Updated: May 21, 2020
Okayama was the next venue on the COVID Cup Calendar. Bailes had two wins to his name, whilst Cleland only had one - this would be a great shot for Cleland to take the championship lead. With qualifying swiftly over in 10 minutes, the grid was decided... Newbie Oscar Chinchilla Maza would take pole, followed crucially by Cleland and Schreiber Bailes and Sibbald rounding out the top 5. Further back, For the first time this season Daman would out-qualify Truswell - Daman qualifying 19th, whilst Truswell would line up 20th.
As the lights went out, Jm L would bog down slightly, allowing those around him to stream past as they headed into turn one. Other than Bailes slipping up the inside of Schreiber, putting him on Cleland's tail, there was no massive change of position on lap one. Fabian Bock would also get a poor start, dropping from 8th to 10th. Behind him, a small gaggle quickly formed, consisting of Honeyman, Bradley, Heim Lien (Lien) and newcomer Alberto Palcencia Esperalba Truswell and Jm L would bring up the rear. Coming into turn two, everyone was squirming around on the slightly cool tires, heavy fuel load and fairly cambered corners. Up front, Bailes fought to control his Skippy, and drifted wide into the gravel bed on the exit of two. In 9th, Gaffney would mis-judge the closing distance between himself and Dodds, Gaffney would apply the brakes gently, but the rear would step out, putting him into a half spin before re-collecting it on the grass. behind him, Bock led the little battle from Bradley. Esperalba, Heim Lein and Novykov would be able to pass the struggling Honeyman before the sweeping right hander at turn three. Here, Esperalba would dive to the inside of Joe Bradley, forcing the Brit slightly off-line. A cuth-back would have been possible had Heim Lien not been on the inside Bradley on the exit of three. Turn three leads onto a long back-straight (not start/finish straight) - Bailes would take this opportunity to re-pass Schreiber for 3rd place. The Championship Battle was back on.
Bock would miss his braking point for turn four, and go very deep on the exit. His left wheels would go just beyond the kerb and spin the poor rookie around, back on track. Heim Lien, who was taking the racing line didn't have a chance to avoid Bock a he came spearing back on track....Heim Lien got hit.
Bradley would take avoiding action by veering to the left...but the force of Heim Lien's impact swung the car the other way like a swingball ball....right into Bradley's car....
Novykov also cuaght the back of Bock's car...also collapsing his front left suspension.
Verweij, behind Honeyman, would also take to the grass on the outside, but would manage to escape the carnage. During this, Jm L had made solid progress up the grid - passing Truswell at turn two, Daman under the brakes at turn four and then Herring at the following corners. With all the calamities going on, Jm L had managed to gain 6 positions in just the opening lap! As they went onto the second lap, Maza would retain the lead, followed by the two championship rivals led by Cleland, in forth would be Schreiber, a little further back, Sibbald's Bennetton (livery) chasing him down. Behind him, there would be a line of red - Wood, Dodds, Teymourian and Esperalba all closely following one another in a Red Skippy Train.
Honeyman would try an incredibly ambitious move down the inside of Riddles at turn one,
this would result in Honeyman spinning out, and a confused Riddles being sent into a wheely.
From this, Gaffney and the charging JM L would gain a position.
Back up front, the battle for the lead was getting intense - the leader, Maza got a wheel on the grass on the entry to turn two. This was all Cleland needed to take the lead. Cleland took the lead before turn three. Further behind, Esperalba would manage to get down tho inside of Teymourian, putting him in 8th.
Back to the lead - Maza would have the slipstream for the long backstraight, and moved to the inside, Cleland would try and get the cutback on the exit of both four and five - but to no avail - even with Maza going slightly wide out of turn five, he'd keep the position.
Bailes was loving this battle - it was slowing Cleland down and drawing him nearer.
Barely meters behind them Sibbald made a move down the inside of Schreiber for forth position.
Outide of the Top 10, Honeyman would also spin and come in for a quick pitstop before leaving again. Onto lap 3 they flew. Dodds would get the slipstream on Wood, draw alongside and would make the overtake cleanly into turn one.
Including this duo, there was a four-way battle (which only included slightly red cars) raging - Esperalba was already fairly close to the Dodds/Wood duo - but the battle Wood and Dodds were in the process of slowed them up even more - creating a juicy three way fight between Dodds, Wood, Esperalba with Teymourian joining slightly later.
Later on in the same lap, on the straight just after turn six, Cleland would let Bailes past by pulling to the left and lifting off the throttle.
The following lap, Dodds would go deep at turn 3, allowing Esperalba to get past - despite attacking Wood, (both with moves and lightly with his front wing) the Iberian couldn't get past. ~ With Wood and Cleland fighting incredibly hard for 2nd place, Maza was able to drive off into the sunset opening up the gap tenfold.
Further back, in the battle for 6th, Esperalba was able to make an impressive around the outside of Wood through turn one - since he then had the racing line to turn two, Esperalba was able to get the move sealed.
~ Cleland was much later on the brakes than Bailes for turn three, and managed to momentarily get past - into 2nd, but Bailes got his Skippy swung into the corner and managed the cut-back and to get in front.... Bailes would just miss his braking point, braking on the marbles and dirt. This would throw him incredibly deep - allowing Cleland to get past.
The following lap, lap 6, the race was about to become very confusing. Novykov found his way past Teymourian and was now behind Dodds - the issue arose when it was noticed that both cars had exactly the same livery.
Further back, in 16th, Bradley had caught up with Truswell - unbeknown to him, Bradley passing would mean that Truswell would not score any points - being in the lower half of the top 10 in the championship, scoring points on a race-by-race basis is incredibly important - especially as Bradley was higher than Truswell in the championship standings and Daman (ahead) was not too far behind.
Bradley would quickly pass Daman too as he made a mistake at turn 8. Truswell was not able to capitalise. The following lap, lap 8, Truswell would go wide at Turn 8 allowing Jm L to nip past, this would shortly be undone as Jm L would go wide at turn one, allowing Truswell back past.
On this same lap, much further ahead, Teymourian would be able to get past Novykov after he went deep into turn 4.
Lap 9. Despite an amazing attempt around the outside of Teymourian at the kink between turn two and three, and holding it for quite some time, Teymourian would prove to be too strong and claim back 9th place.
Just ahead of this duo was Esperalba and Wood who were fighting incredibly hard. Esperalba would go up the inside of Wood at Turn 7, but despite Wood holding it around the outside, Esperalba would get the cutback. Esperalba would be on the inside of Wood for the last two corners before getting an excellent exit out of the last corner to pull away slightly from Wood.
Although Wood would get the slipstream and pull alongside, he made a small mistake and would stay where he was. Meanwhile, at the back of the grid, Jm L finally caught Truswell and was ready for another attempt as they crossed the line to start their 10th lap. Truswell would have the inside for turn one, putting him on the racing line for turn two. The duo would go side by side on the run down to turn 3, Truswell would have the racing line and hold the position, before Jm L would get the cutback.
Truswell and JM L would go side by side down the back-straight, but in the end JM L would have the inside line and momentarily take the position.
Returning to the Teymourian Novykov battle, Novykov who had been on Teymourian's tail for the past couple of laps finally had the opportunity to get past.. down the start/finish straight Novykov would pull alongside Teymourian....Through Turns one and two they went absolutely side by side before Novykov would be later on the brakes for Turn three.
This would result in him going in deeper than required, allowing Teymourian to pull back alongside...
Despite locking up both front wheels whilst braking later, Teymourian managed to get it stopped ahead of Novykov.
Onto Lap 11 they went, Maza still leading with an incredibly healthy gap to Cleland who had just escaped from Bailes. Sibbald (4th) would get a much better run than Bailes through the first two turns, and with Bailes skirting the gravel bed, a move was imminent.
Sibbald would get past before turn 3.
Lap 13, and Sibbald was really beginning to feel Bailes' pressure...Sibbald would slightly miss his braking point and run deep into Turn One - allowing Bailes to get back past... Sibbald would attempt to get down the inside at turn four after a small mistake from Bailes, but Bailes would hold him off.
By this point in the race, everyone had spread out losing the driver in front's slipstream - meaning few - if any - moves could be made. With Truswell fighting Jm L, Daman was able to escape - leading to the only battles on track being 3rd - 5th, whom were just out of reach out of each other, and Wood slowly closing the gap on Dodds in 7th, with Naser watching in the background.
On Lap 15, for an unknown reason, Novykov decided to pit, sending him straight to the tail of the field - gifting from 12th placed Gaffney and below a free position.
Aside from Teymourian managing to get down the inside of Wood on the straight towards turn four, the last few laps were a little bit dull. The gaps would only increase, and chance for any last-minute position changes were all but gone.
Teymourian would surprise however, as he'd manage to get past Dodds on the penultimate lap despite Dodds attempting to get a cutback on him after Teymourian ran went a little deep into turn one - Teymourian having the racing line for turn two was the secret success. Dodds was unable to pass following this, despite his best attempts.
It was also on this lap that Sibbald finally budged - he'd move out of Bailes slip-stream and pull alongside Bailes. Sibbald would have the inside for four, but would run slightly wide on exit - into Bailes who had already claimed that piece of track
Despite being on the inside for the next corner, Bailes was not able to make a move stick - and heading onto the final lap, Sibbald was heading towards his second podium of the season. ....
But Bailes had Sibbald's slipstream - and having Bailes in one's slipstream (especially on the final lap) is the last thing one would ever want. Bailes would pull alongside on the start/finish straight, before passing in the braking zone.
Try as Sibbald may - left, right, inside, outside Bailes was unbeatable...and in the end....
Maza would win with a 7-second gap to Cleland in 2nd, followed by Bailes in third.
Sibbald would only just miss the podium in 4th, whilst Schreiber would finish 5th after watching a cracking performance ahead.
Behind Schreiber it was:
6th - Alberto Esperalba
7th - Teymourian
9th Wood (these three all finishing within a second of one another) 10th Verweij
15th Daman 16th Jm L
17th Truswell (slowed down at the wrong line)
18th Honeyman (-1 Lap)
DNF: German Novykov
DNF: Kristian Heim Lien DNF: Fabian Bock
In Terms of the Championship - few were able to gain.