As the F2000s of the UK&I Skip Barber league lined up for the final time this season in Brazil it was Thomas O’Leary who snagged pole with a 1:51.772, only eight thousandths ahead of Marcus Hamilton. After the front row it would be Wojciech Swirydowicz, Tom Ward, Marc Mercer, Stuart Adcock, Clarke Williams, Allen Piercy, Alex Gillon, and George Lambert; only seven tenths separating the whole lot of them. The champion is already decided of course and it was looking good for Swirydowicz to take second place off Blake Townend as he was absent from the race with only an eight point gap, meaning Swirydowicz just needed to finish in the top ten at Brazil.
The start of the race was pretty tame as the experienced and respectful sim-racers more or less maintained their starting positions. At the end of the lap as everyone approached Junção it was as if another green flag was waved, and battles for position broke out across the field. The most interesting and noticeable of these was at the head of the spear, where O’Leary, Hamilton, and Swirydowicz went three-wide into Turn One to start the second lap (with O’Leary on the inside, Swirydowicz on the outside, and Hamilton in the middle). Sadly for O’Leary his cold tires and late braking meant oversteer at the entrance of the Senna S and he was overtaken by Hamilton, while Swirydowicz was forced wide which put Mercer on the attack and, after a few more corners of wheel-to-wheel sim-racing, up into the podium positions.
After Mercer’s move the pack seemed to bunch up again and at the end of Lap Three the spectacle of not just one, but two, three-wide battles began with the top six. O’Leary once again had the inside line going into Turn One and managed to regain the lead, Mercer also squeezed by Hamilton to grab P2. A few tenths behind and Adcock used the outside line to excellent effect passing Ward and Swirydowicz simultaneously and moved into fo,urth and eventually third a few corners later when Hamilton went wide at Turn Eight (all while Swirydowicz dropped to P6 with Lambert and Wojciech Rabsztyn not far behind).
The next lap and the boys at Friction Racing (O’Leary and Hamilton) started showing signs that they might be losing pace as Mercer passed O’Leary around the outside of Turn Four for the lead and during the sequence of Turns Seven, Eight, and Nine passed by Adcock for second spot while at the same time Ward used the exact same line to pass Hamilton for fourth. Ward’s better exit at Junção would then elevate him to the podium position as O’Leary was his next victim.
With racing this close and competitive an incident was inevitable, and at the start of Lap Seven contact with Hamilton sent Adcock airborne and out of the race entirely. Adcock’s out of control (and upside-down) Skippy sailed into the path of Ward and forced him off the track, but he was able to recover without major damage. Swirydowicz benefited the most gaining two positions from Ward and Adcock, but he also got a better run through the Curva do Sol and passed O’Leary as well for P3.
Swirydowicz continued his attack and managed to get by Hamilton as well for second (while Mercer has pulled quite a gap after the excitement behind him) but when Hamilton fought back on Lap Eight it was Rabsztyn who took advantage and commandeered third from Swirydowicz. Not long after and Hamilton was his target, one of the more impressive overtakes of the day, at Turn Eight, and Rabsztyn found himself in P2 at the halfway point of the 16 lap race in spite of his damaged rear wing.
The battle for second raged on for several more laps, with Swirydowicz replacing Hamilton and Rabsztyn at the front, when some oversteer at Turn Six sent Rabsztyn off the track and cost him lose valuable time to the guys ahead.
As the race came to a close (with Mercer’s gap increasing) and the sim-racers were making their way through Junção for the penultimate lap it was a battle of Wojciech versus Friction Racing as O’Leary got the inside line on Rabsztyn for the run to the line for P4 and Hamilton used the exact same maneuver on Swirydowicz for P2. Ward took it to the limit however and passed both Rabsztyn and O’Leary as they entered Turn One for the final time.
In the end Mercer finished almost seven seconds ahead of Hamilton in second place, making him the only competitor to finish in the top ten for all 12 races of the season (11 of which he finished in the top five). Swirydowicz finished the race in third but he finished the championship in second as a result of Townend’s inability to race at Interlagos. Ward recovered well to finish in fourth just ahead of O’Leary and Rabsztyn with newcomer Alex Gillon in P7, and Allen Piercy only four tenths behind him. Hamilton proved to be one of the most reliable racers of the season finishing ten of the 12 races in the top ten (six of them in the top five), giving him a much deserved fourth place in the championship.
The first season of 2014 proved to be exciting, dramatic, and professional. Spectating and writing about the races has been a real pleasure. The UK&I Skip Barber league has produced some of the best racing I’ve personally ever seen and I’m very excited to see what lies in wait for the second season of 2014. As always the full race with commentary can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbHbEGqUvAs