Etienne Bax and Kaspars “Stupendous” win the deep sand challenge in Lommel

24/06/2018

Given the popularity of sidecar cross in Holland and Belgium over the past fifty or even sixty years, the Lommel track is one of those circuits that has been around a long time, and has been repeatedly churned up over decades. That in itself causes the sand to be easily disturbed, with very little bottom underneath.

Huge ruts therefore appear very quickly. They were so deep in qualifying, they caught out even the best. Hermans crashed spectacularly, but made it through, along with the Cermak brothers, in Last Chance. They started therefore on the back row. Warm up resulted in Julian Veldman and Glenn Janssens topping the timesheets, from Vanluchene, Bax, Giraud and Davy Sanders. Hermans too was fast, with he and Tomas/Ondrej Cermak just happy to be in the line-up.

 Race One – The track had been extensively graded, but all that did was fill the holes. This was going to be a tough race in warm, humid conditions.

Daniel Willemsen just had so much to prove, and so much frustration stored up, what could he do? When the gate dropped the answer was there. He and Robbie Bax got the holeshot and lead the charge. This veteran Dutchman can certainly get the thing off the line. Behind him there was a huge traffic jam in the deep sand, with only five teams making it through to safety.

This gave Willemsen the opportunity to clear off and he already had a big lead. For sure this stoppage would affect the outcome of  the race. This is when things become a lottery, and lady luck plays her part – or not! Behind Willemsen, Varik and Daiders were second ahead of Van Werven/Mans and Bax/Stupelis. Next came Stuart Brown and Joe Millard. Brown is another seasoned rider who knows all the wrinkles and how to stay out of trouble.

The red plate of Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart was in eighth with a bit to do. The conditions were certainly causing chaos, and this would be a race of attrition. Daniel Willemsen would need all his experience in this one, particularly when he came round behind potential hazards. Koen Hermans and Nicolas Musset moved from the back row up to twelfth, with Giraud about three places ahead of them behind Sanders. Stuart Brown and Joe Millard were holding a good fourth place ahead of the young Julian Veldman and Glenn Janssens.

In these arduous conditions, it was all about bringing it home to the finish and digging deep. Kert Varik and Lauris Daiders were doing just that and were staying in touch with Willemsen the race leader. That was until Etienne Bax went past. Then there was drama as the race leader Willemsen had an engine problem on the final lap, and Bax gleefully took the lead. Varik held second, and Brown was on the podium.Vanluchene recovered to fifth.

Race Two –  Marvin Vanluchene gained points over second in the table Koen Hermans, but lost a few to Etienne  Bax in race one. By the same token, Bax had closed in third and must be feeling his luck might just be on the turn for the better.

From the gate Willemsen did a carbon copy and took the lead from Arne Dierckens and Luc Rostingt. Again, there was a big pile-up on turn one, and Julian Veldman was last man away. Dierckens was second, with Varik, Bax and Vanluchene in touch. Brown and Millard were not so lucky and were in fourteenth on lap two, but as usual they would pick their way through. Ten minutes in and Willemsen was still at the head, with Dierckens and Varik fighting hard ahead of Bax.

Vanluchene was doing enough to protect his points, and Giraud too was in a good position. Veldman and Janssens were flying as they made up for lost time, but Bax seemed unable to find a way past Varik and Dierckens. There was no doubt about the king of these conditions, and his race one result was a personal tragedy. Willemsen was the star here as he led the rest of the world in this race two. The race was all about the guys behind Willemsen who had a forty-second lead. Bax got by Varik to second but that was about it. A long, hard day took its toll and it became survival of the fittest.

Vanluchene was battling Gert Van Werven for fifth but that was as far as he could make. Valentin Giraud had a better outing this time about two places behind. But Daniel Willemsen took the win, with Etienne Bax getting the overall victory.

 From Barry Nutley