Skippy Sparks Fly at Road America
December 2nd, 2014 by JaimeB
The UK&I Skip Barber League is never short on excitement; it’s an extremely competitive league with truly quick sim-racers throughout the ranks. Still, no one could have predicted the fantastically fast and frantic race that unfolded at Road America. Taking pole position for the ten lap race was Tom Ward with Marc Mercer sharing the front row with him. Behind Mercer came Rafal Drzaszcz while championship leader Dominic Brennan started in sixth.
Mercer didn’t wait long to attack Ward for the lead, after a slightly better launch he came at Ward on the outside of Turn One but, understandably, wasn’t able to make that stick. Ward made Mercer’s job a lot easier after running deep into Turn Three which, coupled with the slipstream, was more than enough to move Mercer into first down the Moraine Sweep into Turn Five.
A few corners later the action picked-up at the other end of the field. Adrian Bidewell was running in very close proximity to Rich Jones ahead of him. Because of some battling ahead of them the sim-racers were all forced to take the Turn Seven apex a bit slower than normal. James Steel, behind Bidewell, must not have noticed the slower moving Skippies ahead of him and ran into the back of Bidewell causing a massive incident that that also affected Mark Turner, Ashley Blakely, Paul F. Grillo, Luke Ridgway, Robert Plumley and Allan Paterson.
In complete contrast to normal races from this league, the Lap One carnage continued further up the midfield while the wreckage of the first incident was still trying to shuffle back on the track. Rob Cain received a tap on the rear from Colin Cunniffe under braking for Turn Eight which sent him spinning to a stop on the apex of the corner. Cain did well to quickly pull the car off the track, but it was too late already for Tim Adcock and Sam Everest who collided. Cain drove away from the whole thing with minor damage, but Adcock wasn’t so lucky and had to pit for extensive repairs.
Not long after the second incident came yet another, this time from Stuart Adcock. Adcock was into second place by the time the field reached Kettle Bottoms and with a strong draft from Mercer got the inside line into Canada Corner to try and take the lead. Adcock overcooked the corner, however, and the resulting oversteer sent him, first, into Ward for some sidepod damage, and then into Simon Povey for some suspension damage. Adcock’s car was also heavily damaged in the incident, and he pitted for repairs at the end of the (very crazy) first lap.
With the Lap One carnage behind him, Graham Carroll suddenly found himself in a podium position after starting in P8. Ward in second was too far back from Mercer to get much of a tow down the Start/Finish straight, and lost his position to Carroll, who also took the inside line for Turn One to seal the deal.
Lap Two only got worse for Ward as he was forced to defend the inside at Turn Five from Drzaszcz. Ward held the position, but something strange happened during the corner that caused him to slow drastically. Further evidence of problems: Ward nearly spun at Turn Eight and couldn’t keep the car on the track coming out of Carousel. Whatever happened to Ward, it caused him to pit at the end of the lap, having already dropped to P10.
After putting in a second lap that was a full second faster than Mercer’s, Carroll found himself primed to strike at the start of Lap Three. With a great run out of Turn Three Carroll breezed by Mercer before hitting the brakes for Turn Five.
Carroll’s move on Mercer initiated one of the more amazing battles for the lead I’ve personally ever witnessed. The duo duked it out, back and forth, trading positions more than half a dozen times over the course of the next few laps.
I’m sure you can guess what happened next. The relentless battling between the pair at the front did wonders for Wojciech Swirydowicz and Drzaszcz, and they closed-in on the lead. Swirydowicz took first blood on Lap Six with a dive up the inside of Turn Five, briefly taking the lead before Mercer snagged it back heading into Turn Six. Carroll also seemed eager to retain his position, forcing Swirydowicz into a side-by-side battle through Turns Six and Seven before dropping him back down to third just two corners after he’d taken the lead.
Swirydowicz continued pushing and finally got his double-overtake at the start of Lap Seven. With Mercer and Carroll side-by-side down the pit straight, neither sim-racer was getting a tow. Swirydowicz took full advantage, shot the gap between them, and went from third to first heading into Turn One.
The battling continued between all three for the remaining laps, with the final lap starting much like Lap Seven had. Swirydowicz was in third again at the end of Lap Nine but, once again, overtook Mercer and Carroll into Turn One. Mercer went straight back on the attack, pressuring Swirydowicz for the lead, until contact between Mercer and Carroll at Turn Seven pitched Mercer into a slide. Mercer’s lightning fast reflexes kicked into high gear and he was able to control the slide and keep on the track, but dropped to fourth behind Drzaszcz.
With only seven more corners remaining in the race, the only thing standing between Carroll and victory, was Swirydowicz. Carroll did well through Carousel and got a run on Swirydowicz through Kettle Bottoms and took the lead with only three corners remaining.
Before he could strike back at Mercer, Swirydowicz came under attack from Drzaszcz for his second place position. Swirydowicz opted for the inside line for Bill Mitchell Bend but Drzaszcz hung it around the outside (amazingly), and earned the inside line for the final corner. Swirydowicz went wide off the track, bouncing over the grass and gravel. Drzaszcz might have expected to have the advantage, but his corner exit speed was worse than that of Swirydowicz, despite his unconventional line. Drzaszcz tried to grab Carroll’s slipstream but it wasn’t enough. Meanwhile, Mercer had much better exit speed than both of the cars ahead of him, shot through the middle, and took second place at the last moment while Swirydowicz held third (barely).
As they crossed the line the top four were separated by less than eight tenths of a second, with Marcus Hamilton and Jonathan Maycock less than a second behind the top four, earning a (relatively) quiet fifth and sixth respectively. Carroll’s second win of the season moved him up into third place in the points while Mercer’s second place finish propels him into the championship lead with 83 points. Brennan managed P7 at the end of the race, enough to maintain second in the championship with 79 points to Carroll’s 60. Drzaszcz was the big winner this week, moving up ten positions to claim fourth in the points with 43.