Vanluchene and Veldman neck and neck for pole position, but the red plate gets the verdict - just
Qualifying for the Lamax Sidecarcross Grand Prix of the Czech Republic took place against a back-drop of stunning scenery, on the spectacular Kramolin track. A gloriously sunny day meant dust could be an issue, but the local fire brigade were on hand to dampen things down. With a strong local entry, and forty-six crews in total, two groups were drawn up, with Willemsen's absence shaking up the mix.
Also on the programme, a strong entry of veteran sidecars and crews demonstrated the skills and techniques of three decades or more ago, with some of the faster outfits circulated not too far off the modern pace. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing, and those of you around at that time will certainly know the name Hansi Bachtold. The four-times World Champion Swiss was just as impressive on his EML Jumbo, as he was back in the day.
Pre-Qualifying, against the clock for Qualifying Race grid slots, was more beneficial for group “A” owing to the track digging out progressively.
However, Marvin Vanluchene and Ben van Den Bogaart continued their run of form with the quickest time, from a startlingly quick Davy Sanders/Andres Haller.
Group “B” was headed initially by Tomas and Ondrej Cermak, and they looked to be staying on top, until a blistering final lap by Koen Hermans made him the quickest rider of both sessions.
Qualifying proper proved to be the real test, and there were the two group races to decide the start positions for tomorrow's Grand Prix.
Live television coverage on the menu tomorrow added extra spice to the competitive nature of these gladiators, and the good-sized crowd were treated to a magical afternoon.
Group “A” Qualifying
The red plate holders Vanluchene and Van Den Bogaart took the hole shot from a very quick Arne Dierckens/Luc Rostingt, with Etienne Bax and Kaspars Stupelis third.
Behind them was the four-stroke battle with Valentin Giraud and Stuart Brown thundering along together.
On lap three however, Giraud disappeared, and Bax slipped by Dierckens to go second.
Riku and Lari Kunnas, the flying Finns, were another crew charging ahead, and quickly slotted into fifth place behind Brown/Millard ahead of Van Werven/Jens Mans.
The injured Etienne Bax could be seen nursing his weak shoulder, and must have been in some degree of pain. Given that second place would earn him a healthy grid slot regardless, he looked to have settled going into the closing stages, with Vanluchene now pulling away.
Giraud re-appeared on the scene, and was clearly fighting his way back up from some incident or other which had pulled him off the leader-board. He was up to eight place, so all was far from lost.
It was yet another impressive display by Vanluchene the championship leader, which is bound too inspire him for the Grand Prix.
At the flag, Giraud had salvaged seventh, which is significantly better than it was looking earlier.
Group “B” Qualifying
Koen Hermans and Nicolas Musset got the flyer, from Benjamin Weiss/Patrick Schneider and a charging Davy Sanders/Jens Mans.
The Cermak brothers, who had shown great form earlier, were being urged on by the partisan crowd in fifth place, behind Julian Veldman/Glenn Janssens.
After an appalling start, in which they were virtually last up the start straight, Brett Wilkinson and his Dutch temporary passenger, were up to tenth on lap five.
The order stayed pretty much the same as Hermans built up a nine second lead. He appeared destined to be a front runner in the Lamax Grand Prix on Sunday. Weiss slipped to fourth and was suddenly at the mercy of Cermak who was breathing down his neck.
Veldman/Janssens closed on Davy Sanders, and you just got the feeling it would not be long before they were past.
In a lonely sixth place sat Andreas Clohse and Hantje Van Hal, with Wilkinson slowly making ground.
On lap nine, to the delight of the crowd, Cermak moved fourth, as the predictable move by Veldman evolved, and he took second.
Could Tomas and Ondrej Cermak go one step higher, well if the crowd had anything to do with it, then yes!!!
However, it all went wrong on lap ten as Hermans went missing, followed almost immediately by the Cermaks.
Veldman was now the new leader from Sanders, Weiss and the amazing Kert Varik/Lauris Daiders.
Wilkinson gleefully accepted the gift, and added his own brilliant performance to a set of circumstances which brought him home sixth.
So, it was a case of a talented youngster and an equally clever co-driver ruling in this one, and once more we have a very interesting scenario ahead of us in tomorrow's two races.
From Barry Nutley