Etienne Bax and Daniel Willemsen top Kivioli qualifying ahead of round seven
Free practice on the sandy Kivioli track underlined the supremacy of Group “A” with Etienne Bax and Kaspars Stupelis in great form. Giraud and Badaire too were looking good ahead of the red plated Marvin Vanluchene and Ben Van Den Bogaart.
Brett Wilkinson and Dan Chamberlain, along with Willemsen and Bax, featured well, as did Koen Hermans and the Cermak brothers. Those appeared to be the men most likely from Group “B”. On home ground, Kert Varik and Lauris Daiders were also very quick to make their mark. Set in picturesque woodland, the track is well established as a world class venue with strong local spectator support. Despite neighbouring Latvia having enjoyed most of the Baltic glory over many seasons, the sport of sidecar cross has a loyal and vocal following in Estonia. Hence the crowd were bound to be fully behind Varik. The Estonian got to within a second and a half of Bax's time with more to come, whilst Daniel Willemsen surpassed it.
Pre-Qualifying – It was more of the same in Group “A” with Vanluchene taking control. They were looking for just the one quick lap to gain pole for the qualifying races.
Bax popped in a quick one on lap four and went ahead, but even then it would come down to the closing stages of the session. The top six were split by just two seconds, a firm indicator of things to come. With minutes remaining, Etienne Bax and Kaspars Stupelis had recorded a 1.54.214. Would that be enough? It was indeed, just ahead of Vanluchene and Giraud.
Group “B” and both Varik/Daiders and Willemsen were quickly in the groove. The multiple champion has had great success here in Estonia in the past, and you could see why. The injuries from Ukraine seemed well and truly behind him as he topped the table with ten minutes left on the clock. Koen Hermans and Nicolas Musset were also on the pace second quickest, so this was going to be a fast weekend. Finishing just outside Bax's time, Willemsen was looking very strong.
Group “A” with twelve places up for grabs, there was the usual tension ahead of the twenty-minute plus the extra laps. Only four crews would not make it through automatically. Bax/Stupelis led on lap one chased by Arne Dierckens and Luc Rostingt. Veldman/Janssens and Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart were next up and fighting. These four crews kept the heat on, but there was no sign as yet of the magical form we are accustomed to from the red plate of Vanluchene. Brown/Millard was down in seventh with Giraud/Badaire having had a torrid start in ninth. Two laps later the Frenchman was past Brown and up to sixth, closing on Van Werven/Mans. Veldman was going with Bax at the front, and they opened the gap from Dierckens and Vanluchene. Veldman was just over one second down on Bax, but you got the feeling the champion had it under control. With three laps left to go, he was four seconds ahead of Veldman, with Vanluchene a further eight seconds back, ahead of Dierckens and Giraud. That's pretty much how it finished, with Bax in dominant mood. On the final lap, Stuart Brown and Joe Millard made sixth.
Group “B” - Kert Varik and Lauris Daiders, inspired by the locals flew into the lead. Daniel Willemsen and Robbie Bax were right on them, with Koen Hermans tucked in behind. Varik/Daiders have been getting quicker all season, and this was home ground. So you could expect fireworks. Amazingly, in fifth were the Italians Zeno Comalati and Lemuel Ravera. Italy is not known for its sidecar cross greats, but these guys were fast, very fast. Then on lap four, Willemsen was ahead, with Tomas and Ondrej Cermak up to sixth behind the Italians. Varik was hanging onto Willemsen, but it was clear the veteran multiple champion was feeling so much more his old self. In fourth were the talented Finns, Riku and Lari Kunnas, looking good. Hermans/Musset eased by Varik/Daiders, but the gap up to race leader Willemsen was now three seconds.
Compalati/Ravera slipped back, promoting Cermak, Weiss and Brett Wilkinson all up one place. The Cermaks were now fifth and right on the Kunnas brothers. Next lap and they were past to fourth. Into the closing stages, and the old master had reigned supreme.
Willemsen topped the race, from Hermans, Varik, Cermak and Kunnas, with Wilkinson/Chamberlain sixth.
From Barry Nutley