The opening race for the truncated fourth season of 2014 for the UK&I Skip Barber League headed to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for a 16 lap sprint.  Many of the usual suspects returned, including former champion Marcus Hamilton, who qualified in fourth position for his first race back with the league since Sebring where he didn’t even finish the first lap.  Another champion took pole position, however; Marc Mercer sat at the front with Simon Hulbert and Paul F. Grillo behind him.

Lap One was pretty tame, as it often is for this league, with no movement in the top ten and only one major incident at the back of the field. But things began heating-up on Lap Two.  Grillo tried to attack Hulbert at the outside of Turn Four, which would give him the inside line for Moss Corner, but contact between cost both sim racers.  Grillo got oversteer and lost positions immediately but was able to continue racing.  Hulbert’s F2000 suffered significant damage, however,  and went straight off the track at Moss before retiring.

Grillo (in red) appeared to suffer more than Hulbert (purple) but looks can be deceiving.

During the chaos of Hulbert and Grillo’s incident, Tom Ward (P5) got around Hamilton for what quickly became second place.  Ward lost the position on Lap Three, but attacked once again the next time ’round on the run to Turn Eight.

Ward (09) makes the most of the situation.

By Lap Six Mercer was within arm’s length of Ward and with a great run out of Turn Six was able to pull ahead of Mercer as they started braking for Turn Eight.  Ward had the advantage at corner entry but went deep mid-corner and Mercer pulled closer.  Ward tried to finish the job with the inside line for Turn Nine but Mercer stayed with him, got the inside line for the final corner, and held on to the lead.

Ward makes his move on Mercer (33).

A few corners later and the action shifted to the mid-field where Clive Armstrong in P10 got a tap on the rear from Rafal Drzaszcz and was sent into the barrier before retiring from the race.

Armstrong gets clipped and spins into retirement.

A couple of laps later and the mid-field action was once again the focus as Fahim Antoniades in sixth went wide through Turn Two and lost several positions.  To make things worse, as he pulled back towards the racing line contact ensued Peter Cowan who was up into P8 as a result of Antoniades’ wide run.  Antoniades lost more positions and even more time but Cowan hit the wall, suffered mechanical damage and retired on the spot.

Antoniades (23) and Cowan with a coming-together.

Lap Nine is when everything really started to boil over at the front.  Ward slipstreamed Mercer along the straight even as Hamilton was trying to get a run on both of them.  They went three-wide into Turn Eight, with Hamilton seeming to have the edge on the outside of the corner.

Hamilton tries the two-for-one at the outside of Turn Eight.

Mercer pushed hard mid-corner  and – in a shocking display of car control – accelerated very aggressively through the turn, dropping Ward to third and leaving he and Hamilton squabbling for the lead.  Hamilton had the inside line for Turn Nine but when his wheel touched Mercer’s he was sent spinning to the left where he was struck by Ward and went tumbling out of the race.

The contact was light, but the result was heavy.

After Hamilton’s crash Mercer had a poor line for the final corner and came under attack from Richard Avery as they started Lap Ten.  Avery had been battling with Dominic Brennan for fourth place and suddenly found himself on the inside of line for Turn One and taking the lead from Mercer.  His time at the top was cut short though when Mercer reclaimed his position a couple of corners later.

Avery (78) takes the lead at Turn One, briefly.

After the thrills at the front the excitement picked up, once again, in the mid-field on Lap 12.  Tim Adcock began working on Antoniades for P7 at Turn One and finished the move done before Turn Two.  Just behind Adcock, Alex Gillon looked to take advantage of Antoniades being on the back foot and tried for the outside line at Turn Two.  Contact between them sent Gillon under-steering off into the barrier where he retired after climbing to ninth from P19 on the grid.

Gillon’s F2000 continued to understeer on the grass, before hitting the wall.

A bit further up the road and Avery’s push on Mercer continued, but with Mercer able to keep him behind.  The battling with Mercer had an effect on Avery’s exit speed from Turn Six and Brennan saw an opportunity to climb even higher.  Brennan got the slipstream from Mercer and, with the inside line for Turn Eight, was able to get the advantage before delivering the final blow at the outside of Turn Nine.

Brennan (212) moves into second at the outside of Turn Nine.

By Lap 14 Ward was back up into fourth place after his accident with Hamilton, that is until oversteer at the exit of Turn Three sent him spinning off to the right and into Grillo’s path.  Grillo retired on the spot but Ward continued his race, from much further back.

Ward’s fight back to fourth ends in misery.

Yhe penultimate lap produced a huge shock at the front as contact between Avery and Mercer at Turn Six sent Mercer spinning off the track, with the resulting mechanical damage dropping still further down the order.

Although a rotating Mercer managed to avoid the barrier, his car was damaged nonetheless.

In the end Avery won with a 1.5 second gap to Brennan, and another five and half seconds further back came Bill Fraser who won a hotly contested battle for third against David Burnett, Tim Adcock and Rob Green.

Fraser wins the battle for third.

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