Last season at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course the UK&I Skip Barber League saw one of the largest accidents of the year on the first lap at Turn One when minor contact resulted in something out of a Blues Brothers movie. This season, as the circus returned to Mid-Ohio, the sim-racers would have been well aware of the catastrophe from just a few months ago, and would hopefully take extra caution to prevent a repeat. Current championship leader (by a single point) Wojciech Rabsztyn took pole with a 1:37.318 from rivals Marcus Hamilton and Wojciech Swirydowicz (meaning they would start the race in their championship positions of first, second and third). Less than a tenth behind the top three came race winners Richard Avery, Tom Ward, and Paul F. Grillo; without doubt a very competitive top six.
As the lights when green and the Skippies accelerated toward Turn One there was a noted amount of respect for one another; not coincidentally, everybody made it through without incident. The calm before the storm didn’t last long however, as Rabsztyn went deep into Turn Two (aka The Keyhole) and went off into the grass, losing him a position (temporarily) to Hamilton before regaining the lead later that same lap through the twists of The Esses (aka Madness) at Four, Five and Six.
Under braking for Turn Four Avery played it safe, lifting off the throttle to avoid contact with the top three ahead. Ward and Grillo had other plans, however, as they braked as late as possible and the trio went three-wide into the corner. The inevitable contact between them cost Avery a position to Ward, and spun Grillo completely off the track and out of podium contention.
Avery’s struggles continued on the next lap when he came under attack from the impressive Graham Carroll who started in eighth and was now challenging Avery for fifth. With some late braking into Turn Four he managed to pull marginally ahead of Avery and took the position around the outside of Turn Five.
A few laps later and once again at Turn Four we found Swirydowicz making a move on Hamilton around the outside after Hamilton tried an unsuccessful move on Rabsztyn. Simultaneously Carroll was making moves once again, and just like his move on Avery, went side-by-side with Ward through the twisty bits to take fourth place.
Ward pushed hard to regain the position Carroll had taken but on the next lap pushed a bit too hard and ended up with a severe case of oversteer through Turn 11. The angle of the slide would lead someone to expect an off-track incident or possibly even contact with other cars, given the close proximity of the sim racing, but Ward expertly controlled the slide and managed to not only stay on track but didn’t hit any of his fellow sim-racers. Unfortunately, there are no style points in this league, and his loss of traction dropped him all the way to P9.
On Lap Seven Swirydowicz came under attack from both Rabsztyn and Hamilton. Coming out of The Keyhole the pair of them got a good exit and used some slipstream to completely surround the champion and under braking both cars moved ahead of him at (once again) Turn Four.
The battling between the three championship contenders at the front did little to extend the gap to the five other sim-racers just behind. Thankfully for them the track was able to lend a hand as Dominic Brennan dipped into the grass on Lap 10 and spun into the barrier and out of the race. Then on Lap 11 Simon Povey lent another hand as he went deep into Turn Four (surprise!) and made contact with Avery, damaging his car and forcing his own retirement.
Lap 12 is when things really got interesting, and will need a more in depth explanation. Hamilton and Swirydowicz were locked in a battle for second place (to the delight of Rabsztyn). Hamilton was ahead and braked early and stayed defensive through Turn 12. Swirydowicz was caught off guard as he tried to move for the inside line and made contact with Hamilton.
Swirydowicz was then put side-by-side with Carroll through the rest of the corner, with Carroll on his right. The car seemed perfectly fine and it appeared he’d only lost time to Hamilton ahead. However the moment Swirydowicz turned his wheel to the left for Turn 13 the car snapped and spun him 180 degrees with Carroll inches away, and Ward squeezing (very narrowly) to the left of him, also inches away and not far from the pit wall either.
With Swirydowicz pointing the wrong way at the exit of a full-throttle corner there was only one possible outcome. Avery swerved to the right in an effort to avoid the stationary Skippy ahead but was too late. The result was Avery’s third contact of the race (the first two didn’t result in any mechanical damage, the third time he wouldn’t be so lucky). Avery lost valuable time to the sim-racers ahead and damage to the car began slowing his times with four laps remaining, while Swirydowicz’s car was completely destroyed and would need a tow.
Hamilton didn’t come away from the contact unscathed, however, and was passed the very next lap by both Carroll and Ward (who had regained a podium position after dropping all the way to P9). Ward was not content with just a mere podium though, and on the final lap of the race took second place off Carroll at Turn Four and defended the position well through the rest of the lap to finish just ahead of Carroll.
Rabsztyn cruised to victory after the chaos behind him on Lap 12 and extended his championship lead to 13 points ahead of Hamilton who held on to fourth in the end. Swirydowicz’s retirement didn’t lose him any positions in the championship, but he is now 25 points behind Hamilton with only four races remaining. Ward’s second place ties him with Avery at 117 points each and Carroll’s podium elevates him nine places and into P16 in the championship.