Bax and Vanluchene take one qualifier each in Gooik
The weather was set fair for the weekend, and the track looked to be a very straightforward circuit, carved out on a piece of agricultural land. It closely resembled any grassland track used in British Championship events decades ago.
That is not to say it would be easy, far from it. There were only a few jumps, and the speeds would certainly be high. Etienne Bax and Kaspars Stupelis were in a strong position going into this round, so would this weekend be kind or cruel to them?
Pre-qualifying – Early times from group “A” were slower than free practice, but mainly due to the watering on several of the turns. Bax and Stupelis looked impressive, as did Hermans and Wilkinson.
Group “B” and the track had dried considerably, with the times reflecting exactly that. Marvin Vanluchene and Ben Van Den Bogaart were faster than Bax in group “A”, so would keep the fight alive going into qualifying.
Qualifying Race Group “A” - This downland track was hard to pass on, so a good gate was essential. Sixteen crews meant that four would fight in Last Chance, but which four?
Stuart Brown and Josh Chamberlain had a flying start from a position to the right of Bax and Stupelis. They cut across the red plate holders and forged ahead into turn one.
Brett Wilkinson and Ryan Humphrey followed them past Bax and sat second on the opening lap.
Brown was very quick, and soon opened a three second gap from Bax, who fought past Wilkinson on lap three. The British crews were going well on this tight, twisty track, and Stuart Brown made life very difficult for Etienne Bax, who tried lap after lap to find a way past the energetic and experienced Briton.
Behind them, there was another fantastic scrap between Veldman/Janssens, the Italian/French Compalati/Chopin and Santermans/Beleckas. The veteran Belgian had a great start, and was in fourth for half the race before Veldman made a move over a downhill jump and took the place.
Koen Hermans and Nicolas Musset went out on lap two, and were destined for last chance, along with Gary Moulds and Bryan Anthony, who after a brilliant ride to seventh, were penalised for noise and dropped to fourteenth.
Bax and Stupelis pulled twelve seconds on Brown at the flag to ensure first pick of the gate tomorrow.
Result – 1/ Bax/Stupelis, 2/ Brown/Chamberlain, 3/ Wilkinson/Humphrey,
4/ Veldman/Janssens, 5/ Santermans/Beleckas, 6/ Compalati/Chopin,
7/ Keuben/Ven De Wiel, 8/Auvray/Lebreton, 9/ Hamard/Villaines, 10/ Wijers/Van der Putten
11/ Peter/Zatloukal, 12/ Ven Der Schraelen/Mans
Qualifying Race Group “B” - This was another absolute cracker, with the Cuche cousins from Switzerland dicing with Gert Van Werven/Kenny Van Gaalen for the lead into turn one.
Dierckens and Bax moved ahead early on, and looked set to triumph, but the Cuche cousins had the bit between their teeth, and had ideas about winning this one.
They hounded Dierckens, only to go ahead on lap three.
Marvin Vanluchene and Ben Van den Bogaart had a shocker, and were about eighth on lap one. Mixing it with Kert Varik/Lauris Daiders and Arne Dierckens/Robbie Bax, they had their work cut out. This was made harder with Jake Brown and Joe Millard fighting like trojans to claim place after place, to move into the lead.
This was not before Christophe and Maxime Cuche had shown they can ride with the best in the world, having held a strong position at the front, then second, and finally third.
Brown Junior was going away, and looked invincible, but Vanluchene had other ideas.
As Dierckens slowed on a tight bend, Gert Van Werven stalled and Varik got hooked up, Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart were through.
They then set after Brown and Millard race leaders, to eventually find a way past to open a decent lead. This they held to the flag.
The Swiss Cuches came home third after a terrific ride, and are looking good for super pair of races tomorrow.
Likewise, the confidence and ability of George Kinge and Lewis Gray has grown leaps and bounds this year. They were rewarded with sixth place after yet another great ride.
Result – 1/ Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart, 2/ Brown/Millard, 3/ Cuche/Cuche,
4/ Dierckens/Bax, 5/ Van Werven/Van Gaalen, 6/ Kinge/Gray,
7/ Van de Lagemaat/Van Haal, 8/ Keuben/Horton, 9/ Kops/De Laat, 10/ Boussy/Deschart,
11/ Foden/Bijenhof, 12/ Chanteloup/Kloos
Last Chance was a small affair of seven crews fighting over thirty minutes for the final six grid positions. Koen Hermans/Nicolas Musset and Kert Varik/Lauris Daiders were the big names at the head of the pack, along with Gary Moulds/Brian Anthony.
One team would be unlucky for race one at least, but which one would it be?
However, after Hermans and Musset put in a fast enough lap to save the day, their bike cried enough once more and they were out. They had done enough though to make it through to both GP races tomorrow.
Fastest were Varik and Daiders, but sadly the last place and a big crash fell to the Smit and Wisselink crew, who technically would not play, certainly in race one tomorrow.
Join us on the live stream for both GP races as they happen right here.
From Barry Nutley