Sunday morning warm-up was the first sighting of the Lange track for the two French latecomers, and that was all they would get before the gate dropped for race one. The temperature had cooled significantly since yesterday with overnight rain settling both the weather and the track. It was in near-perfect condition ahead of the two races. There was universal sympathy for young Julian Veldman who was beginning his recovery in hospital with a broken collarbone and the added complication of a punctured lung. Glenn Janssens, Julian’s passenger was very sad and downbeat about the way things had turned out. That crash had certainly placed a renewed focus on title opportunities for Gert van Werven and Marvin Vanluchene.
Additionally. Justin Keuben would not race, as his stand-in passenger for the weekend Kostas Beleckas broke his wrist in qualifying. This was a weekend to forget for many of the teams, but the crowd was big and enthusiastic.
Race One – There is nothing to make the hairs on the back of your neck more than a full grid of sidecars thundering into turn one, inches apart.
Etienne Bax got the holeshot chased by Marvin Vanluchene and Kert Varik.
Amazingly, Koen Hermans/Nicolas Musset lined up behind Bax/Cermak and slotted into fourth. Gert van Werven held fifth with another great start by Heinzer/Betschart placing them next. Lap two and Vanluchene/Bax were in front, determined to score big points, and uplifted by overall victory in Lommel. The top four were easing away from van Werven with a real battle going on behind between Brett Wilkinson/Joe Millard and Daniel Willemsen/Rodolphe Lebreton. Seven laps completed saw Hermans right on the back wheel of Varik/Kunnas with local support very vocal for the Estonian. The next lap and Varik had found something from somewhere. He was within touching distance of Etienne Bax/Ondrej Cermak and meant business. Then he was past the championship leader and stealing three points from him.
Next lap and he had closed on Marvin Vanluchene with the crowd and local commentator going mad. After twenty minutes of racing, Vanluchene had pulled away a slight lead. Still Varik/Kunnas hung in there, knowing they were ahead of Etienne Bax/Ondrej Cermak, and therefore improving the title situation. Hermans/Musset dropped away in fourth, but Gert van Werven was simply not close enough to capitalise. Then sensationally, Kert Varik was in the lead much to the acclaim of the crowd. With Bax in third, Varik moved into the title lead and that was going down very well with everyone here in Estonia. After a bad start, young Britons Dan Foden and Nathan Cooper were up to twelfth with compatriots Wilkinson/Millard eighth. At the flag, Kert Varik and Lari Kunnas took victory and the series lead.
Result – 1/ Kert Varik/Lari Kunnas, 2/ Marvin Vanluchene/Robbie Bax,
3/ Etienne Bax/Ondrej Cermak, 4/ Koen Hermans/Nicolas Musset,
5/ Gert van Werven/Ben Van Den Bogaart, 6/ Gert Gordejev/Kaspars Stupelis, 7/ Brett Wilkinson/Joe Millard, 8/ Tanel Reesna/Sten Niitsoo
Race Two – Kert Varik/Lari Kunnas actually took the holeshot but were passed on the run to turn two by Etienne Bax/Ondrej Cermak. Bax must have thought after race one, that he needed to push hard early on and that is what he set about doing. Marvin Vanluchene/Robbie Bax were third from Koen Hermans and Gert van Werven.
On lap three, Bax’s lead was seven seconds, with Varik, Vanluchene and Hermans fighting for the same piece of track. It was very close for second place. Daniel Willemsen was sixth, followed by Marco Heinzer and Brett Wilkinson.
Six laps in and Varik again slowly improved his times, taking a couple of seconds out of the defending champion. The race was run at a breath-taking pace, certainly at the front, and even Gert van Werven was left behind as the top four teams fought. He was having a lonely race but in a good points position.
Half-distance and Bax/Cermak were holding a strong lead but not exactly running away with it. After a hiccup which saw them briefly down on thirteenth, Dan Foden and Nathan Cooper improved to tenth, taking them past a troubled Brett Wilkinson/Joe Millard. They crashed hard on a jump whilst moving to sixth place and were out after eight laps. Marco Heinzer collided with the fallen British crew, and Davy Sanders ran into the carnage.
Wilkinson was dazed but not seriously injured and after a medical check over, went to his motorhome to rest.
The battle at the front was about the same two, with Bax looking more settled this time around. Koen Hermans, who had forgotten to wear his goggles, causing Nicolas to run back for them before the start, was stalking Marvin Vanluchene eager to grab a better finish.
With two minutes before the two-lap board, Varik seemed to have no reply for Bax this time, although if he finished in second place he would win the GP overall.
With three laps to go, the gap was closed to four seconds. Was a repeat of race one about to happen? Bax seemed to pull the pin again and set about securing victory.
As everyone celebrated Varik’s overall win, the result was turned on its head by the FIM. A jury meeting supported by video footage determined that Etienne Bax had not slowed sufficiently and had overtaken on a yellow flag when approaching the Wilkinson crash area. Despite vehement protests and after studying the footage himself with the stewards, he still maintained his innocence. The jury overruled his opinion and imposed a ten-position penalty, thereby losing him fifteen points. Varik now becomes the new series leader and red plate holder.
Result – 1/ Varik/Kunnas, 2/ Vanluchene/Bax, 3/ Hermans/Musset, 4/ van Werven/Van Den Bogaart, 5 Van der Lagemaat/de Veene,
6/ Gordejev/Stupelis, 7/ Reesna/Niitsoo, 8/ Willemsen/Lebreton,
9/ Foden/Cooper, 10/ Wijers/Van Der Putten, 11/ Bax/Cermak.
The usual TV highlights show will be aired shortly across all the contracted broadcast outlets, with regular bulletins and updates on social media and the website. Stay across www.fimsidecarcross.com for the news as it unfolds.
From Barry Nutley