The party atmosphere spilled over into race day with hordes of spectators converging on the track in the morning sunshine. The Rudersberg organisers certainly know how to put a major event on, with all the razzamatazz we could expect for such an occasion.
Romaric Chanteloup’s passenger Bastien Chopin broke both wrists in their massive crash yesterday, and the flag-marshal who was also hit, was discharged from hospital overnight with mild concussion. Chanteloup himself is nursing a heavily strapped leg but was here trackside.
British crew Lee Foyle and Dan Phelps were also out after crashing yesterday, both with back injuries and heavy bruising. This track is fast and tough in the extreme, and added to the hot weather, would be a massive challenge.
Warm Up – The two names at the top of the standings headed the times in the morning, with the track in good shape and ready to go. Etienne Bax and Marvin Vanluchene were both aware of the significance of this penultimate round, so could only do their very best. All the other main contenders were fired up and going well.
Dan Foden’s passenger Ryan Humprey had been cleared to ride following his dehydration and complete exhaustion yesterday resulting in a trip to hospital.
They circulated steadily but still affected with vision problems, Ryan decided wisely to rest up and miss the races.
Race One – The heat was on and the tension high as the gate dropped. Amazingly, it was that man Tim Prummer once again who thumped his KTM off the line, leading into turn one. Vanluchene/Musset were on his tail followed by Hermans/Van Den Bogaart and Wilkinson/Millard.
Bax/Cermak were eighth into turn one and set about the recovery plan. On this track, making up places would not be easy, but they worked at it.
Vanluchene did not take long to go ahead of Prummer with Heinzer/Betschart behind Wilkinson, with the left sidecars working well.
Four laps in, and Bax had fought past Heinzer to get on the back wheel of Wilkinson who in turn was now fourth behind Hermans.
Out front, Vanluchene was reeling off fast lap after fast lap with Bax/Cermak now up to third place some fifteen seconds adrift of Hermans/van Den Bogaart.
Still Tim Prummer/Jarno Steegmans kept Wilkinson/Millard at bay, with the British crew desperate to find a way past. There was a four-way scrap here with Wilkinson, Heinzer and the Lielbardis brothers line astern and split by three seconds.
Lap nine and Koen Hermans was on a charge, posting a fastest lap getting him close to the race leaders and looking to pass. Hermans was absolutely flying, and the move looked inevitable.
Further back, Wilkinson was fighting off his Lielbardis rivals for fourth place in the race and the standings. In eighth place now sat Killian and Evan Prunier who had also posted a very quick lap. Lielbardis eventually squeezed by Wilkinson/Millard to go fourth and move within thirteen points of the British team.
The heat and pace were beginning to tell on these immensely fit athletes, but still they fought tooth and nail at the front and all the way down the field.
Koen Hermans relentless pressure paid dividends as he moved into the lead on lap thirteen, with Marvin Vanluchene safe in second place eighteen seconds ahead of Etienne Bax. That was all he needed to do, and he was managing the gap. This was also a great display by Hermans/Van Den Bogaart consolidating third in the title chase still further, and boosting their confidence for race two.
From the blistering start, Tim Prummer had run into trouble with a stationary outfit late in the race, dropping him out of the top ten on the final lap to finish just ahead of his compatriots the Weinmann brothers.
Result – 1/Hermans/Van den Bogaart, 2/Vanluchene/Musset, 3/Bax/Cermak, 4/Lielbardis/Lielbardis, 5/Wilkinson/Millard, 6/Heinzer/Betschart, 7/Keuben/Lebreton, 8/Prunier/Prunier, 9/Van Werven/Van de Wiel, 10/Wijers/Van Der Putten.
Race Two – Another race of attrition awaited the field on this very tough track. Many passengers had blistered hands and felt totally exhausted after race one, so this would be an even harder test.
Down went the gate and the chase was on. Koen Hermans was neck and neck with Prummer/Steegmans approaching turn one, with Vanluchene and Musset just ahead of Bax/Cermak. Seconds after, Vanluchene was in the lead from Hermans and Bax. Sadly, for Prummer, his KTM shed a sprocket and chain at the end of the opening lap, so his day was done.
Bax knew what he must do to keep his hopes alive and on lap three he moved into second behind Vanluchene.
Wilkinson and Millard moved ahead of Keuben/Lebreton to grab fourth, way ahead of their rivals the Lielbardis brothers who were down in eleventh at this point.
Bax now had the bit between his teeth with a fastest lap and closing hard on Vanluchene. Hermans had a mechanical problem dropping him to fifth, promoting Wilkinson to third place. Six laps done, and Bax was shadowing Vanluchene at the front with Wilkinson/Millard fifteen seconds behind in third ahead of Killian and Evan Prunier.
Marco Heinzer moved past Keuben into sixth place behind Hermans who seemingly could not find his race one speed. Gert Van Werven was having a fine ride, also relegating Keuben as the big Dutchman moved into seventh place.
Still Bax/Cermak pressed Vanluchene, going ahead on lap seven to redress some of the points deficit. Wilkinson was too far back in third to assist, but he would have been very happy with that position.
The Bax/Cermak machine was back in business, but ice-cool Vanluchene was containing the problem.
Still Wilkinson/Millard held a fine third place, and this they must protect because Lielbardis was up to seventh and riding fast. Etienne Bax and Ondrej Cermak were on target to take the overall GP victory, but still adrift from Marvin in the standings. That was how it finished, with Wilkinson/Millard holding a brilliant third place as Hermans once more moved into fourth.
Result – 1/ Bax/Cermak, 2/Vanluchene/Musset, 3/Wilkinson/Millard, 4/Hermans/Van Den Bogaart, 5/Lielbardis/Lielbardis, 6/Prunier/Prunier, 7/Heinzer/Betschart, 8/Sanders/Rostingt, 9/Keuben/Lebreton, 10/Van Werven/Van de Wiel.
Overall Podium – 1/Bax/Cermak, 2/Vanluchene/Musset, 3/Hermans/Van Den Bogaart.
Updated standings are available here on the website, and the TV Highlights show will be available later in the week, along with all the news as it happens here on www.fimsidecarcross.com with other snippets on all our social media platforms.
From Barry Nutley