2019 season promises to be fight to the end, and we are only at the half-way stage.
Seven rounds of this year's fourteen are now behind us, and we have seen five different winners, with Etienne Bax and Kaspars Stupelis towering above the rest with six victories. This is in complete contrast with this time last year, when they were trailing significantly with crashes and injury problems.
Despite Marvin Vanluchene and Ben Van Den Bogaart having only scored one victory in the mud of Kramolin, they are well placed in second spot. That is yet another indication of the amazing consistency of their performance so far.
Even with the heavy crash which ruled them out of the Plomion second race late into the action, they were actually credited with nineteenth place and earned a couple of points. They have therefore scored in every single race to date.
I have been very impressed with several of the crews who, whilst not winning races, have given a good account of themselves from the moment the gate drops.
One of those is the Belgian/Finnish pairing of Davy Sanders and Lari Kunnas. They have time and time again gated well, and maintained their race pace throughout.
That strong performance has earned them the astonishingly good position of fourth in the standings at this the half-way stage. I for one, would not be surprised to see them emerge in the near future as race winners.
Another crew who have shown what they are capable of is the Italian/French duo of Zeno Compalati and Bastien Chopin. They sit ninth after a series of good starts and hard rides earned them consistent scores.
Behind them, just eight points adrift, is the big, bearded Gert Van Werven. He and Peter Beunk have more than shown they can hold their own regardless of the type of going.
Whilst sandy tracks could be considered their speciality, they have raised a few eyebrows with persistent speed and brave jumps on hard packed tracks.
In eighth, ahead of Compalati, sit another team who charge hard from the word go and have earned a podium this year already. Kert Varik and Lauris Daiders wave the flag for Estonia and Latvia with gusto, and are recognised as hard men who fight to the end. They have given their all, and entertain in every single Grand Prix.
Working backwards up the table we arrive at seventh place for Valentin Giraud and Andres Haller. Two victories have been something of a reward for their riding ability and outright speed, but sadly they have been hampered with mechanical issues affecting their overall results. Yes there have been podium spots, but they are capable of so much more, and I welcome that improvement. There has never been a French World Champion, and there is no doubt that Giraud is the best bet for years.
Stuart Brown and Josh Chamberlain in sixth at the mid-point of the season are by far the leading left-hand sidecar and strongest British crew once again. A double retirement with of all things, punctures in France, seriously dented their position, but Brown is renowned for never giving up. Now into the twilight of an International career, he has been a tremendous ambassador for the sport at home and abroad. Can he improve further up the table, I would say yes for sure.
The “holeshot king” is Arne Dierckens – he is fifth with fourteen races gone, and he and Robbie Bax are fast, very fast. Still recovering from knee surgery in the closed season, Dierckens is still building to full fitness and when that happens, watch out.
Into the top three, and apart from the two vying for the top spot, there is a dark horse.
Koen Hermans and Nicolas Musset have taken four victories, and took Kivioli by storm.
Hard-pack or sand tracks, they are fast everywhere, and are lurking right behind Vanluchene waiting to pounce. If they sort their reliability problems, they are potential champions.
The second half of the season will be gripping stuff, and I for one cannot wait to see who emerges top of the heap in the sand of round eight in Markelo.
Make sure you stay with us through the rest of the season, because it is going to be phenomenal .
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From Barry Nutley