Saturday morning following the big paddock party on Friday night dawned bright and sunny. This weather was set for the entire weekend, with a super attendance for the event guaranteed. Free practice confirmed everything we had suspected about the track, and no-one was disappointed. The going was perfect, and the two groups of seventeen teams appeared completely at ease in the sunshine. Once again, a large Latvian band of Lielbardis supporters were armed with their flags and banners, prepared to add their voices to the overall din. Early indications produced a good lap time of around 2.10.00. We could expect this to come down considerably once qualifying got underway.
Timed Practice – Just fifteen teams took to the track for Group “A”, as two had been eliminated by crashes or mechanical issues in free practice. At this rate, all entrants would qualify for the two GP races tomorrow. First though, there were two qualifying races today which would determine the grid positions for those races. The Prunier brothers were fast, as were Vanluchene/Musset and Hermans/Van den Bogaart. Sanders, Lielbardis and Heinzer were all sniffing around the same lap time, so those teams would all be in the hunt. With five minutes remaining, Hermans and Vanluchene both found two seconds, jumping ahead of Prunier and Heinzer.
Group “B” took to a freshly watered track, so no-one was particularly keen to get going early. They had thirty minutes to find the fast lap, so there was no hurry. When they did begin, it was Brett Wilkinson and Joe Millard setting the early standard from Dan Foden/Ryan Humprey.
At half distance, Bax and Cermak were out on track but not pushing. They were obviously biding their time. Sure enough, with seven minutes left, they found a 2.06.319 to go top. Right at the end, they improved that with a 2.04.798 ahead of occasional visitors to the series, Benny Weiss and Patrick Schneider.
Dan Foden nudged Keuben and Lebreton back to fourth fastest.
Qualifying Race Group “A” – The far right of the start gate gave Marco Heinzer/Reudi Betschart the perfect start and hole shot. They led from Tobias Blank/Justin Blume with Koen Hermans/Ben Van Den Bogaart next up chased by Vanluchene/Musset. Then came Sanders/Rostingt and the Prunier boys, who did not get away as they might have hoped. The pace of Heinzer/Betschart was immense and they opened a strong lead, aware Hermans was coming.
The German team in second spot were soon caught by Hermans, but were still running at a fast pace, along with the Lielbardis twins.
On lap six, Hermans was in front with Sanders and Prunier neck and neck fighting for third spot. The new race leader had set the fastest lap on lap five to muscle his way past the Swiss early leaders. Five crews were now in the third- place fight with six seconds covering them all.
On lap eight, Herman’s lead was thirteen seconds from Heinzer, with Vanluchene bogged down in fourth place, seemingly unable to improve.
There was nothing between the young guns Prunier and Lielbardis, locked together and fighting for national pride.
Blank/Blume made the most of their early laps, holding a solid seventh place. At that moment, Lielbardis claimed the scalp of Prunier and closed on Sanders/Rostingt, only to lose out to Vanluchene as he moved third.
This was a hard-fought race in tough conditions, but Hermans showed his speed and class to take an impressive victory.
Result - 1/Hermans/Van Den Bogaart, 2/Heinzer/Betschart, 3/Vanluchene/Musset, 4/Lielbardis/Lielbardis, 5/Sanders/Rostingt, 6/Prunier/Prunier, 7/Blank/Blume, 8/Van De Lagemaat/Van Hal, 9/Hurkmans/Bax, 10/Wisselink/Vincent.
Qualifying Race Group “B” – This would be another hot one, and from the gate it was almost a Tim Prummer/Jarno Steegmans benefit, but sliding round the outside to pip them to the place were Dan Foden/Ryan Humphrey from Brett Wilkinson/Joe Millard. Etienne Bax/Ondrej Cermak sat fourth with intent. Two laps later they were up to second place behind the flying British crew of Foden/Humphrey. Prummer and Steegmans had Wilkinson for company and the writing was on the wall with the track suiting left-handed sidecars. Mike Keuben/Zak Snell had been upended off the line and were fighting from last place to salvage something. Lap six and Bax was in the lead, equalling Koen Herman’s fastest lap time from group “A”. Foden was certainly not disgraced, and he maintained a fast pace to stay ahead of Prummer and Wilkinson. Weiss/Schneider sat fifth ahead of Justin Keuben/Rodolphe Lebreton.
Some seconds behind them came Gert Van Werven in what he has said will be his final season. His presence at GP’s will be missed. Compatriot Stephan Wijers was next behind Gert.
Still Dan Foden held second, but Wikinson had made it past Prummer and was hunting down his British rival. This pair have just finished first and second in the British Championship with Wilkinson/Millard crowned champions.
Nine laps gone and Wilkinson was on the back wheel of Foden as Bax/Cermak eked out a twelve second lead. Keuben was becoming increasingly frustrated by a rapid Weiss/Schneider without an answer for the Austrian pairing.
Closing stages and Wilkinson was indeed into second place and that was how it finished, with Bax twelve seconds clear and running as fast as Hermans.
Prummer stole third from Foden on the final lap. Tomorrow’s GP races will be a close call indeed.
Result – 1/Bax/Cermak, 2/Wilkinson/Millard, 3/Prummer/Steegmans, 4/Foden/Humphrey, 5/Weiss/Schneider, 6/Keuben/Lebreton, 7/Van Werven/Van de Wiel, 8/Weinmann/Weimann, 9/Wijers/Van der Putten, 10/Hentrich/Lenz
With two GP races tomorrow and the title coming to a close, the suspense is palpable, so stay with us to keep up with all the news as it happens along with updated standings here on www.fimsidecarcross.com and all our social media platforms.
Despite the total gate numbers being borderline, the Last Chance was run giving the lower teams the opportunity to fight for the final six places plus the reserve spots. Eight teams went to the line to decide gate position by registering one fast lap.
Result – 1/Peter/Hoffmann, 2/Van Vaerenberg/Mans, 3/Girardin/Bessay, 4/Bonnet/Thamri, 5/Hengster/Jahn, 6/Reipen/Van Dommelen,
From Barry Nutley