Gueugnon sees Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart win overall, but Bax and Stupelis crowned World Champions
Race day promised to be a terrific penultimate round. The young guns were once again flexing their muscles, as Bax and Stupelis were denied first pick of the gate in qualifying by Hermans and Vanluchene to name but two.
Understandably, with so much at stake, the series leaders could be forgiven for showing a few nerves. This was the weekend on which they could claim the 2019 title, so they needed to be focussed.
In morning warm-up, Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart kept their momentum as fastest crew, but Bax and Stupelis were on their case in second. This battle was going all the way.
Race One – Early morning rain had passed over, with blue skies appearing just in time for the off. Gate down and both Zeno Compalati and Marco Heinzer continued their fantastic form with flying starts.
The Italian, who lifted his first podium last weekend led after lap one from Hermans and Dierckens. Etienne Bax and Kaspars Stupelis were ahead of their title rivals Marvin Vanluchene and Ben Van Den Bogaart, with the Czech Finnish pair of Cerny/Kunnas sandwiched in between. Heinzer did not complete the opening lap up front, so it was Compalati and Chopin out on their own. Best of the British crews were Jake Brown and Joe Millard sitting sixth behind Vanluchene.
Lap four, and Bax/Stupelis were up to second, four seconds adrift of Compalati/Chopin.
The Italian/French duo were just getting better and better, obviously inspired by events in Belgium. Lap six, and Bax was on them, with Vanluchene also moving through to stay in touch.
Veldman/Janssens were fighting with Lukas Cerny, and Jake Brown was not far behind. This battle was all about fifth and sixth places.
At the front, Compalati was holding strong, having yet another very impressive ride. At half-distance he was still there and opening a small gap again on the championship leaders.
The Browns were scrapping over eighth and ninth, with Jake just holding on into lap eight.
Brett Wilkinson had gone missing on lap two to join Heinzer and Varik on the sidelines of this vital race. The British crew had a crash and sustained wrist injuries, ruling them out of further action.
Four seconds split the top four with more than half the race gone, so it was going to be close.
The important thing about this race was the fight for the title. Etienne Bax and Kaspars Stupelis made that emphatically clear by moving into the lead, whilst Marvin and Ben became bogged in a fight with Jake Brown and ended up sixth.
Bax kept his cool, and once in front, recorded an epic effort, of not only the race win, but lifted the unassailable title lead for champion.
That feat apart, men of the match again have to be Compalati and Chopin with another race podium.
There was drama on the final lap, when Veldman/Janssens crashed, with Stuart Brown and Josh Chamberlain hitting them. Both crews made it to the flag.
Result – 1/ Etienne Bax/Kaspars Stupelis (Champions), 2/ Koen Hermans/Nicolas Musset
3/ Zeno Compalati/Bastien Chopin 5/ Arne Dierckens/Andres Haller, 6/ Jake Brown/Joe Millard, 6/ Marvin Vanluchene/Ben Van Den Bogaart, 7/ Lukas Cerny/Lari Kunnas,
8/ Stuart Brown/Josh Chamberlain, 9/ Gary Moulds/Brian Anthony,
10/ Guennady Auvray/Rodolphe Lebreton
Race Two – With everything to celebrate and nothing to lose, this race would be a joy for Bax and Stupelis to ride.
Would they make it first out of the gate? Well the answer to that is a definite YES!
They led Jake Brown and Joe Millard this time out, with Jake's father Stuart stuck at the back, but on the move. In third it was Dierckens and Haller third, with Varik/Daiders and Cerny/Kunnas next up. The relegated champions, Vanluchene and Van den Bogaart were once again in sixth, seemingly unable to run at the front this weekend.
Hermans and Compalati were not so high up the order this time out, but there was a long way to go for them both to improve.
Lap four, and Jake Brown/Joe Millard held second place, ahead of Dierckens and Vanluchene, with Varik and Cerny having a real fight just behind. If Brown Junior could hold this, he would be enjoying another podium in consecutive weeks.
Bax and Stupelis's lead was six seconds approaching the half-way stage with the two extra laps to be added on.
Vanluchene/Van den Bogaart were not finished. They fought their way past crew after crew, until they were on the back wheel of Brown and Millard, jumping past them on lap six. Hermans and Musset were also on the move, albeit somewhat slower. Lap seven and they were up to fifth ahead of Varik and Cerny.
Vanluchene closed to within three seconds of Bax, and fancied going one better. That battle was still very much alive. Hermans closed on Varik, and had eyes on fourth place.
The Vanluchene charge was not over. He had a point to prove, and was going to prove it.
On lap fourteen. With minutes remaining, he passed the new champions, who then sensationally, were out with mechanical problems to hand victory to Vanluchene, and moving everyone up one place.
Result – 1/ Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart, 2/ Brown/Millard, 3/ Varik/Daiders,
4/ Hermans/Musset, 5/ Dierckens/Haller, 6/ Brown/Chamberlain, 7/ Cerny/Kunnas,
8/ Boussy De Schacht, 9/ Santermans/Beleckas, 10/ Moulds/Anthony
The finale comes from Rudersberg in Germany where we are once again live on-site
Make sure you have your video pass to catch all the action as it happens, plus the highlights shows later in the week on www.fimsidecarcross.com
From Barry Nutley