Willemsen and Giraud come out on top in Kivioli Qualifying
With just four rounds and eight races remaining, the emphasis has to be on consistency and solid finishes in all those races. The points at the top are too close for comfort with no margin for error.
Good starts would be even more crucial, and therefore qualifying for those all important grid slots had taken on a new meaning.
Remarkably, the ballot once more kept Willemsen and Bax together in group “A”, with Daiders and Wilkinson joining them, whilst Giraud, Brown and the Cermaks were destined to fight in group “B”.
Hot, dry conditions prevailed, with the sandy track in good condition, and a good crowd turning up early on. The industrial surroundings were dominated by the huge oil processing plant adjacent to the track. This industry was the foundation of wealth in the region, and the very basis for the construction of the nearby town from which most of the spectators came.
Pre-Qualifying “A”, and it was Willemsen/Bax in control early on. Any time sub-two minutes would be good, and Willemsen posted a 1.55. This compared favourable with a 1.54 from the French and Latvian pair of Giraud/Mucenieks in free practice. Shortly after, Willemsen matched the Frenchman's practice time, and stayed fastest despite Etienne Bax coming out to play. Bax/Musset did enough to hold second, but that was it.
Group “B” and the old firm of Giraud/Mucenieks were flying. On lap three they were back in the 1.55's, with Marvin Vanluchene/Haralds Kurpnieks second fastest.
Then came Stuart Brown/Joe Millard and the Cermak brothers, followed by Davy Sanders/Eduard Soenens.
Four minutes to go, at the Cermaks were up to second and Brown to third. They were obviously looking forward to qualifying proper and the Grand Prix tomorrow.
Then a best lap from Giraud clinched it for him – 1.54.775 was better than Willemsen in Group “A”.
Official Qualifying “A”
In glorious sunshine and to upbeat rock music, the tension built ahead of the first qualifying race. Extensive watering on turn one would prove tricky for the crews at the back. All the more vital for a good start, and that is exactly what Willemsen did.
Grabbing the hole-shot from the gate, he got his head down, chased by Bax/Musset and Brett Wilkinson/Dan Chamberlain for Great Britain.
These three crews already had a few seconds lead on lap two, with Van Werven/Van Der Putten closing in fourth.
Lap four, and Willemsen had stretched the gap over Etienne Bax to six seconds, and looked very comfortable in this short twenty-minute race. He held a good gap over his rival Etienne Bax with Wilkinson/Chamberlain safe in third.
Then came Hermans, with a really good fight between Kunnas and Daiders behind. These seven crews were world class and it showed with everyone else playing catch-up.
Willemsen's margin at the flag over the red plate holder was almost fifteen seconds as Brett Wilkinson hit trouble. He ran wide and got caught up in the fencing material. He was going nowhere, so was destined for yet another last chance qualifier.
Official Qualifying “B”
Another flyer saw Giraud lead from young Veldman, Keubens and Davy Sanders. Stuart Brown was in sixth but about to improve as he moved third. Shortly after he was relegated one place but still it was close.
Sanders moved past Veldman to claim second place but Giraud was away with a healthy lead. Meanwhile, the fight for sixth was also fierce with Vanluchene and the Cermak brothers split by a couple of seconds. Brown/Millard held on to their fourth place, with an eye on passing Veldman and Van Der Bogaart.
There was nothing between these two crews as they circulated almost in tandem, and Stuart Brown tried everything he knew to make it past.
Vanluchene headed the Cermak brothers home to complete fifth and sixth places.
But with time running out, that's how it finished, with Giraud comfortably on the start line tomorrow, and high hopes of a successful day.
From Barry Nutley