Bax and Stupelis take Stelpe Qualifying for prime spot tomorrow
As the season moved into its final third, the teams converged on the immaculate Stelpe Mototrase complex in gloriously hot weather conditions, for what would be a pivotal GP for many of the teams.
There were notable absentees, as the attrition rate has been unusually high this season. Davy Sanders and Lari Kunnas were both out for the the season recovering from injury. Daniel Willemsen was still suffering from his passenger woes. Gert Can Werven's broken ankle kept him out, and of course the desperately sad situation with Valentin Giraud has ensured his ongoing absence from the paddock.
Kelly Debruyne decided to sit this one out on financial grounds, but the fair sex was represented by the flame-haired Estonian Katrin Poldma, with her brother Patrick in charge of the third wheel.
Nonetheless, with thirty crews lining up, there was a full grid without the extra test of Last Chance.
Pre-qualifying – The dramatic nature of the track made for entertaining timed practice, and a few of the top crews were really flying high in their quest for the prime pick of the gate.
Group “A” and Etienne Bax/Kaspars Stupelis showed the way, although Stuart Brown's Proseal/Cradley Husqvarna was only one second behind and looking very strong.
Group “B” saw Marvin Vanluchene and Ben Van Den Bogaart dominate, from Arne Dierckens/Robbie Bax and Varik/Daiders.
The qualifying races would be frantic at the front with fortune favouring the brave on these huge and plentiful jumps.
Qualifying Group “A” – Etienne Bax broke with tradition and got an absolute flyer of a start from the inside, and far left line from the gate.
He simply had to, because the extreme left, whilst the shorter line to the corner, was open to being boxed in. Once ahead, he and Kaspars never looked back, and simply galloped away, setting fast lap after fast lap.
They were to bring it home with a forty-four second victory margin ahead of a race-long
scrap between Jake Brown/Joe Millard, and a recovering Koen Hermans/Nicolas Musset. Last year's number two had stalled in a tight corner and had to fight from eighth on lap two. Third place was as far as they could advance.
Early on, Zeno Compalati and Bastien Chopin held a strong second place, then third, then bit by bit they were overhauled by a charging Brett Wilkinson/Ryan Humphrey and Stuart Brown/Josh Chamberlain.
The latter pair had been running hard behind Brown Junior for several early laps, but could find no way past.
Another crew starting well and causing problems at the front were Christophe Cuche and Brian Anthony. They too dropped back, finishing just ahead of a spirited ride by George Kinge and Lewis Gray.
In this sort of form, it's hard to see anyone having an answer for the Bax/Stupelis machine.
Result – 1/ Bax/Stupelis, 2/ Brown/Millard, 3/ Hermans/Musset, 4/ Wilkinson/Humphrey,
5/ Brown/Chamberlain, 6/ Compalati/Chopin, 7/ Cuche/Anthony, 8/ Kinge/Gray,
9/ Lindgren/Tynnila, 10/ Boukal/Boukal
Qualifying Race Two – As the gate dropped, it was yet another hole-shot by the astonishing Arne Dierckens and Robbie Bax. They gained momentun along the start straight and just slotted round ahead of Justin Keuben/Pascal Leutenneger, and Kert Varik/Lauris Daiders.
Keuben then rode his heart out with a temporary passenger, and caused all manner of trouble for Marvin Vanluchene/Ben Van Den Bogaart who had a good start, but found themselves scrapping for a top three place.
Keuben proved a stubborn obstacle, and lap after lap he repelled attacks from Vanluchene, Varik and Julian Veldman. The number five crew were making up ground from a sluggish start, but as with Stuart Brown in the earlier race, they were frustrated by traffic, and unable to make all the moves they needed to do.
This proved to be the focus of the race, with positions swapping constantly.
Eventually Veldman/Janssens made it through to third, but too far back to pose a threat to the leaders.
Kristof Santermans and Kostas Beleckas were quietly making progress and were to claim sixth place behind a slowing Keuben.
At the front it was Dierckens all the way, with Vanluchene trying all he knew to get past, but it was to no avail.
Can Arne Dierckens be a match for Etienne Bax tomorrow? Only time will tell.
Result – 1/ Dierckens/bax, 2/ Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart, 3/ Veldman/Janssens,
4/ Varik/Daiders, 5/ Keuben/Leutenneger, 6/ Santermans/Beleckas, 7/ Normak,Kasesalu,
8/ Rodionov/Lina, 9/ Hroch/Hroch, 10/ Jegorovs/Jegorovs
Make sure you join us on the live stream for the two GP races tomorrow.
From Barry Nutley