Willemsen and Varik take one qualifying race each
It really was a case of “back to the sand” for round eight of the series in Lommel. On this famous but well used track, like so many of the Dutch circuits, the Belgian sand however well graded, dug out very quickly. It goes almost without saying that the Dutch and Belgian crews would be entirely at home in the conditions, which would certainly favour the two youngsters at the top of the table.
Etienne Bax/Kaspars Stupelis made their intentions clear in free practice, whilst Valentin Giraud was using the experienced Kenny Van Gaalen in place of Johnny Badaire
Pre-Qualifying – One fast lap is all it needs to gain a good start in the actual qualifying races, and the twenty minute session gave everyone plenty of time.
Etienne Bax set the bar early on in Group “A”, but as the session unfolded, Daniel Willemsen, having found motivation since being repeatedly hounded by bureaucracy, managed to exceed every one's time to go top of the pile.
Further down the order, young Jake Brown and Brett Wilkinson were pretty much locked together, around ninth place.
The closing stages would be the all-important time, but Willemsen's resolve was unshaken. Vanluchene was second fastest and Bax third.
Group “B” gave Stuart Brown his chance, along with the Cermaks in the ever-deepening ruts.
Davy Sanders and Andres Haller looked good in the early stages. But it was not long before Koen Hermans and Nicolas Musset hit the front. Their fast lap held good from Sanders, Mike Keuben and the Cermak brothers.
Stuart Brown and Joe Millard held seventh just ahead of Kert Varik/Lauris Daiders.
Qualifying races – Group “A” flew off the line with Arne/Dierckens and Luc Rostingt taking the holeshot.
Daniel Willemsen/Robbie Bax came next ahead of the reigning champion Etienne Bax. Lap two and the old master Willemsen was ahead, with Bax relegating Dierckens to third.
Moments later Marvin Vanluchene and Ben Van Den Bogaart siezed the third place.
Etienne Bax was once again showing the world his high class speed, and hassled Willemsen evey step of the way round the demanding and deeply rutted bends.
Valentin Giraud and Kenny Van Gaalen were fifth but a bit off the front runners as they grew to understand each other and the way forward.
Next came Wilkinson/Chamberlain followed by Julian Veldman.
These three crews were all close, so it was anyone's race at this point. Meanwhile at the front Willemsen was holding on with the two rivals Bax and Vanluchene hard at each other.
Then Vanluchene had the measure of Bax and went by in pursuit of the lead.
Willemsen though, had pulled enough of a gap to stay out of trouble, so you could say, he was getting some reward.
Julian Veldman moved past the Frenchman Giraud and looked more comfortable this week on home, or nearly home soil.
Brett Wilkinson and Dan Chamberlain were going well and up to sixth place with young Jake Brown and Zac Snell tenth behind George Kinge and David Keane.
Willemsen held on with Bax two seconds adrift in second from Vanluchene.
Dierckens stayed fourth from Veldman and Giraud.
Group “B” and Koen Hermans/Nicolas Musset swept into the lead as a tangle in turn one delayed a few of the crews.
Kert Varik and Lauris Daiders got a great start as did Gert Van Werven/Jens Mans, with Stuart Brown and Joe Millard sitting sixth, shortly to move fourth.
Then shock – Hermans crashed before the opening lap was completed and was forced to retire. This would put him in Last Chance and the back row for tomorrow's races.
Varik/Daiders riding like world champions headed the field, and Daider's glorious dreams were realised, if only for a short time.
Van Werven and Heinzer were both really in the mix along with Stuart Brown.
This group did not have the big hitters from race one, and Stuart Brown really made the most of it. He made it through to third behind Van Werven, but Varik it was, emerging winner by twenty seconds with both Hermans and Tomas Cermak in Last Chance.
From Barry Nutley