Magnificent Bax wins in Switzerland and puts one hand on the title
In warm and confortable weather, with the famous Roggenburg track in superb condition, two crews in particular woke up and greeted the day with one common thought on their minds.
Valentin Giraud/Elvijs Mucenieks, and Tomas/Ondrej Cermak must have been encouraged by their performances in qualifying, and it was time to take the fight to the two Dutch superstars.
Daniel Willemsen/Robbie Bax and Etienne Bax/Nicolas Musset have been the nemesis of Giraud all season, whilst the Cermak brothers appear to have found some extra speed from somewhere just at the right time.
Going into these final three rounds, will the strain tell on the men at the top??
We were about to find out.
A small shower did enough to dampen the track ahead of the opener, and with the ambient temperature well down on yesterday, life would be more comfortable.
Daniel Willemsen and Robbie Bax, yet again were in pole position with first choice of start place.
A massive melee on turn one resulted in several crews upside down and strewn across the track, whilst the Cermak brothers flew into the lead.
At the end of lap one it was Giraud/Mucenieks from Koen Hermans/Kenny Van Gaalen with Etienne Bax in third. Daniel Willemsen found himself down in tenth, having just missed the tangle.
Lap two and Bax was chasing Giraud, with Hermans third ahead of the Cermak brothers. From the second row start, Stuart Brown and Joe Millard were up to tenth, with Willemsen two places ahead of them.
Brett Wilkinson and Dan Chamberlain were breathing down the Cermak's necks with real determination evident, but on lap five Willemsen/Bax were with them and looking to find a way past.
The French Thomas brothers were about to fall victim to the progress of Brown/Millard, just as Willemsen made it up to fifth, with the Cermaks in his sights.
Meanwhile, Giraud/Mucenieks had stretched their advantage to seven seconds over Bax/Musset.
Seven laps gone, and the meteoric progress by Willemsen saw him in fourth hunting down Hermans/Van Gaalen, with Brown up to ninth, and Wilkinson some two seconds behind the Cermak boys in sixth.
Quickest lap times reflected the more difficult going, with Bax posting a 2.20.289 as the battle played out behind.
With Giraud in this position, Bax knew he was surrendering three more points, and that was his incentive to try to close the Frenchman down.
A sterling effort by Brown/Millard took them past Veldman/Van den Bogaart into eighth, just one second shy of Burgler/Betschart with Wilkinson on their radar.
With the leaders having completed eleven laps, the red flag came out, for a major incident Involving crew No 101 Arthur and Hugo Barat from France.
The passenger sustained a compound break of his arm and was helicoptered to hospital where he is now being treated.
The medical team at the circuit and the air ambulance crew dealt with the incident in a totally professional way, and we all wish Monsieur Barat a speedy recovery.
Prior to the stoppage, Giraud's lead was eight seconds, so he was declared victorious, from Bax, Hermans, Willemsen, Cermak and Wilkinson. Job done by the Frenchman, and he closes in.
In an earlier interview, Etienne Bax had expressed his desire to drop no more points here in Switzerland, so this was his chance to make sure that did not happen.
But, the best laid plans do not always work out. It was his fellow countryman Willemsen who made amends for race one and grabbed the holeshot from Burgler/Betschart, Wilkinson/Chamberlain and Giruad/Mucenieks.
Etienne Bax and Nicolas Musset were down in ninth at the end of the opening lap, whilst at the end of lap two, Giraud was up to third, with the leader Willemsen in sight.
The battle at the front was incredible, with Giraud suddenly on the shoulder of Willemsen and really going well.
Four laps in and Bax/Musset were up to sixth, but a clear ten seconds off the leaders.
Koen Hermans would not be easy to pass, and Bax tried everything he knew, eventually making it stick, gobbling up Wilkinson in the same move.
At the front, Giraud was getting impatient and eager to get ahead of Willemsen, but had his hands completely full with Burgler/Betschart worrying him relentlessly in their home Grand Prix.
This distraction allowed Willemsen to pull away slightly, and then suddenly, Etienne Bax was coming.
Further back, Brown and Millard were again playing catch-up, having moved through the field to ninth on lap seven.
Giraud then posted a fastest lap, knowing that Bax was on his case and now third. The gap at this point was down to five seconds.
The Cermaks were having a steady but fast ride in sixth, with Wilkinson and Brown for company, although Brown was lapping faster.
Nine laps in and it was Bax's turn to post fastest lap with a 2.19.897 moving him to within touching distance of Giraud.
Next lap and he was through with incredible speed in pursuit of Willemsen, and another fastest lap.
Giraud must have wondered what Bax had for lunch – there was no stopping the Dutchman. He majestically swept by Willemsen to claim the lead on lap twelve.
Into the last three laps, and Bax was on target for overall victory, and a very slight extension of his title lead.
That was until a dramatic twist saw Giraud go missing with two laps remaining, promoting everyone below him up the leader-board.
Below the top three in the title chase, positions were shaken up, with the Cermak brothers big winners.
Bax/Musset had just performed a master-class, and now must surely be title favourites.
from Barry Nutley