Bax goes for title number two on home territory
This coming weekend (16-17 September) sees the conclusion of a fourteen round war of attrition in which men and machines have been tested to the utmost in the FIM World Sidecar-Cross Championship.
Add to that the many thousands of kilometres travelled from country to country, with several back-to-back Grands Prix, and you can see what I mean about attrition.
Whilst three crews in particular have shone brightly throughout the season, we have seen the emergence of new young talent, the growth and maturity of existing campaigners, and some down-right gutsy performances by so-called “underdogs”.
Whilst traditionally, the sport has been the domain of the Dutch, Belgians and Latvians in recent years, there is evidence that other nations could well feature strongly in the seasons ahead.
Current runner-up, and one of only two title contenders going into the finale, is the Frenchman Valentin Giraud who, with his Latvian passenger Elvijs Mucenieks, has been right in the thick of the hunt all season, with his blistering speed. On his day, we have seen that the others have no answer to him, and he leaves them all in his wake.
His Achilles heel has been reliability, and his inconsistent starting technique. But for these two factors, he would certainly be in a stronger position, if not leading the series.
The same cannot be said of the holders of the red plate for most of the year, Etienne Bax and Nicolas Musset. The Dutch/French duo have been regular fast starters, with results and the title lead to show for it. They can certainly talk the talk, but also walk the walk, as their position shows.
It is not by coincidence they arrive on home soil with a firm grasp on the championship lead. Even two mediocre rides will give them their second World Championship.
Third in the table sits ten times World Champion Daniel Willlemsen, who with Robbie Bax has once again demonstrated his vast experience gleaned from top level racing over nearly two decades.
Mathematically, he could still finish runner-up, but it would need a very bad day for Giraud for that to happen.
However, where the fire is well and truly burning, is in the next four places. Just thirteen points fall between the group, and recent races around this part of the standings have been fierce in the extreme.
Britons Stuart Brown and Joe Millard lead a group from three other nations, all seeking the coveted fourth place.
Brown, as the incumbent, is starkly aware of his tenuous hold on the slot, just five points ahead of the Czech Cermak brothers Tomas and Ondrej. They have been getting faster and faster as the season unfolded.
They in turn, are just seven points in front of the Latvians Janis Daiders and 2015 world champion passenger Kaspars Stupelis.
Just one solitary point adrift of them comes the dynamic young Dutchman Koen Hermans, who on home soil will be fancying his chances over the other three.
There is no doubt that in the deep sand of The Netherlands, the local crews are immensely strong, but at this level of International competition, there is not one crew out there not capable of delivering a fast race.
At the end of play on Sunday, we will have a new Champion in a series which has captured the imagination of us all, and has seen far greater exposure in 2017 than ever before.
We will be there with an unprecedented amount of coverage, news, interviews and behind the scenes gossip.
As for me, I'll be back to basics camping in the International paddock just like the old days. And do you know what? I can't wait.