Spanish joy for Giraud and Mucenieks in Qualifying at Talavera de la Reina.
In refreshingly good weather conditions, the “Black Hill” west of Madrid proved to be both fast and technical. Just one week after the French Grand Prix, and taking into account the journey time across, or around the Pyrenees, little time was left for injuries to recover. The same was true for the many mechanical issues needing correction.
Pre-Qualifying – a smaller than normal entry allowed the whole field to go together, so for the first time we saw how the day might pan out. In sunshine hitting the high teens, the track was in good condition, dictating fast times from the off. Red plate holder Marvin Vanluchene and Ben Van Den Bogaart set the trend with some early quick laps. It was clear that Etienne Bax and Valentin Giraud were keen to stay in touch, and they did just that.
At the close of pre- qualifying, Bax and Stupelis had recorded a phenomenal 2.03.98, a clear second quicker than Giraud/Mucenieks in third, but only marginally faster than Vanluchen in second. Bax would start the formal qualifying from pole position. The Czech Cermak brothers were strong in sixth, but Britons Stuart Brown and Brett Wilkinson were down the order in twelfth and fourteen respectively.
Qualifying – with just twenty-six crews making the journey to Spain, there was only the one qualifying race, and it was a mad dash when the gate dropped.
Marvin Vanluchene/Ben Van Den Bogaart had a shocker – tangling with the pack from the gate, and were forced to fight through. By contrast, the French/Latvian pairing of Valentin Giraud and Elvijs Miucenieks flew ahead and began to make the most of a clear track. Daniel Willemsen/Robbie Bax had two challenges from second place, the first being to make the best progress in pursuit of the leaders, and the second to stay clear of any possible infringement which might incur the wrath of the FIM officials. Since the new season began, they have suffered penalties which have pushed them to the back row.
This time they stayed out of trouble, but were forced to succumb to a hard-charging Etienne Bax and Kaspars Stupelis. The determined reigning champion harried Willemsen before eventually slipping by to grab second. Also making rapid progress though, were Stuart Brown and Joe Millard. They rapidly made their way to the top six, pulling compatriots Brett Wilkinson/Dan Chamberlain with them.
Koen Hermans and Nicolas Musset had gated well, and were positioned fourth, albeit a bit distant from the top three. Brown and Millard relegated Julian Veldman, and suddenly, they and Wilkinson/Chamberlain were fifth and sixth. Vanluchene made it through to ninth, but that was as far as he could go. At least they were on the front row, with a good chance of bettering their start technique for tomorrow's Grand Prix.
Pole position and first choice of the grid slot went to the spectacularly quick French/Latvian crew Giraud and Mucenieks.
From Barry Nutley