Daniel Willemsen and Robbie Bax are back – overall victory in Strassbessenbach and maximum points.
There was so much hanging on this round in Germany, the tension could be felt across the paddock. If the series leaders Marvin Vanluchene and Ben Van Den Bogaart were nervous, it certainly did not show in morning warm-up. The young Belgian looked calm, and as much in control as ever.
With a sixty-six point lead in the standings, he could almost afford to relax in the two races, but that is not the nature of sidecar-cross, and once the gate goes down, it's always “game on”. An impressive crowd lined the track and covered the hill. Whilst Germany does not have a current superstar in the sport of sidecar-cross, it boasts the first ever world champion in the late Reinhard Bohler, and still has a strong national and international following.
Race One – Heavy watering had turned parts of the track into a slippery quagmire ahead of the start, and the first chicane was a potential bottleneck. The start is vital at this track, and Veldman's qualifying form was borne out as he and Glenn Janssens took a flyer into the lead. Daniel Willemsen and Robbie Bax slotted into second, with Giraud and Vanluchene third and fourth. Etienne Bax, whilst not brilliant, was in sixth and looking strong, as Willemsen moved into the lead, only to have Julian Veldman return the compliment moments later.
Koen Hermans had not been so lucky, and he and Nicolas Musset were down in sixteenth after three laps. They had much to do, but would not disappoint. A tangle at turn two from the start had given several good crews problems, so those teams unusually low in the order had good reason.
The battle at the front though, was very close, with just four seconds splitting the top five crews. Daniel Willemsen again went ahead and began to open a gap from Veldman, with Etienne Bax charging hard to get on terms with the sharp end. Stuart Brown and Joe Millard were one of those teams having an absolute shocker, as they were down in twenty-third on lap four, in company with Arne Dierckens and Luc Rostingt. Giraud/Badaire were looking very good in third, and threatened to grab second from Veldman, thereby putting him between themselves and Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart.
Then suddenly, Brown/Millard were out, and Brown's son Jake with Zac Snell made the most of their good start to stay in the top twenty. Koen Hermans by this time had fought to ninth place behind Brett Wilkinson/Dan Chamberlain, and was now showing his front wheel to the British pair. Ten laps gone and Etienne Bax was looking for a way past the championship leader Vanluchene, who whilst fast, was not showing the dominance we have come to expect from him.
Valentin Giraud on the other hand was getting second wind. This track suited him and Johnny Badaire, and they still had eyes for second place. Everyone had the same problem in trying to pass. The lines were few, and it took a brave lunge by Hermans to get by Brett Wilkinson into eight place. At the front, Bax was on Vanluchene, and given his incentive and just two laps remaining, needed to make the pass. Daniel Willemsen and Robbie Bax celebrated victory from Veldman, Giraud, Vanluchene and Bax, with Koen Hermans recovering sensationally to sixth place.
Race Two – More watering could well introduce the early lap drama, so a good start became even more crucial. Vanluchene would be looking to stay out of trouble, and earn good points, just as he did in race one to extend his series lead. Willemsen and Bax got the holeshot from Veldman/Janssens and Stuart Brown/Joe Millard as the pack streamed off on lap one.
Arne Dierckens made no mistake this time and slotted into fourth ahead of Valentin Giraud and Etienne Bax. Koen Hermans was another who stayed out of trouble, but Marvin Vanluchene was not so lucky. On lap three, he and Ben Van Den Bogaart were down in twelfth place amid busy traffic. Willemsen's lead was around four seconds, whilst Etienne Bax was on the charge and up to fourth, having gone past Thomas/Van Der Putten the French/Dutch pairing. This was already better than Bax had finished in race one. Giraud was slipping backwards, almost into the clutches of an advancing Vanluchene, who was up to eighth on lap seven.
There was nothing between Dierckens, Bax and Hermans, so third place was up for grabs, as Vanluchene pressed to get by Giraud. They had both passed Thomas/Van Der Putten into sixth and seventh, with Koen Hermans ahead of them behind Etienne Bax. There was no doubting the superiority of Daniel Willemsen. The old master was in great form and twelve seconds clear into the final ten minutes. Bax was now up to third ahead of Dierckens, and Stuart Brown had dropped well out of contention.
Vanluchene was again riding with his head, safe in the knowledge that good points were all he needed. Two laps to go, and Willemsen had it sewn up apart from any final drama. An overall victory in Germany would taste very sweet indeed for the man who has had so much bad luck this year. Veldman closed to within two seonds at the flag, but second overall was a great result for him and Glenn Janssens.
From Barry Nutley