Hermans/Musset and Vanluchene/vandenBogaart ride high in Gueugnon qualifying
France was a great setting for the penultimate round of the 2019 series. It was a case of back to the tried and tested on this famous old circuit. France has a strong tradition of “Les Sidecarrists” and this track was bound to thrill.
The weather was good, with bright blue skies, and there was very much a “holiday atmosphere” as the series moved into the final four races of the season.
Free practice underlined the dominance of Bax and Stupelis and Marvin Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart, with Stuart Brown, Brett Wilkinson, Jake Brown and Kert Varik all looking good.
With only twenty-eight crews present, there would be no need for Last Chance qualification. All teams would start and get their travel indemnity.
Pre-qualifying – The timed sessions for groups “A” and “B” started modestly, but as we all know by now, this was all about one fast lap for the actual qualifying races later in the day.
There was a strong contingent of local French crews swelling the grids, but the big names in the championship made the running.
Apart from the big favourites already named, a good showing by Marco Heinzer and Ruedi Betschart registered their intention to produce good rides tomorrow.
Etienne Bax secured best time from “A”, with Vanluchene doing the same in the other group. Both these title contenders continue to slog it out, but with a sixty-five points lead, Bax was in the pound seats.
Arne Dierckens was using the services of talented German passenger Andres Haller, while Robbie Bax rested and mended. Czech Lukas Cerny was also enjoying a different man alongside, in the shape of Finn Lari Kunnas.
Qualifying Race Group “A” - Away they went, with just fourteen crews jostling for position. Hitting the front it was the very quick starting Hermans and Musset, keen to earn a good start slot tomorrow. Behind them it was Zeno Compalati and Bastien Chopin, fighting hard with the Cuche cousins.
Then came Stuart Brown and Josh Chamberlain, ahead of Veldman/Janssens. Bax and Stupelis had once again failed to get the thing off the line as well as they might have hoped. Marco Heinzer and Reudi Betschart were proving to be a thorn in the side of Bax, making him work for a living. Three laps in and Veldman was third, Brown fourth, and Bax still sixth behind the Swiss Heinzer. It was an eight second lead for Hermans, but would his bike hold out? Certainly his pace was there, as Bax began to move through.
Compalati and Chopin held a strong second place, underlining the improvement from this crew in recent weeks. On lap eight, Brown now held second, with Bax now some six seconds behind. The Cuche boys were slipping back, with George Kinge and Lewis Gray much improved in sixth.
Veldman was once again out of the running, but with no last chance, would be on row two.
With two laps to go, Bax tried with all his might to catch Brown/Chamberlain, but was slowed by backmarkers on this very fast track.
Final lap and Bax was on them, but Brown held firm. The gap was five seconds behind race winner Hermans, and two seconds ahead of Etienne Bax/Kaspars Stupelis.
Result – 1/ Hermans/Musset, 2/ Brown/Chamberlain, 3/ Bax/Stupelis,
4/ Compalati/Chopin, 5/ Heinzer/Betschart, 6/ Kinge/Gray, 7/ Cuche/Cuche,
8/ Boussy/De Schacht, 9/ Peter/Zatloukal, 10/ Veldman/Janssens
Qualifying Race Group “B” - This one was equally enthralling, and again there were just fourteen starters.
Away they went for the twenty-minute race plus extra laps. Marvin Vanluchene and Ben Van Den Bogaart made no mistake, and headed the field on lap one, with Santermans/Belckas in second and Wilkinson/Humphrey third.
Jake Brown and Joe Millard, fresh from their Gooik podium, brought more of that form here to sit fifth behind Dierckens/Haller.
This new pairing were very strong, and Haller's fitness allowed Dierckens to push, and push he did. They were eventually to wind up third behind Brett Wilkinson, but that particular battle raged all race long, with Jake Brown and Joe Millard pushing similarly to go fourth.
Cerny/Kunnas and Varik Daiders were having their own fight for fifth, with the Czech getting the verdict.
Out front, it was the Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart show, as they gradually extended the lead to a point where there was no way back for Brett Wilkinson, who was then twenty seconds adrift of the leader at the flag.
This was only for grid positions, but the defending champions were doing everything they needed to do to keep hopes alive going into the races tomorrow.
In seventh place, it was another fine ride by Gary Moulds and Brian Anthony, giving them real hope for good GP points.
Result – 1/ Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart, 2/ Wilkinson/Humphrey, 3/ Dierckens/Haller,
4/ Brown/Millard, 5/ Cerny/Kunnas, 6/ Varik/Daiders, 7/ Moulds/Anthony,
8/ Auvray/Lebreton, 9/ Santermans/Beleckas, 10/ Lasagna/Lasagna
From Barry Nutley