Veldman and Bax take one each, but Vanluchene/Van den Bogaart come out on top
It was an uneventful opening round for the local Dutch and Belgian contingent in qualifying, with Etienne Bax/Kaspars Stupelis and Koen Hermans/Nicolas Musset each tasting victory. Sand specialist Daniel Willemsen with new passenger Luc Rostingt took a runner-up spot as did reigning champions Marvin Vanluchene/Ben van den Bogaart.
These four crews therefore had the pick of the grid ahead of today's two Grand Prix races.
British teams qualified well with both Browns (father and son), along with Kinge/Gray, Hodges/Grahame and Foden/Bijenhof all making the cut.
A bulletin from the team of Brett Wilkinson stated that he has sustained broken vertebrae and had other back and general injuries, which will obviously take time to mend. He is optimistic of a return as soon as practicable, and we at WSC wish him and Ryan all the best for a speedy recovery.
It was a frantic charge off the line with Davy Sanders getting a flyer. The same could not be said of Koen Hermans/Nicolas Musset who up-ended and crashed in spectacular style. They were forced to follow on dead last.
Arne Dierckens/Robbie Bax were now second followed by Willemsen/Rostingt and Bax/Stupelis. Marvin Vanluchene was eighth after lap one.
Seven minutes in, and Bax had a problem, dropping him right down the order. The deep sand resulted in just one line on many of the corners, and there was absolutely nowhere to go in traffic.
Stuart Brown/Josh Chamberlain fought their way to fourth, but were under real pressure as Hermans began his fight back through the field.
By this time, Daniel Willemsen, master of these conditions was in front, with Sanders, Veldman, Brown and Vanluchene in line astern.
Bax made real progress through the pack, as things began to shake down at the front.
All eyes were on Julian Veldman who was relishing his start to the new season. He and Janssens made a bid for the lead and flew past Willemsen to take control.
Brown was slipping down the order as Bax made a superhuman effort to bring it home sixth behind Giraud/Haller.
It was a fine start for the youngster Veldman, who held the lead to the flag, winning by three seconds from the master Willemsen.
No report can truly tell the story of the chaotic track conditions, in which if a team did not crash, then they would get a good result. Lommel is notoriously tough going, and gets harder as the day wears on.
1/ Veldman/Janssens, 2/ Willemsen/Rostingt, 3/ Vanluchene/Van den Bogaart,
4/ Sanders/Kunnas, 5/ Giraud/Haller, 6/ Bax/Stupelis, 7/Hermans/Musset, 8/Dierckens/Bax
9/ Varik/Daiders, 10/Santermans/Beleckas
The first turn is always a crucial time here, but when the gate dropped for the second encounter, everyone made it through safely.
Daniel Willemsen grabbed the lead from Arne Dierckens/Robbie Bax. Old rivalries were at play here, and Bax/Stupelis were on their case.
Stuart Brown/Josh Chamberlain had another good start to fifth with Julian Veldman having a shocker in nineteenth. He was then to crash out and his race was done. One victory would be his only reward, but encouragement would be high.
Then suddenly Bax was by Dierckens and on the back wheel of his fellow countryman Willemsen. It was not long before Bax made the race his own and shot ahead.
Hermans was fighting up from another mediocre start and sat tenth as Brown went fourth behind the reigning champion Vanluchene. Valentin Giraud had been sitting around tenth, but slipped to sixteenth place at half distance.
After a pit-lane excursion, Kristof Santermans retired, so his day was done too.
Meanwhile, Etienne Bax and Kaspars Stupelis had stretched a huge lead over Willemsen, and kept the momentum going in very difficult conditions.
Local stars Ijen Kops and Pim Lambrechts unbelievably sat sixth, and then gained a place when Koen Hermans got momentarily stuck. They would finish fifth ahead of Hermans/Musset.
Ahead of them were Kert Varik/Lauris Daiders, with Vanluchene getting the better of Willemsen in the closing stages.
This was a very tough test for the opening GP, and best out of the way.
Roll on Spain.
1/ Bax/Stupelis, 2/ Vanluchene/Van den Bogaart, 3/ Willemsen/Rostingt, 4/ Varik/Daiders
5/ Kops/Lambrecht, 6/Hermans/Musset, 7/ Dierckens/Bax, 8/ Brown/Chamberlain,
9/ Kinge/Gray, 10/ Heinzer/Betschart
1/ Vanluchene, 2/ Willemsen, 3/ Bax, 4/ Varik, 5/ Hermans, 6/ Dierckens, 7/ Giraud,
8/ Veldman, 9/ Sanders, 10/ Brown
From Barry Nutley