Bax and Stupelis retain the red plate with a maximum in Oldebroek
Once more the WSC crews were treated to fine and sunny conditions for what promised to be a sensational weekend of sidecar-cross racing. It was heart-warming to see the brave faces of Brett Wilkinson and Ryan Humphrey in the paddock as visitors, although they were desperately disappointed to have incurred serious injury so early in a new season. We at WSC wish them all speed in recovery, and a return to the action as soon as possible.
Morning warm-up showed that Etienne Bax and Kaspars Stupelis had lost nothing over the Sunday rest day, registering the fastest time. Marvin Vanluchene and Koen Hermans also joined them in sub-two minute laps.
This round was not only home ground for Gert van Werven, there was more. His family-owned recycling company were sponsors of the GP, so he for one would be keen to impress.
This was a very big day, and an important round. Corporate hospitality was much in evidence, as sidecar-cross has virtually become a Dutch national sport. In fairness, it's been that way for many years. The sheer size of the crown emphasised that fact, and they were basking in the beautiful sunshine.
It was a scene of huge anticipation when the gate dropped and the field charged to the first turn. Amazingly, from a steady qualifying but front row slot, Stuart Brown and Josh Chamberlain got to the corner first and grabbed the hole-shot, with Daniel Willemsen/Luc Rostingt and Valentin Giraud/Andres Haller for company.
Ten times Champion Willemsen moved ahead on lap one, but Brown kept Giraud at bay.
The Swiss Cuche brothers had a flyer, as did Jake Brown/Joe Millard. Davy Sanders, and the Italian Zeno Compalati were also close behind. At this stage, there was no sign up front of the series leaders. That - you just knew, would come.
Sure enough, Etienne Bax/Kaspars Stupelis were on a charge, and up to fifth on lap four. Vanluchene was less successful, but was in seventh behind Brown junior.
Arne Dierckens and Robbie Bax were making headway from the back row, whilst Julian Veldman was well bogged down in the traffic out of the points.
That too would change, as both began to move through. Another luminary having a bad day was Koen Hermans, well down the order and almost at the back – reason not known or given.
At the front, Willemsen was amazingly quick, with Giraud, having really mastered the sand in recent races, going with him. You would not bet against this Frenchman being world champion some day.
Further down the order, Kelly Debruyne crashed out, with Jens Mans looking a bit second-hand. Their race was over for, for the time being at any rate.
Eight laps in and Bax was up to second, from Giraud and Brown senior. Davy Sanders and Marvin Vanluchene were on his heels and closing.
Veldman was now eleventh, Dierckens thirteenth just ahead of Hermans/Musset charging hard.
A fastest lap from Bax drew him closer to Willemsen the race leader, and the Dutch crowd were on their feet watching two legends of the sport trade blows in the ring.
Giraud in third began to slip back towards Stuart Brown, who is another veteran more than capable of beating the sand meisters at their own game. He must have sensed third place was on again here.
Then, Bax/Stupelis were ahead and the writing was on the wall. They were going like a train and quickly opened a gap back to Willemsen.
Approaching the thirty minute mark, and it was Bax's to lose, with Vanluchene in sixth and struggling to find a way past Davy Sanders/Lari Kunnas.
Shortly after, he and Ben Van Den Bogaart made it past both Sanders and Brown, so now they were in fourth. It had been a hard slog for them, but there was much at stake.
Mention has to be made of Michael Hodges and Scott Grahame who had a really strong ride, ahead of Jake Brown, and in the top ten going into the closing stages.
Race One Result
1/ Bax/Stupelis, 2/ Willemsen/Rostingt, 3/ Giraud/Haller, 4/ Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart,
5/ Sanders/Kunnas, 6/ Brown/Chamberlain, 7/ Veldman/Janssens, 8/ Hermans/Musset
9/ Cuche.Cuche, 10/ Hodges/Grahame
The ambient temperature had gone up a notch or two, and it was about to get even hotter on-track. This would be a tough race. Down went the gate and Stuart Brown did it again. Whatever worked for him and Josh Chamberlain in race one, they repeated it. However, just as before, Daniel Willemsen and Luc Rostingt took control on the opening lap.
Both Vanluchene and Bax were right in the mix this time vying for second place, and they both relegated Stuart Brown to fourth on lap two. The Swiss Cuche boys were again brilliant ahead of Dierckens, Varik and Hermans. They in turn headed Davy Sanders.
Vanluchene had given away seven points to Bax in race one and he wanted them back.
Left on the line, but going after the entire field were Michael Hodges and Scott Grahame. They'd had a taste of glory and wanted more. By lap three they were closing in on a points scoring position.
On lap five Bax/Stupelis were ahead, with Vanluchene desperate to get past Willemsen to join them. Valentin Giraud conversely, had an appalling start and was working hard in fourteenth place after six laps.
Brown held a good fourth, with an eight second cushion back to Arne Dierckens/Robbie Bax. Koen Hermans then moved ahead of Dierckens and looked intent on closing down Brown for that vital fourth place. Giraud was steadily hauling his way through, and on lap eight was eleventh behind Jake Brown/Joe Millard.
Half-distance and Bax was in control at the front with another fastest lap, but Vanluchene was all over Willemsen. It seemed only a matter of time, but the old warhorse Willemsen was proving to be a tough nut to crack.
Lap ten, and Vanluchene was in front. The red plate was ahead of him, and if things stayed the way they were, it would remain with Bax and Stupelis going to Kramolin
Hermans, Veldman and Dierckens were fifth, sixth and seventh in that order, with Giraud now up to tenth.
Three-quarter distance and Bax was superlative, with a twenty-five second lead over Marvin and Ben. Stuart Brown had second wind and was looking to go past Willemsen for third. If he'd had wing mirrors, he would have seen Koen Hermans coming, and Hermans nailed Brown's fourth place on lap thirteen. Hermans then smelt Willemsen, and he was going for him big-time into the closing stages.
Julian Veldman was another to get the better of the Brown/Chamberlain outfit as the young sand revellers made the most of home ground. Brown's position was looking precarious with two or three more fast men on his case, but he held on. Last lap and it was all to play for. Bax was home and dry, and we had seen a great fight through the field by all the young guns from the low countries.
Race Two result
1/ Bax/Stupelis, 2/ Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart, 3/ Willemsen/Rostingt
4/ Hermans/Musset, 5/Veldman/Janssens, 6/ Brown/Chamberlain, 7/ Dierckens/Bax
8/ Sanders/Kunnas, 9/ Giraud/Haller, 10/Brown/Millard
All the latest news and updates are to be found here on www.fimsidecarcross.com with the one-hour highlights show to follow very shortly.
Round four comes from Kramolin in the Czech Republic, with LIVE coverage all weekend.
From Barry Nutley