The weather had been turbulent all weekend, ranging from hot sunshine to torrential thunderstorms. When race-day dawned, there had been heavy rain flooding the start gate area, but as the day progressed, the track became its old familiar self. Qualifying had thrown up a few anomalies, and Etienne Bax not entirely comfortable with his set-up. It was to be hoped all was well by the time the gate dropped for the opener. Ambient temperature was much lower and there was rain in the wind. The track was heavy, having been seriously watered followed by overnight rain.
Race one – When the gate dropped the charge to turn one went the way of Etienne Bax/Ondrej Cermak from Kert Varik/Lari Kunnas.
Next up was the Willemsen/Lebreton 111 outfit followed by Koen Hermans and Nicolas Musset.
Julian Veldman was down in six, but not for long. He quickly deposed Daniel Willemsen and on lap three was up to fourth. Stuart Brown/Josh Chamberlain were in sixth place ahead of Marco Heinzer/Reudi Betschart and Marvin Vanluchene/Robbie Bax.
Veldman was lapping fractionally quicker than anyone else, so it might just be a matter of time before he caught the leaders. Ten seconds split the top four crews with five laps gone, so it was close at the front.
Brett Wilkinson/Joe Millard, current British Championship leaders, got the better of Brown Senior and started to close in on Willemsen.
Vanluchene was up to eighth, but progress beyond that was slow, as Hermans moved past Varik, throwing him into the claws of an advancing Veldman.
Still Bax led, with Veldman now into third and Wilkinson/Millard into fifth ahead of Willemsen. Stuart Brown dropped out of contention behind Marvin Vanluchene, who on lap eight, was closing in on Wilkinson.
Bax’s lead was now ten seconds, and he meant business. Veldman/Janssens were now right with second placed Hermans/Musset, as Mike Hodges/Jack Wilkinson moved into the top ten. British crews were doing well, until Brett Wilkinson went missing, and Jake Brown departed the scene on lap seven, his shoulder injury still not totally fixed.
Veldman in second place had taken two seconds out of Bax’s lead but was running out of time. He trailed by eight points coming in, so needed to nibble away at Bax if possible. Gert Van Werven was way down the order in ninth place.
Lap thirteen and it was game on as Veldman closed to within four seconds of the leader Bax. Amazingly, the gap had widened again next time around, so Etienne Bax/Ondrej Cermak were holding their own here just when they needed to. Kert Varik held a strong third, far enough ahead of Hermans and Vanluchene not to become stressed.
That is how it finished, with Veldman dropping back, giving Bax a comfortable winning margin. He extended his series lead by five points.
Result – 1/ Etienne Bax/Ondrej Cermak, 2/ Julian Veldman/Glenn Janssens,
3/ Kert Varik/Lari Kunnas, 4/ Marvin Vanluchene/Robbie Bax, 5/ Koen Hermans/Nicolas Musset, 6/ Marco Heinzer/Reudi Betschart, 7/ Daniel
Willemsen/Rodolphe Lebreton, 8/ Stuart Brown/Josh Chamberlain,
9/ Tim Leferink/Kostas Beleckas, 10/Gert van Werven/Ben Van Den Bogaart.
Race Two – Julian Veldman’s trouble in race one turned out to be shortage of fuel. It would seem the Mega is a thirsty little girl in the deep sand, so they would have to make sure they squeezed every drop in for this one.
Furthermore, Etienne Bax had diagnosed his engine misfire as a faulty injector minutes before race one began, so he was hugely relieved to have that problem behind him.
When the gate dropped this time, it looked like Bax had repeated his holeshot, but a massive tangle at turn one got him, Koen Hermans and Veldman snarled up and stopped them in their tracks.
It was almost one minute before these teams got rolling. Further round lap one Tim Prummer also stopped causing a traffic jam just when the others were trying to recover. Marvin Vanluchene inherited a great place and within one lap was past Kert Varik to take the lead. The Estonian stuck to the task, pulling Brett Wilkinson with him and gave chase.
Amazingly, Julian Veldman, least affected in the start crash had made his way to fourth place on lap five and was closing in on the British pair Wilkinson and Millard.
Sand Master Daniel Willemsen was again in the thick of it, holding a good fifth place ahead of Van Werven/Van Den Bogaart. Etienne Bax and Ondrej Cermak were on a damage limitation exercise and up to tenth at half distance. Their nemesis Veldman however, had got by Wilkinson and had eyes for Varik/Kunnas. Deep into the race and Bax was going like a train and up to fifth place. Veldman made the most of his early get-away and made a play for second place and Varik.
Similarly, Bax was in fourth but would not improve due to the huge gap the top three had over him. Gert van Werven nailed Brett Wilkinson and moved fifth, but the British crew had done well.
Varik pulled the pin and held second place ten seconds behind Marvin Vanluchene/Robbie Bax. This would earn him joint overall on points with Veldman but third overall on a better race two result.
This was an amazing race with a brilliant display by the top championship contenders. Bax retains the red plate by a handful of points and will be thanking his lucky stars for the result. What a ride from himself and Veldman.
Race Result – 1/ Marvin Vanluchene/Robbie Bax, 2/ Kert Varik/Lari Kunnas,
3/ Julian Veldman/Glenn Janssens, 4/ Etienne Bax/Ondrej Cermak,
5/ Gert Van Werven/Ben Van Den Bogaart, 6/ Brett Wilkinson/Joe Millard,
7/ Daniel Willemsen/Rodolphe Lebreton, 8/ Stephan Wijers/Jorrit van der Putten, 9/ Marco Heinzer/Reudi Betschart, 10/ Davy Sanders/Luc Rostingt
Overall Result – 1/ Vanluchene/Bax, 2/ Bax/Cermak, 3/Varik/Kunnas
Leading Standings – Bax/Cermak 117, Varik/Kunnas 113, Veldman 108
Van Werven 95, Vanluchene 79, Wilkinson 74
Full standings are available on the WSC website
The next round comes from Lange Estonia in one weeks’ time where battle for the 2022 title will resume.
From Barry Nutley