Vanluchene and Van Den Bogaart take overall victory and are champions in Switzerland
Following a fast but measured qualifying, Marvin Vanluchene and his Dutch co-driver Ben Van Den Bogaart were calm and focussed ahead of the two Grand Prix races. Needing just forty-four points to put the title out of reach of second placed Koen Hermans and Nicolas Musset, consistent finishes were essential. With one hundred points still available before the season closes, Hermans goal had to be victories, and nothing less.
Both these riders, whilst young, are mature beyond their years, and both enjoy the services of former world champions as passengers. The importance of this skill cannot be overstated, in terms of fitness and race-craft, and the vital tactical experience gathered over many top-class races on the way to championship success.
It has been a thoroughly absorbing and fascinating season, witnessing the emergence and evolution of these young talents. Would we have a new champion at the end of the day, well we were about to find out.
Morning warm-up in fine, sunny weather conditions settled the nerves a bit, but this was a big deal for Vanluchene. You could just imagine the team-talk from Ben Van Den Bogaart over dinner last night. Etienne Bax and Kaspars Stupelis were again looking fast, as indeed did Arne Dierckens and Luc Rostingt.
Vanluchene for his part, was as composed as ever, with solid and steady lap times always in the top four. Then, in the closing seconds, he showed what he could do by going ahead of Bax with a 2.20.36. Best of the bunch however, were Davy Sanders and Andres Haller who strutted their stuff with a 2.20.27 on the final lap.
Race One – There's an old saying “When the gate drops, the talking stops”, and nothing was more true in this case.
It was a fantastic hole-shot for the Champions designate. Marvin Vanluchene and Ben Van Den Bogaart dispelled any myth they might be conservative and really went for it on the opening lap.
They were chased hard by Arne Dierckens/Luc Rostingt, from Sanders, Giraud and Koen Hermans/Nicolas Musset.
Two great teams were right at the back however, Daniel Willemsen/Robbie Bax and Stuart Brown/Joe Millard had a huge task ahead of them after problems at the start.
Etienne Bax was in fifth but pushed too hard and flipped the outfit over backwards. This gave them a huge amount of work to do, but they got stuck in again.
Koen Hermans was another front runner who disappeared, only to re-appear at the very back. His cut-out mechanism had come free and killed his engine.
Brett Wilkinson and Dan Chamberlain, obviously relishing the track conditions were eating up the ground, and were up to sixth on lap five.
While all this was going on, Giraud and Badaire had moved through to second and were threatening Vanluchene the race leader.
Moments later, they made the move to the front of the race, with Vanluchene settling for second place. He would need to be thinking championship now.
Both Bax and Hermans were already back in the points in eleventh and thirteenth places respectively, so Hermans was still a threat to Vanluchene's title aspirations.
Julian Veldman and Glenn Janssens were also in the hunt for a podium, so it was a “three horse race” at the sharp end with Giraud still in control.
Lap eleven, and Wilkinson went fifth, with Bax totally flying, and up to eighth behind Tomas and Ondrej Cermak.
Moments later, and the British crew were fourth, and easily the “best of the rest” after the podium places. This was indeed a stellar performance from Wilkinson and Chamberlain.
Into the final two laps, and Julian Veldman has displaced Vanluchene and now sat second, with Giraud/Badaire sensationally five seconds clear in the lead.
Hermans fought through to tenth at the finish, with Bax making an incredible sixth, so mathematically Vanluchene and Ven Den Bogaart, whilst closer, were not yet home and dry with the title.
Race Two and Vanluchene would have done his mathematics. He needed a top ten finish, or to finish ahead of the Koen Hermans and Nicolas Musset, the only team able to deny him.
If he could manage that, he would become the youngest champion in the history of the sport. That accolade sits currently in the hands of the Latvian Krister Sergis.
This time though, it was the fast starting Arne Dierckens/Luc Rostingt who led the charge and away down the first hill.
Vanluchene was there though, in touch and flying ahead of Giraud, Bax and Hermans.
Willlemsen came next, and it was all very close, with Vanluchene now ahead as they started lap three. He was going to do this in style, and nothing, it seemed like nothing, was going to stand in his way.
Lap four and Giraud was down in eighth, with Bax third and looking menacing. He was pulling Hermans with him as they hounded Dirckens and Vanluchene.
This time around, it was Brett Wilkinson and Dan Chamberlain making up lost time from a bad start. Eighteenth after lap one, they were now up to ninth and charging. They were eventually to make it through to another terrific finish with sixth.
Half-distance and Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart were on their way to the world title with a ten second lead over Etienne Bax.
Hermans now third, was putting up a brave fight, but if Vanluchene stayed where he was, it was “game over” for the young Dutchman.
Lap ten, and Bax was much further back, and eventually out of the points after yet more problems. Koen Hermans was promoted to second, but Vanluchene's lead appeared insurmountable.
Giraud recovered to third, but at the front, the young Belgian was looking every inch a worthy champion.
Overall victory was one heck of a way to clinch the title, but that is exactly what Vanluchene and Van Den Bogaart did in Switzerland
Follow all the action as it unfolds on www.fimsidecarcross.com and in the later highlights show on Motorsport TV.
From Barry Nutley