Oss in Holland set for fantastic 2018 opener
The 2018 FIM World Sidecarcross Championship bursts into life in a few days time over the weekend of 24/25 March at the Oss Circuit in The Netherlands. It is fitting that the reigning Champion Etienne Bax, this year re-united with Latvian passenger Kaspars Stupelis, with whom he won the title in 2015, is on home soil to begin his title defence.
No fewer than ten countries will be witnessing the spectacular action, as our intrepid charioteers travel across Europe from Estonia in the north-east, to Spain in the south-west.
In keeping with previous years, the FIM has experienced record entries for the series, which will guarantee frantic qualifying for every round. This level of competition for grid slots is an essential part of the race weekends, and provides intense racing action over the two days.
Bax is the only rider in the top four who goes into the new season with a different passenger. Runners-up Valentin Giraud from France will wear the number two plate and retains his Latvian passenger Elvijs Mucenieks. Third last year, veteran Daniel Willemsen stays with Robbie Bax and carries his familiar “111” plate. This duo will be aiming to increase Willemsen's victory tally to eleven, but in the face of strong opposition.
Top British crew, and another veteran racer is Stuart Brown, who with young Joe Millard proved he has the nerve and tenacity to hold his ground when the pressure is on, will switch to four-stroke power this year. Will that move change his fortunes and give him the extra edge he needs? Certainly the early signs are good, with Brown/Millard taking two wins and overall victory in the opening Dutch Championship round in Lochem recently.
Forty-six crews from ten Nations are entered for the Oss opener, to compete on traditionally sandy conditions ideally suited to the home teams. Brown and Millard run with a left-hand sidecar, as do the other British crews. This sometimes works to their advantage when the Dutch ruts become very deep, as they always do as the weekend wears on. Expect tough opposition from the other strong British crew Brett Wilkinson and Dan Chamberlain. They grew faster as last year went on, and start the new season with renewed determination.
The Czech Cermak brothers always come out fighting, and were bitterly disappointed to lose so much ground in the finale last year. They know they can run top four or five, and will be looking to increase their visits to the podium.
Throw into the mix prodigiously talented youngsters Koen Hermans, Marvin Vanluchene and Julian Veldman, and you have a mouth-watering season ahead.
This year's battle will take place over thirteen rounds, with several of the races back-to-back. Stay here on fimsidecarcross.com for the breaking news and race reports as they happen.
From Barry Nutley