Back in the Czech Republic, with its party atmosphere and packed programme, round two of the 2022 FIM World Sidecar Motocross Championship was in great shape, with a packed line-up. The EMX Quads brought their flavour of off-road sport to Autoklub Loket, which was celebrating fifty years in existence. The Quads completed a busy weekend schedule of non-stop action.
Built forty-eight years ago and still owned by the same family, the famous track has, and still is hosting MXGP races, but the sidecars were last here twenty-one years ago. Very few of the sidecar teams would have ever seen the track, let alone ridden it. Qualifying Saturday dawned with a stiff breeze following a huge overnight thunderstorm, with the track now in near-perfect conditions. General weather conditions were now set fair for the weekend and this challenging track was about to be put to the test
Qualifying – Free practice and the earlier timed session showed up the fast men, and as we had expected, the quick nature of the track favoured the brave. Julian Veldman/Glenn Janssens looked impressive, as did Marvin Vanluchene/Robbie Bax. There was no way anyone was going to pour water on Etienne Bax’s party, and he came to the line for his qualifying race in bouyant mood.
Group “A” - Etienne Bax and Ondrej Cermak opted to start from the middle of the gate, with rivals Julian Veldman/Glenn Janssens choosing extreme left. Koen Hermans/Nicolas Musset were also hard on the left, with those decisions proving vital. When the gate dropped, reigning champion Bax was stranded on the line for a few seconds before his four-stroke motor chimed in.
Veldman got the drop from the word go and never looked back, The Mega delivered what he wanted, and he had a fantastic race, with a gate to flag victory. Bax/Cermak meanwhile found themselves bogged down almost in mid-pack. They had to follow on lap one and try to stay out of trouble. Then began their fight back. Up front, Koen Hermans/Nicolas Musset had gone with Veldman/Janssens, and were pulling clear.
The French Prunier brothers were sensational and gave a good account of themselves grappling with Heinzer/Betschart, then holding Gordejev/Stupelis at bay and eventually overhauling Davy Sanders/Luc Rostingt, who later slipped to sixth place.
Brett Wilkinson/Joe Millard were up there too hampering Bax’s progress in the early stages but had a problem which dropped them out of the top ten. They recovered to ninth but are capable of much more. Once past these fighting crews, Bax/Cermak had ten minutes to get back in touch with the leaders. The task was too great, and third was the best they could do. Etienne admitted he needed to make changes to prevent the same happening in tomorrow’s races. Veldman and Hermans looked very good, and their respective performances sent a strong signal. Also, hats off to the Prunier team as well as an inspired ride by Gert Gordejev and Kaspars.
Result – 1/ Veldman/Janssens, 2/ Hermans/Musset, 3/ Bax/Cermak,
4/ Prunier/Prunier, 5/ Gordejev/Stupelis, 6/Heinzer/Betschart,
7/ Sanders/Rostingt, 8/ Leferink/Beleckas, 9/ Wilkinson/Millard,
Group “B” – From the gate we saw another inspired and gallant start from Daniel Willemsen/Rodolfe Lebreton. The ten-times champion is carrying a serious leg injury from a double break, so was lacking race-fitness and endurance. He made a good fist of it but was passed by Marvin Vanluchene/Robbie Bax on lap one. He stuck at his task but was unable to defend almost a simultaneous move by Gert van Werven/Ben van den Bogaart. They moved second and pulled away. Meanwhile, Stuart Brown/Josh Chamberlain had made slow progress through the field, but by lap three they were on the move, and up to sixth place. Varik/Kunnas were another top crew who had traffic at the start and were obliged to battle through. Vanluchene/Bax. Despite the Belgian’s injured knee, were lapping quickly and pulling away from Van Werven. When Bax made it to third, Brown/Chamberlain had already gone fourth, albeit a good way back from Willemsen. The two old warriors locked horns in the closing stages, but Brown prevailed, claiming third from Daniel.
Justin Keuben and Johnny Badaire had an exciting race, before succumbing to a relentless Varik/Kunnas attack.
As with Group “A”, the victory by Vanluchene was emphatic, setting up a battle royal for the two GP races.
Result – 1/ Vanluchene/Bax, 2/ Van Werven/Van Den Bogaart,
3/ Brown/Chamberlain, 4/ Willemsen/Lebreton, 5/ Varik/Kunnas,
6/ Keuben/Badaire, 7/ Wijers/van der Putten, 8/ van Daele/Zatloukal,
9/ van de Lagemaat/ De Veene, 10/ Peter/Debruyne.
Last Chance – The six who made it through with a final fast lap were headed by Joachim Reimann/Martin Betschart from Lukas Cerny/Bastien Chopin. Then came Britons Kinge/Phelps, Wisselink/Tourbier, Hofmann/Strauss with last men in Tomas and Jakub Vejchoda
Tomorrow will see two more Grand Prix races to get us all back on track with this fantastic sport. Join us on www.fimsidecarcross.com for all the action.