Giraud and Mucenieks do the double in Estonia
Torrential rain overnight and during early morning made things interesting to say the least. But by the time bikes came to the line, things had dried somewhat and the track good for racing.
Weather-wise, it looked as if it would stay dry, and it was also very warm. Thirty minutes plus the extra laps is a very long time in hot conditions, but these crews are athletes and train hard for stamina.
What turned out to be a hard-fought, stone-littered race, resulted in a significant victory for Valentin Giraud and Elvijs Mucenieks. They have obviously been working on their start technique, because this time they made no mistakes.
Flying out of the gate, they beat ten times World Champion Daniel Willemsen and Robbie Bax to the drop and led the field round lap one.
Stuart Brown and Joe Millard, having qualified in eighth, slotted into fifth and were looking strong. Gert Van Werven and Siebe Van Der Putten made a great start in third ahead of Julian Veldman/Ben Van Den Bogaart.
Behind Brown in sixth, came the Cermak Brothers from Vanluchene and Hermans.
Red plate holder Etienne Bax had a shocker of a start, and was only thirteenth at the end of the lap. He was to recover to fourth, but his lead in the standings was dented.
Giraud was certainly the quickest rider on-track, setting a fastest lap of 1.54.387, which was better than his qualifying time. He just kept pressing lap after lap on the blisteringly fast jumps and hills, and had stretched the advantage to over half a minute at the flag.
Willemsen meanwhile, used all his guile and experience to consolidate his second place, which never really looked in doubt.
Etienne Bax and Nicolas Musset gave it their best shot, but the race was run at such a fast pace, they could not easily make their way through the field. Once past Daiders and the Cermaks, that was as far as they could get.
Veldman had moved past Van Werven to third, with Daiders in fifth. Van Werven then went out of the reckoning, as Valentin Giraud celebrated a well-earned win. A repeat performance in race two would really set this title chase alight.
More track watering and smoothing before the off would guarantee a fast opening lap again, and the tension rose ahead of Grand Prix race number two.
There was absolutely no stopping Valentin Giraud and Elvijs Mucenieks this time around, as they flew from the gate. They made no mistake to claim the hole-shot and just got their heads down.
They were fantastic to watch as they flew down the drops, and rocketed high in the air over the many Kivioli jumps.
Again, Etienne Bax was not up to his usual starting standard, and gave himself work to do. This was not a race where he could give anything away, such was Giraud's pace.
Daniel Willemsen/Robbie Bax however, are always keen off the line and they went with the Frenchman.
Willemsen has earned a reputation for being “Mr Consistent”, but later in the race a tangle with a fence post was to slow his progress and destroy all hope of catching Giraud.
The Cermak brothers also had a great start in third ahead of Bax, Van Werven and Veldman.
This scrap was intense, with Bax getting the better of the Czech brothers, and then benefiting from Willemsen's misfortune.
Van Werven and Veldman were also hard at each other, but it made little difference at the front.
Giraud gradually extended the lead until he had fifteen seconds at the flag. This was one furious Frenchman with a point to prove, and he did it emphatically.
From Barry Nutley