COVID Cup Round 9: Connection Controversy Causes Carnage As Classic Battles Rage On

(apologies for the sudden mid-race livery change, this blog was written post season)

The COVID Cup returns to Britain with Bailes leading the championship by a very thin thread of 4 points and as the sun set over Brands, the drivers were ready to hit the track once more!

After an hour of practice and 10 minutes of qualifying, this is how the grid lined up: Cleland would pick up his 3rd pole of the season followed by championship rival Bailes.

Teymourian would be best of the rest in 3rd with Craig Shelton rounding out the second row.

Behind him, Gaffney and Canzobre would round out the third row. Wood and Riddles would finish up the top 8. Truswell would qualify 12th

A new addition to the pack was three speedy females: Alice Powell, Sarah Moore and Abbi Pulling - they would line up 11th, 13th and 22nd respectably.

Drivers Outside 107% Rule (1:45.535)

18th - Francesco Castellacci - 1:58.474

19th - Jm L - 1:58.579

No Time: Ronald Verweij

No Time: Adam Christodoulou

No Time: Abbi Pulling

The lights vanished under the orange sky and the race was on!

It was a good, clean start as the field thundered down Paddock Hill Bend.

Into Druids, Honeyman would miss his braking point whilst trying to get down the inside of Daman - the former would barge into Truswell half way through the corner

Unlucky 13? Truswell Airboune

both would escape unscathed, Truswell only losing 4 positions....

But on the exit of Graham Hill Bend chaos broke out....

As they went into Graham Hill Bend, Powell (onboard) would just tap Moore's rear, sending Moore into a spin...she was now just a sitting duck in the middle of the track and next behind Powell was Honeyman...he had nowhere to go and drifted into the side of Moore.

Honeyman (11) with nowhere to go

Cars desprately veered to the right to avoid the collision - Truswell the only driver to go left...but Christodoulou was in a spot of bother....from being on the inside of the two rows exiting druids, he ideally wanted to go around the outside of the accident...but in pulling to the right, would take out Pulling, pitching her onto her side before landing uncomfortably with broken right rear suspension. Jm L (rear of shot below) would be tagged as Pulling slid after landing but without any (significant) damage to Jm L.

It was a costly decision from 6

On the inside of the collision there was also contact...Castellacci (19 In picture) would get a better exit than the slowed Herring and would pass Herring (unbeknown to him) on the grass. Herring would pull to the left jut tagging the right-rear wheel of the 19 car. This sent him airbourne.

Chaos at the start: Castellacci gets airbourne as Moore, Honeyman and Christodoulou get caught up in the pile-up.
Castellacci would miracously escape major spinal injuries

Herring and Castellacci would make contact again as the 19 would re-enter the track, leaving both cars in an even worse state than before

At the leaders headed onto the GP circuit for the first time, Cleland would lead from Bailes - Teymourian in 3rd in hot pursuit.

Next behind him was Shelton and Wood - Wood making up two places off the line.

Behind him was Gaffney followed by the spread out train of Riddles, Canzobre, Conway and Constanduros rounding out the top 10.

Pulling and Moore would not be able to continue after their accident and would call for a quick tow.

From Surtees to Hawthorn Bend is a very long straight perfect for opening lap passes - Many drivers used this to their advantage and further climbed up the field.

Despite the top 5 remaining the same, further down the field other drivers would gain positions - namely Powell pulling past Bradley for 11th - before losing the back end at Hawthorn Bend over-correcting and being collected into by Verweij behind Bradley...this would cause another multi-car shunt as Verweij spun to the right after the collision, straight into Knox who had got up into 13th after starting last (23rd) on the grid.

Knox would then spin to the right after his left rear suspension was broken, hitting then into the fleeing Daman.

By the end of the first lap, the grid had been massively shaken up - Bradley up to 9th place after after starting in 17th.

The top 2 would come across the line as normal, Teymourian would devastatingly get a wheel on the grass out of Clark Curve, the left rear would lose traction and put him into a slide....he'd over-correct and hit into the barriers.

A podium was out of the equation for Teymourian

Taking 3rd place from Teymourian was Wood who passed Shelton after he went wide at Sheene's.

On Shelton's gearbox was Gaffney - having a great exit out of Clark Curve massively benefitted him.

Behind him it was Riddles and Canzobre - Conway was meant to be next but there was not sign of him, until the large TV Screens showed that he had disconnected...this would not be the last time a driver would suffer this fate.

Continuing onwards, Constanduros and Bradley followed next - Bradley with an impeccable start from 17th.

Battling for the last spot in the top 10 were good rivals Truswell and Daman - fans were expecting a good show from both, but Daman would lose the back end coming into Paddock Hill bend. Though he didn't hit anything, he lost a handful of positions.

Following his flying adventure Castellacci was next - and by Paddock Hill Bend Herring behind had caught the Monacoian.

Jm L followed next after a very quiet start.

After his involvement in the pile-up Honeyman was keen to make any positions - and with Christodoulou pitting for repairs - Honeyman was up to 15th.

Verweij was the last of the runners lugging the remains of his Skippy into the pit-lane after a very long and torturous in-lap.

The three Women, Knox, Teymourian, Christodoulou and Verweij all filled up the unusually busy pitlane.

Meanwhile, up front, the battle for the lead was offically on - Bailes got a better run through Paddock Hill bend than Cleland and managed to get past on the entrance to druids.

Cleland would have to sit tight behind Bailes and plan a move laps in advance.

In the meantime, Herring and Castellacci would come together again at druids, this time a much smaller sidepod-to-sidepod touch. Castellaci would only recieve minor damage but was sent into the barriers after getting on the kerb on the exit of the corner. This would be the end of his day.

With Daman spinning out at Paddock, and Castellacci retiring, Jm L down in 14th was able to pick up another two positions - more points for his championship bid - Daman would catch and pass Jm L later in the lap though.

For the next few laps, things looked rather calm - no major overtakes were being made, everyone was keeping their noes clean and the connection stayed strong.

As the leaders entered their 3rd lap - Powell and Knox would be released back on track to try and make as many positions as possible...however it wouldn't start well...

Upon exiting the pits, Powell saw the group of Gaffney, Riddles and Canzobre approaching in her rear view mirror - in trying to let them pass before entering the live circuit, she'd brake - but harder than Knox would expect - he'd run into the back of her, knocking is brand spanking new nose-cone off.

One to forget for Knox

Pulling was also released from the pits at the same time - and thus managed to get a free position before even reaching the first corner after leaving the pits. Her next target was Powell - and going into Graham Hill Bend she caught up with her competitor and the duo would duel.

They would both have to be aware though - Constanduros and Bradley on lap 3 (a lap ahead) were coming at high speeds up behind them.

Powell would go wide to cleanly let the two lappers by, but in doing so got onto the grass slightly - losing speed and traction and letting Pulling by.

Knox would pass Powell too before Sheene's, dropping her to 20th.

Just up ahead there was more action - and a change of podium position - Wood would run deep into Westfield Bend, skirting the gravel with his left wheels.

As if by coincidence, Shelton would have an excellent run out of the corner, pulling the move before they'd arrive at Sheene's.

But Lady Luck wasn't done with Wood quiet yet....

The diference between over the limit and at the limit...

Wood would just put a wheel over the white line at Sheene's - the lack of traction on the grass threw him into a half-spin. Wood was fortunate enough to not to hit the wall - but the damage had been done. Gaffney, Riddles and Canzobre had escaped off into the sunset and now he was under serious pressure from Constanduros and Bradley.

Lap 4. Bailes kept the lead by a thread, but Cleland would have a better run through Paddock - pulling alongside Bailes. They'd go side-by-side through Druids when Cleland would temporarily inch ahead on entry to Graham Hill Bend before Cleland would try a cut-back...down the Cooper Straight, Cleland would have the momentum and slipstream, and would slip down the inside of Bailes at Surtees.

Though Bailes would have some Slipstream, it wouldn't be enough and Bailes would have to wait another lap before attempting another move...or so he thought.

Bailes would manage to pull alongside Cleland for the final corner and from then it was a drag race...

Bailes' weetabix that morning paid off - he was later on the brakes than Cleland, taking the lead of the race on lap 5.

The fight for forth was also massively heating up Riddles managing to get down the inside of Gaffney at Druids, before Canzobre would take a peek at the battling pair. As they went towards Hawthorn Bend, Riddles remained ahead.

Down in seventh, the battle between Wood, Constanduros and Bradley was well ignited, Bradley managing to find an un-occupied piece of track at Druids to get up the inside of Constanduros.

Wood (8), Constanduros (yelllow) and Bradley (white) once again thrill the fans in a three-way battle as lapped Pulling looks up the inside of Bradley.

But just as Wood was getting to the pinnacle of his race...disaster strikes. He disconnects. Everything he'd been fighting for had just become pointless.

Undetirred by what jut happend, Constanduros would use the better line he had out of Surtees to pass Bradley for what was now 7th place.

But fighting a professional like Bradley - Constanduros knew that this wasn't over...just neither expected it to turn out the way it did....

Bradley would get a better run through Westfield than Constanduros would - allowing Bradley to get a run on his competitor.

Bradley would cut Sheene's more than he anticipated, so lifted off...Constanduros who kept to the tarmac was going flat out through the corner...Constanduros would rear end Bradley...Pulling would (desperately) stream past. Constanduros got away almost scott free whilst Bradley lost his rear wing before Powell (a lap behind) almost ended up in the same fate that Teymourian did, but managed to save it.

Returning to the lead - Lap 5 - and Cleland managed to get the cutback on Bailes after braking slightly earlier. As they went into Druids, they'd be side by side, Cleland taking the shorter inside route whilst Bailes returned to second.

Bailes would then try to slip up the inside for Surtees, but after clobbering the kerb on the inside, Cleland would have the better run and return to the lead.

Other than a sneak peek, Bailes had no other choice but wait for the next opportunity.

Even the smallest of mistakes can cost the lead...

Returning to the battle for forth, Gaffney would have the slip-stream on Riddles to pull alongside for turn one. Not only having the slip-stream but being better on the brakes, Gaffney pulled ahead. Riddles would momentarily pull ahead of Gaffney on the outside of the run down to Paddock Hill Bend, but nothing could be done.

Canzobre learns from the pros ahead...

Down in 7th, things would go from bad to worse for Constanduros. As he exited Graham Hill Bend, he'd have a little bit of Traffic ahead of him - Pulling, a lap down - and ahead of her Moore, 2 laps down...but with two cars behind her on two different laps the last thing any of them expected was Moore to weave left and right...

Moore was trying to warm up her tyres after a half-pin at Druids

Pulling would Pull alongside Moore, however Moore would stay at racing speed - putting Constanduros in a difficult position of not being able to get past either car.

Trapped: Constanduros

The dyo would go side by side for Hawthorn Bend and the Derek Minter straight before Pulling lifted off early for Westfield letting Moore past - upon exit Constanduros would gratefully pass Pullingand on approach to Sheene's would pull alongside Moore...

Constanduros would get past at Sheene's - being later on the brakes. As he slid through Sheene's, he was losing much more rapidly than Moore could. Moore tapped the back of Constanduros.

Constanduros was 7th at the time...

Moore would escape by having a little off-track excursion before re-joining at Stirling's...Constanduros wouldn't be so lucky, after being pitched into a half-spin he'd be T-boned not only by Pulling but then too would have a head-on crash with Powell too.

Moore escapes as Pulling has nowhere to go
The last thing you want to see coming into Sheene's...

Whilst Constanduros was sent to the infield medical centre as his car was being repaired Powell would manage to keep her car going.

Bradley would quickly lap Moore before the next lap.

Lap 6. The lead once again changes. Bailes would get the slip-stream on Cleland once more and the'd go through Paddock Hill Bend absolutely side-by-side, but Bailes would be braver on the brakes for Druids and nip down the inside.

Fans were treated to another classic fight for the lead at Brands.

This wouldn't be the end however as Cleland would have the slipstream down the Cooper Straight before passing Bailes Into Surtees.

This would only be temporary as Bailes would then get the slip-stream back on Cleland for the straight into Hawthorn bend.

Cleland would only just hold onto the outside before getting the cut-back done through Westfield, obtaining the position as Cleland was later on the brakes for Sheene's.

Cleland couldn't relax though as Bailes would have the slipstream coming into the final corner. Cleland didn't fight it - he let it happen and carefully decided what to do next.

Further back, in a oddly expected move, Moore would get down the inside of Bradley in 7th, unlapping herself one lap (Moore being two laps behind), before Knox behind (20th) would too unlap himself, much to the disgruntlement of Bradley.

Cleland's next opportunity to take the lead was when Bailes went deeper than he wanted into Graham Hill Bend.

As per usual, Cleland would do the cut-back to get to the outside of Bailes into the braking zone of Graham Hill Bend, before doing the cutback once again to get a better run down the Cooper straight to pass at Surtees...

However, he'd go a little wider than intended and with Bailes attempting the cutback on Cleland already had the momentum and streamed past Cleland.

Cleland would keep Bailes honest and would have a better run through Westfield pulling alongside Bailes before attempting an absolutely fearless move up the inside through Sheene's.

Fearless Cleland takes the lead from Bailes

Lap 6 would also be when Wood would re-emerge from the pit-lane after his earlier disconnect. From 7th, he'd re-join in a lowly 18th, but would quickly pass Powell and Pulling after their struggles. Lap 8 Breezed by, and other than Teymourian getting past Jm L, it was pretty setteled. As Truswell started his 9th lap, he - nor anyone had a slightest clue that this would be the start of his final lap before being disconnected. Had he stayed in 8th - he would have got 8 points to add to his championship - and having been stuck in 6th for the past few races, it would have definietly been a nice boost.

Returning to the lead and heading towards Hawthorns, Bailes had the slip-stream on Cleland. Cleland was a sitting duck.

For the remainder of this lap, Cleland would observe and analyse Bailes' lines and speed trying to find his competitors weaker spots - but as professional as they both are - this can be incredibly difficult.

Truswell lost connection just after going around Hawthorns Bend. The game froze, a tragedy struck.

A little up the road from Truswell, Riddles would look around the outside of Gaffney at turn one, but Gaffney would hold him off for the rest of the lap...until as he pulled onto the start/finish straight, Gaffney would disconnect - this was devastating for both the fans, Gaffney and even Riddles - they had been a hard but fair fight for the majority of the race and to have it conclude like this was bitterly dissapointing. Gaffney would visit race control about the disconnection but following the problems earlier in the day - Gaffney was just another of the terribly unfortunate to lose connection.

Truswell, Gaffney and Wood were all on for a good race - and good points.

As he started his 10th lap, Riddles would Gaffney's 4th place, Canzobre would be in 5th. At the tail of the top 10, Christodoulou would take 10th place away from a struggling Jm L with a little bit of contact at the exit of Druids.

With all the incidents going on, the pack (bar the first two) had spread out and been split up by backmarkers - some giving way, others unlapping themselves.

Lap 12. Less than 10 laps to go, Cleland gets a better run out of Surtees than Bailes - with the slipstream, he'll slowly pull past. Bailes will have to wait until the next lap to make a move.

Truswell also manages to get his spare Skippy started and rips out the garage - he's 16th and two laps down as Herring heads into Paddock Hill Bend in 7th.

It's going to be a tough remainder of the race for him.

On this same lap, Teymourian would go into 8th after passing Daman.

Lap 12 would also see Christodoulou fight Knox, a back-marker that was 2 laps down. No matter how many blue flags, or how many times Christodoulou would pass Knox, he'd keeping coming back.

Knox (26) made life hard for Christodoulou (6)

Onto Lap 13 the leaders went, Cleland would lead, and both would lap Jm L. After putting a wheel on the grass on entry to Sheene's and going wide, Clelands gap would only extend - giving him a comfortable lead before Bailes would catch up again.

A little behind, patience would pay off for Canzobre as Riddles put a wheel into the gravel at Westfield, almost spinning out. With the extra speed, Canzobre could pass with ease.

As the leaders crossed the line to start their 14th lap, Cleland would lead by a small margin over Bailes. Jm L would split Shelton from the leaders, before a fair way back it was Canzobre just ahead of Riddles. Behind him, on a variety of different laps, it was Honeyman (12th), Constanduros (15th), Pulling (18th), Moore (19th) - the two women on the same lap - before it was eventually Bradley in 6th, followed by Wood in 13th and then Herring in 7th.

Next after Herring was Truswell who was splitting Herring in 7th and Teymourian in 8th

Behind Herring sat Daman in 9th, before Powell in 14th un-lapped herself.

Christodoulou would round out the top 10, and thankfully for him, Knox would box at the end of his second lap "battling" (unlapping) Christodoulou.

Knox would later emerge from the pits to "pester" Constanduros in 14th, Knox being in 17th, this, like the last time lasted two laps.

3 Laps to go.

Bailes would get the run on Cleland out of Surtees, the moved would be done before the braking zone of the next corner.

Both Christodoulou (10th) and Daman (9th) would be quickly lapped by the leaders - Christodoulou at Sheene's, Daman at the start of the following lap - these four would be the only ones left fighting.

The end drew nearer. Two to go. With traffic slightly impeding Bailes and slipstream on his side, Cleland would once again pull alongside Bailes for Druids.

As he had done in the past, he'd look around the outside on the run into Graham Hill Bend, before using the slip-stream and Bailes going wider than normal to pass the Norweigan under braking at Surtees.

Bailes would then get the cutback on Cleland and use it to his advantage along the straight before slipping down the inside at Hawthorns.

It was also an important lap for Christodoulou - managing to pass Daman for 9th place with an impressive dive into Druids.

Teymourian too would gain a position - catching Herring after a lonely several laps. Teymourian would go down the inside of Herring at the final corner before Herring would get the slipstream on Teymourian as they crossed the start/finish line to start their 16th lap. as Teymourian took his racing line, and Herring came up the track to slot in behind there'd be contact. Herring would catch his front wing on Teymourian's right rear, pitching Teymourian into a spin and sending himself off wide at Paddock Hill Bend.

the battle for 7th ended prematurely

Lap 18. The penultimate lap. every millisecond counted.

Cleland and Bailes as close as they were on lap 1.

Cleland ran out of time and luck. Bailes was just too fast and too good at keeping the gap at a safe distance.

Further back, in 3rd, a horrific accident had just occurred.

Shelton (airbourne) was airlifted to hospital after

Powell lost the back end of her Skippy on the brow of Paddock Hill Bend, right behind her was Shelton who collected her and wait airbourne - flipping dozens of times.

Controversially, there were no red flags, safety car or even "code 60" for this horrendous accident. The marshalls tended to Shelton as the circuit was still live - Shelton was quickly but safely extracted and air-lifted to hospital after a short ride in the in-field ambulance across the track.

Both the Marshalls and Knox had a close encounter

A race had to be finished - and Teymourian knew this all too well and at the start of his final lap, would pass Herring for 7th place.

Onto the final lap the leaders went - Shelton's Skippy left abandoned in the Paddock gravelbed, Cleland would have to anything to get past Bailes in the remaining 1 minute 38 seconds of the race.

The seconds ticked down - and Cleland couldn't find a way past...down the straight the slipstream wasn't strong enough, through Hawthorn Bend and Westfield, Bailes retained the lead. Just half a lap remained.

As the corners passed, Cleland got more and more deseprate. Just Stirlings, Clearways and Clark remained...Bailes would get sideways through was all Cleland needed...he'd pull alongside Bailes. It was a drag-race down Clearways.

Drag-race to Clearways on the final lap of the legendary Brands COVID Cup round

Despite Bailes having the shorter turning radius, he'd bounce over the kerb on the inside and with Cleland in the process of doing a cutback it'd come down to the wire. Fans stood up and held their breath around the whole circut. Who would it be? Cleland got sucked into the gearbox of Bailes...and pulled out...

By 0.018 seconds Bailes would take the win from Cleland - both had an absolutely extraordinary day and were absolutely thrilled with the result.

It was the 3rd closest finish of the year - only Virginia and Lime Rock being closer

Canzobre would finish 3rd - a podium at his Debut COVID Cup race - a nice achievement to add to the books.

Behind the top 3 were:

4th: Matthew Riddles

5th: Joe Bradley

6th: Naser Teymourian

7th: Simon Herring (-1 Lap)

8th: Adam Christodoulou (-1 Lap) 9th: Nick Daman (-1 Lap)

10th: Jm L (-1 Lap) On the final lap, Knox would be behind Honeyman and brake slightly later than him, gently rear ending him, and putting him into a half-spin. Wood, behind both was able to pick up Honeyman's position as he rejoined the track.

This would put an end to what was an incredibly difficult day for Knox.

11th: Darren Wood (-1 Lap) 12th: Ewen Honeyman (-1 Lap) 13th: Ben Constanduros (-2 Laps)

14th: Robin Truswell (-2 Laps) 16th: Chris Knox (-3 Laps)

17th: Abbi Pulling (-4 Laps)

18th: Sarah Moore (-5 Laps)

19th: Alice Powell(-5 Laps) DNF: Craig Shelton (-2 Laps)

DNF: Sean Gaffney

DNF: Jake Conway

DNF: Ronald Verweij

DNF: Franceco Castellacci

DNS: Maximilian Severin DNQ: Spencer Terry DNQ: Matthew Medina -- The admins of the MOFO Covid Cup agreed that only the best 8 results of the drivers would count - since Brands Hatch was round 9, the worst result of those who have completed 9 rounds would be subtracted from their total championship points - here's the championship points with this in effect:

Drops Darren Wood: 4pts at Lime Rock Simon Herring: 2pts at Okayama

Joe Bradley: 4 pts at Okayama

And the standard championship points:

Just 4 points seperate the leaders going into Round 10