from his 11th starting position. Once those battles were decided, everyone stayed in line and started to settle into the race.

Avery leads the field through Turn 1.

In the opening laps the top four created a gap to a second group containing Norolampi and  Doell. Behind them came another gap to the rest of the sim racers.  The leaders maintained position through the first portion of the race. Faria maintained pressure on Avery, but made no significant challenges for the lead. This appeared to be a strategic move to let the pit stops shake up the running order. Behind the leaders Norolampi and Doell were still in the second group and Ward had now moved to the front of the next pack. He was the biggest mover in the top ten, having picked up four positions to put him in seventh place.

Avery, Faria, Leybaert and de Vreede coming off the Yokohama bridge.

The leaders’ pit stops started on Lap 19 with Avery pitting first. de Vreede followed him in and beat  Avery out. This appears to have been because of an aggressive fuel strategy that would effect the latter part of the race. Faria and Leybaert pitted on the next lap. Faria was able to create a gap to Leybaert and came out as the leader, with Leybaert rejoining between de Vreede and Avery.

Leybaert and Avery were both able to get past deVreede in the next couple of laps. However, Leybaert and Avery had a gap to close to catch Faria. Leybaert was charging hard and closed the gap slightly before he made a mistake and went off into the wall. de Vreede also made a mistake and had under fueled so he was falling back and would eventually need to pit again. This dropped both of them out of contention and moved Doell, who had overtaken Norolampi in the pits, into the final podium position.

Leybaert’s chances come to a sandy end . . .

From this point on Faria maintained his gap to Avery and came home with his second win of the season. There were no changes behind him with Avery coming home in second and Doell in third.  Classon came home in fourth place followed closely by Ward, Guindi and Grillo. Norolampi, Leybaert and Ryan Devlin rounded out the top ten.

Faria crosses the line for his second win of the season.

The results bring the championship into focus. With his second place, Avery has secured his first championship with one race remaining. His consistency and pace throughout the season allowed him to  secure the win early. The final podium spots are still up for grabs. With the win Faria moved himself into second place with 294 points. He is just ahead of Rocha with 290 points and Leybaert with 280 points. These places will be decided this weekend at Monza.

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