Marvin Vanluchene and Robbie Bax taste first blood in Jinin
The atmosphere surrounding the return of world championship sidecar cross was simply electric. The teams and spectators alike had been starved of their favourite sport for too long, and that was reflected in the numbers who turned up at Jinin one hundred kilometres south of the Czech capital Prague.
Add to that a bumper entry list, live television across the entire weekend, and a holiday season in full swing, and the event was bound to be huge.
Thirty teams from seven nations had provisionally entered, with every crew theoretically certain of a starting place. This would change if more eager teams arrived, with thirty starters being the maximum allowed under the regulations.
The year away has seen many changes, not least of all between the teams, with rider and passenger pairings almost too numerous to mention. Those new names would very quickly become obvious as free practice and qualifying go underway.
The usual two groups of “A” and “B” were drawn, with the main difference being that the qualifying times would determine the gate for what would be the first of three actual GP races, and not a qualifying race as such.
Qualifying – Group “A” got underway prompt at mid-day with Etienne Bax and Nicolas Musset assuming early control. The strongest local challenge in this group appeared to come from Jan and Pavel Boukal, but the day was very young.
Gert van Werven and Ben Van Den Bogaart were looking very strong in the early stages, and clearly this partnership would be a good one.
The sole British crew, Jake Brown and Joe Millard were lurking top six, ahead of Adrian Peter, Fabian Hofman and Marco Heinzer. Bax/Musset did three laps and then sat tight to see what might unfold. Koen Hermans and Glenn Janssens ran them close to within two seconds, so things might change.
Bax/Musset went bout again and stayed top, assuring themselves of an early advantage with choice of gate position for race one. Hermans, Van Verwen and Justin Keuben followed them home, with Jake Brown seventh fastest.
Group “B” – The weather was already very warm with sun beating down as the second group began their quest for start positions.
Julian Veldman and Ondrej Cermak were very strong from the outset, as Marvin Vanluchene/Robbie Bax sat out the early laps to see if the watered track dried out.
When they got going, it was an inspired performance as you might expect from former champions. They immediately went top by two seconds, ahead of Veldman/Cermak and a very lively Kert Varik/Lari Kunnas. All eyes were now firmly on the first race scheduled for later in the day.
Race one – The moment everyone had been waiting months for had arrived. Thirty eager sidecar cross teams were poised and ready to resume the fight they left at the end of 2019. Who would be the champions at the end of this short season? Who would win the charge to the first turn here at Jinin? All was about to be revealed. The gate dropped and the race was on.
A flying start took Marvin Vanluchene/Ben Van Den Bogaart into a terrific lead from Julian Veldman/Ondrej Cermak and Etienne Bax/Nicolas Musset. Next came Lukas Cerny/Bastien Chopin. On lap two a huge roar from the crowd saw the local Czech/French crew of Cerny/Chopin into third place.
This battle at the front raged between Vanluchene, Bax and Veldman, as Cerny held his ground ahead of Gert Van Werven/Van den Bogaart and a charging Daniel Willemsen/Rodolphe Lebreton. There was strength in depth all the way down the field, as top-class crews scrapped for the vital points positions. Koen Hermans/Glenn Janssens, from a lowly start. had to work hard, and work they did. With ten minutes left on the clock, they were up to sixth place and showing their front wheel to Daniel Willemsen.
Into the closing stages, and things had settled at the front, with Jake Brown/Joe Millard having worked from twenty-fourth on lap one into twelfth with five minutes plus two laps remaining.
Into the final two laps, and it was status quo at the front, but Brown and Millard kept fighting, and claimed eleventh place at the flag.
Vanluchene/Bax’s performance was breath-taking and totally dominant.
Result – 1/ Vanluchene/Bax, 2/ Veldman/Cermak, 3/ Bax/Musset, 4/ Cerny/Chopin,
5/ Willemsen/Lebreton, 6/ Hermans/Janssens, 7/ Van Werven/Van Den Bogaart,
8/ Varik/Kunnas, 9/ Boukal/Boukal, 10/ Heinzer/Betschart, 11/ Brown/Millard.
Races two and three are tomorrow (Sunday) check the timings on this website