With the 2014 Season Two championship firmly in the hands of Marcus Hamilton just about every other position in the rankings was still up for grabs as the UK&I Skip Barber League headed to Circuit of the Americas for the final race of the season and 12 laps of the full track. Graham Carroll started his day off right by grabbing pole position with a 2:31.035 ahead of Tom Ward, Hamilton, Wojciech Swirydowicz, and Wojciech Rabsztyn (with Ward and the two Wojciechs currently locked in a battle for second in the championship).
As the lights went green and the grid accelerated up the hill towards the very wide Turn One there were no position changes in the top ten. As they snaked through the Esses and came on to the back straight, again the status quo remained unchanged. It wasn’t until Turn 15 where Hamilton caught oversteer at the exit and gave Swirydowicz the inside line for Turns 16, 17, and 18 that we finally saw an overtake.
The action continued on Lap Two when Ward moved to the inside at the Turn 11 hairpin before the long straight. Carroll took a much wider line, and Swirydowicz tried to dive-bomb the both of them right up the middle. Ward’s inside line meant he came out of the corner first, but Carroll had more exit speed to help him down the very long straight. Swirydowicz ducked to the right, behind Carroll, and used the slipstream to overtake both Ward and Carroll at Turn 12.
Carroll stuck with Swirydowicz like glue, but just couldn’t find a way around him at the outside of any corners. Swirydowicz was taking defensive lines through most corners and Carroll just could not get through. At the start of Lap Four Carroll faked a move to the outside of Turn One before ducking left and sneaking the inside line on Swirydowicz, and regained the lead of the race.
Later that same lap Swirydowicz pulled to the outside of Turn 12 and stayed with Carroll through the corner, earning himself the inside line for Turn 13 and the lead once again. One lap later, on Lap Five, Carroll grabbed the inside line at Turn 12 but couldn’t gain enough to hang around the outside of 13. At the same time, Rabsztyn got the braking wrong at the end of the straight and slid out of control into the back of Hamilton, damaging both cars and dropping Rabsztyn to ninth.
Less than half a lap later and Rabsztyn’s race was going from bad to worse. Potential damage to his car made it seemingly very difficult for him to navigate the Esses in sector one, so much so that he hit the sausage curb at the inside of Turn Four and was launched skyward. He was affected so much by this that Robert Plumley was able to close the gap and pass Rabsztyn by the time they reached the Turn 11 hairpin.
Two laps after having Rabsztyn run deep into the back of his F2000, Hamilton had a very similar issue with Povey, but this time Hamilton was the bump-er. Povey had managed to clear Hamilton not long prior, and he was taking a wide entrance for Turn 15 when Hamilton ran deep into the corner and clipped Povey’s rear left wheel. Hamilton was lucky not to sustain mechanical damage from his collisions, but Povey would not be so lucky. He spun shortly after getting on the power for the Turns 16-17-18 complex and was forced to get a tow back to the pit lane.
For lap after glorious lap Carroll, Swirydowicz, Hamilton, and Ward traded the top four positions. The side-by-side racing was fierce, relentless and clean, and it was legitimately impossible to decipher who would come out on top. As they started the penultimate lap Carroll defended the inside of Turn One from Swirydowicz for the lead, while Hamilton in third went deep and lost his podium position to Ward.
As the sim-racers started the final lap everyone held their position, while keeping in mind the long straight between Turns 11 and 12. Masterful planning and precision execution would be needed from all four of the top group, not only for their own car, but for the other cars. Predicting the other drivers’ moves would be just as crucial as deciding their own actions. Hamilton was the farthest from the next driver and might have been struggling aerodynamically for much of the race, and he dropped back from Ward who got a great tow from the front two. Carroll defended the inside line, while Swirydowicz attacked hard around the outside of Turn 12. When Carroll slid deep into the corner Swirydowicz switched to the inside line at the last moment and with his better traction moved into first place before Turn 13.
Carroll defended from Ward through Turns 13, 14, and 15; and then went back onto the attack against Swirydowicz into the triple-right-hander of 16, 17 and 18. Swirydowicz defended masterfully, however, which held-up Carroll, and enabled Ward to join the fun as they went three wide into the final corner.
Swirydowicz and Ward braked latest, while Carroll appeared to be playing it a bit cautious with cars on either side of him. Swirydowicz came out of the corner ahead of Ward who was ahead of Carroll, while Hamilton behind was playing the long-con as he took a normal racing line and challenged Carroll for the final podium position.
In the end, new champion Hamilton missed out on third place by less than half a tenth while Swirydowicz took the win ahead of Ward, becoming the fourth driver this season to win two races (nobody won more than two of the twelve). Rabsztyn could only manage P9 in the end and, unfortunately for him, dropped two positions in the championship to fourth, behind Swirydowicz and Ward. The fact that Rabsztyn led the championship for nearly half the season only to be relegated to fourth in the final race is testifies to the depth of competition in the series. On the flip side, Swirydwoicz’s win moved him ahead of Ward, giving him second place in the championship overall by just four points.