Fast Giraud so very close, but Hermans takes overall glory in Spain
In glorious, if a trifle too warm conditions, the crowd began to build ahead of the Grand Prix races. This Talavera track provides brilliant racing and is a true spectacle. At the same time, because it is so fast, overtaking is often a “heart in the mouth” job over one of the fast jumps. What would the standings table look like at the end of the day? Well we were about to find out.
Race One – Expectation was high ahead of the gate, and when it dropped it was French Superstar Valentin Giraud with Andres Haller who took the lead from Etienne Bax/Kaspars Stupelis and Stuart Brown/Josh Chamberlain. Brown junior was in seventh. He and Joe Millard had a great start.
At the end of lap one, Vanluchene/Van den Bogaart were up to eighth, with Willemsen/Rostingt fourteenth and Veldman/Janssens seventeenth. It was another bad start for the youngster.
Three laps in and Brown/Chamberlain had Varik/Daiders and Hermans/Musset all over them, but the wily Brown held the place.
At the front Bax was matching Giraud wheel to wheel with nothing between their lap times.
This was Giraud's sort of going, and he was making the most of it with his young German passenger and his new Mega two-stroke power unit.
From his back row start, Marvin Vanluchene was up to seventh, with Daniel Willemsen recovering to eleventh with six laps gone. Then he was in trouble, dropping back down the order slightly.
Pole men Davy Sanders and Lari Kunnas were making up ground from a bad start and were behind Vanluchene as he fought tooth and nail with Arne Dierckens/Robbie Bax.
Lap ten, and Giraud still held off Etienne Bax, with Brown still third and Hermans on his case.
Vanluchene then got the better of Dierckens, and Sanders was closing hard too.
The pair at the front had almost identical lap times and opened a gap from third placed Brown, as they came up behind tail-enders to lap them. Willemsen had recovered slightly and was back in eleventh behind Veldman on lap twelve.
Stuart Brown looked good in third, and kept Hermans at a respectable distance, but at the front Bax was desperate to get to terms with the brilliant Giraud/Haller. What a job this young German was doing. Unless you've been there, you are not to know how hard this speed can be for a passenger. He was on target for the first GP victory of his young career.
Then poor Julian Veldman was out with engine problems. Not a good race one for him or the Mega.
Arne Dierckens was another in trouble, as his bike was also struggling and smoking. Heat, hard going and high revs all take their toll on these amazing engines. He was to finish behind Willemsen in eleventh, with a loose radiator and obvious cooling problems.
Into the closing stages, and Giraud looked in control, Vanluchene was up to sixth from the back row, and Etienne Bax, if he ever settles, appeared to be stuck second.
Brown was magnificent in third, repeating his result from last year.
Hermans though was lapping at race winning speed, so could Stuart Brown hang on?
Well, he certainly did, as indeed did Giraud to take his first victory of the new season, from Bax/Stupelis, Brown/Chamberlain, Hermans/Musset, Vanluchene/Van den Bogaart, Sanders/Kunnas and Zeno Compalati for Italy.
Kert Varik and Lauris Diaders failed the post-race noise test and were relegated five places to tenth. Everyone behind them moved up, so Vanluchene went fifth place and Willemsen ninth.
An astonishingly quick start saw Jake Brown and Joe Millard take the hole-shot from Sanders/Kunnas with Arne Dieckens/Robbie Bax third.
Young Brown's impressive lead was not to last long, as Sanders, Dierckens and then Giraud took him at the end of lap one.
Stuart Brown by contrast was down in ninth, with work to do, as compatriots Hodges and Grahame sat seventh behind Marvin Vanluchene.
The top three were flying, with Giraud posting the fastest lap and looking dangerous. He was loving this track and it showed. Lap four and the Frenchman was second, hot on the heels of Sanders/Kunnas the race leaders.
Meanwhile, Etienne Bax was bogged down in the traffic in tenth, with Willemsen eighteenth.
Lap six, and Dierckens/Bax were leading, with Sanders and Giraud looking behind at a rapidly approaching Vanluchene/Bogaart.
The top four were now split by just under two seconds, it was that close. It would be a brave man to call the result at this stage in the proceedings.
Then suddenly, the reigning champions were up to second place behind Dierckens. They wanted this and it was obvious they meant business.
Bax posted the fastest lap as he improved to sixth, and it was not all over yet as he replaced Julian Veldman to move fifth.
Brown senior was up to seventh having passed his son on lap seven. How proud must he have been at that moment.
Giraud was not done yet as he once more moved to second place just one second behind pole man Sanders.
Mention has to be made of a great fourth place by Koen Hermans/Nicolas Musset, but Bax was coming!
That spurred Hermans on, and he went by Vanluchene relegating him to fourth.
Arne Dierckens then had a nasty coming together with Vanluchene which took him and Robbie Bax out of the action, with Bax needing ambulance attention to investigate rib damage. This was an unforgiving and hard track to collide on, and injury is almost inevitable.
This race was truly outstanding, with five crews split by a couple of seconds – if that!
Bax was now really in the hunt with Vanluchene his target. Brown held seventh, with another fine race by Compalati and Chopin for Italy. Not known as a sidecarcross nation, Italy had a good guy here.
Then Hermans was second, just as Bax went by Giraud to go fourth. This was “all-change” in the extreme, and riveting stuff. The drama was not yet finished, because Giraud then began to smoke, and it was all over for him.
It had been coming, and Hermans took the lead with thirty minutes on the clock. He banged in another fastest lap and began to ease away.
That was how it finished, Koen Hermans from Marvin Vanluchene, Sanders, Bax, Brown, Compalati, Jake Brown and Santermans. Daniel Willemsen was eleventh.
1/ Hermans/Musset, 2/ Bax/Stupelis, 3/ Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart,
4/ Brown/Chamberlain, 5/Sanders/Kunnas, 6/ Compalati/Chopin, 7/ Giraud/Haller, 8/Brown J/Millard, 9/ Willemsen/Rostingt, 10/ Keuben/Rietman
From Barry Nutley