Brown and Millard's Husqvarna fires a warning shot for tomorrow's Grands Prix and claims pole.
Just thirty crews made the long journey to The Ukraine, so there was no need for two groups. That meant that everyone would get to race, with a strong chance of gaining points.
There were no real surprises in free practice, with Etienne Bax/Kaspars Stupelis edging out the ace Daniel Willemsen, followed by Marvin Vanluchene's red plate. Giraud, Cermak,Varik and Brown were all on the same page, carrying on where they left off in Spain.
Qualifying ahead of tomorrow's two Grand Prix races was where it mattered, and due to the compact entry, pre-qualifying would be an early indicator of real performance. Etienne Bax, eager to make up lost ground, was in scintillating form as he headed the session from the early stages ahead of the red plated Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart, the Czech Cermak brothers and Valentin Giraud/Johnny Badaire.
Daniel Willemsen/Robbie Bax came strong deeper into the session, and quickly leapt up the field to third behind Vanluchene. Bax/Stupelis were the only crew to dip below one minute fifty seconds on lap eight, thus ensuring pole position for the single qualifying race.
Twenty-nine crews therefore, headed for the line to do battle for grid positions, with two local Ukranian teams bringing up the rear. There had been a slight delay with timing issues, so the tension was all the greater between the crews.
When the gate dropped the old favourites were to the fore in spectacular surroundings. The Bukovyna Cognita track, the only Ukranian motocross circuit homologated by the FIM for world class competition, has a variety of climbs, drops and scary jumps. There are some eighteen twists and turns in just one lap, making this track exceptionally technical.
Daniel Willemsen and Robbie Bax led the charge followed by Vanluchene, Brown and Giraud in very close company. On lap two Brown was up to second place, Giraud third and Vanluchene down to fourth. Etienne Bax was once again fighting up from a shocking start, giving himself plenty to do in tenth position.
Lap five, and the Brown/Millard pair were by Willemsen, and took the lead to great excitement. Sadly, Valentin Giraud with his stand-in passenger was out with four laps completed. The Husqvarna four-stroke was flying, and the leaders began to ease ahead, with Bax/Stupelis now up to seventh on lap eight.
With nine laps gone, Bax was up to fifth, but some twenty-two seconds adrift of the race leaders Brown/Millard. The British crew were reeling off fast laps in succession, and looking very good indeed, with a gap back to Willemsen and Vanluchene of over thirteen seconds. This scrap would go down to the wire with Bax lurking in fourth.
Valentin Giraud was out early, so he was heading for row two in the Grands Prix races for points.
From Barry Nutley