Sensational Giraud/Mucenieks delight fans with “Le Performance Magnifique” as Bax plays catch-up

08/04/2018

You could be forgiven for not noticing that three of the fastest riders in the French Sidecarcross Grand Prix were carrying injury. This was definitely not a battle of the “walking wounded”, but a high speed demonstration of the sport at the highest level, particularly by French hero Valentin Giraud and his Latvian co-driver Elvijs Mucenieks.

Morning warm-up showed that despite his injury, Etienne Bax still had the speed. He and Kaspars Stupelis banged in a quick lap just before the close. Matching him for speed were Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart, and the flamboyant Valentin Giraud/Elvijs Mucenieks. The Latvian is still nursing a damaged hand from two weeks ago.

Another star “in the wars” from the Dutch Championship last weekend, is Daniel Willemsen. He and Robbie Bax were eighth fastest this morning, but given he has chest and a hand injury, he might just have been saving himself.

Keep an eye on Kert Varik/Lauris Daiders for the future. These Baltic marauders seem to have found a new turn of speed, and were only one second slower than Giraud.

Race One – Rain had visited in the lunch interval, but the track was in good shape. There were wet slippery patches at the bottom of the turns where water always collects, and on the start area, but the climbs and upper sections were mud-free.

Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart got a cracking start with Giraud/Mucenieks in tow. Another flier from Brown/Millard saw them briefly third, but then relegated by Van Werven/Mans to fourth.

Willlemsen, from the back row was up to eighth on lap two, but the reigning champion Bax was mid-pack and struggling to fight through.

The partisan French crowd were screaming encouragement to Valentin Giraud, and then on lap three he went ahead, immediately pulling a gap on Vanluchene.

Varik/Daiders stayed honest and were fighting well, having displaced Brown for fourth place. Willemsen and Etienne Bax were eighth and tenth respectively on lap five, when Giraud posted yet another fastest lap. Then Bax was past, and the chase was on. He was climbing through the field at an impressive rate, but still lapping slower than Giraud, who by now had a ten second lead over Vanluchene.

The mightily impressive Varik/Daiders flew past Van Werven on the uphill jump to grab third place. This performance was on the radar all weekend, and they came of age here. Lap eight, Bax was fifth,Willemsen up to eighth and getting faster, as suddenly Brown went missing. The scrap for fourth place was a five-way affair as Bax closed on young Koen Hermans. Giraud meanwhile had a massive fifteen second advantage, and showed no sign of backing off.

The three Dutch crews, with Hermans hanging on in front, lapped within one second of each other, with Bax looking for a way through. The Cermak brothers were having their own fight with Wilkinson/Chamberlain for ninth place, but there was no stopping Giraud who was going like a train in front. By contrast, both Bax and Willemsen seemed to be running out of steam, as young Hermans found second wind and pulled out a gap.

 Into the final two laps, and Giraud's lead was twenty seconds. It was the second victory in 2018 for the French/Latvian duo, and an impressive victory at that. Equally stunning was the third place by Varik/Daiders. Needless to say, they were thrilled.

Race Two – Like a greyhound from the box, Giraud/Mucenieks shot away with Vanluchene in tow. In third were the British crew of Brett Wilkinson and Dan Chamberlain. This was a fantastic start for them and they needed to capitalise. Bax, Willemsen and Brown were boxed together in eight, ninth and tenth – but for how long?

Lap two and Giraud was already three seconds clear. But behind it was frantic. Wilkinson and Varik had the trio of Willemsen, Bax and Brown pressing hard behind them, and it looked just a matter of time before the relentless Bax triumphed. Out front, the Frenchman was extending his lead. A good result here would radically change the table which Vanluchene was heading coming into this race.

Etienne Bax was riding like a man possessed, up to third on lap four but sixteen seconds off Giraud. Dierckens/Rostingt in fourth were under pressure from Varik/Daiders who again were very, very fast and brave. Stuart Brown/Joe Millard moved to seventh behind Wilkinson on lap five with good momentum, just as Willemsen claimed fourth. Then, Brown went missing again, and his trip to France ended in despair.

Just one finish from four races is all that the popular Briton has to show for his efforts. The same could not be said of Wilkinson/Chamberlain who were on target for fifth, and a bag full of points from the weekend.

Vanluchene, new series leader, attacked in second place, but Giraud was equal to it, and responded with a fastest lap almost two seconds quicker than the charging Bax in third. Into the closing stages, and barring breakdown, Giraud/Mucenieks had done enough on home soil to clinch a spectacular double, and victory of the French Grand Prix. Maximum points from three finishes – that's impressive.

Tomas and Ondrej Cermak salvaged a respectable finish from what has been a dreadful start to their season with sixth place, just ahead of  Koen Hermans/Nicolas Musset.

 

From Barry Nutley