Willemsen leads the charge into Southern France for round two.
Close to the town of Albi, and North-East of Toulouse in Southern France lies the Puech Rampant Moto-Cross circuit of Castlenau de Levis. A traditionally hard-packed surface will welcome the World Sidecar Cross Championship when it descends for the weekend of 7/8 April for the second round of the 2018 championship chase.
If the weekend has anything like the drama from the opening round in Oss, Holland, then the large crowd, and television viewers around the world are in for a treat.
Ten-times Champion Daniel Willemsen partnered by Robbie Bax comes to France with a one point lead over young pretenders Koen Hermans/Nicolas Musset. The Frenchman Musset won the title last year with Etienne Bax, but could not possibly have hoped to have taken a race win in the opening Grand Prix. But that is what happened and the pair are riding high.
Just three points further back sits Belgian Marvin Vanluchene who this year is teamed with the experienced Ben Van Der Bogaart.
Where is Etienne Bax you might ask?
By his own admission, the unfortunate reigning Champion went into the opener at Oss with a degree of uncertainty, did not qualify well, and then having made great strides in the race, crashed out and broke a collarbone. At the time of going to press, he has every intention of making the journey to France to make up lost ground and get on the score-board.
French favourite, and winner of race one in Oss, Valentin Giraud with Elvijs Mucenieks was on target for a memorable double win in the sand when he had mechanical failure and retired. They sit sixth on twenty-five points with every incentive to go for glory.
Mucenieks also concealed a wrist injury from his opponents over the Dutch weekend, so he will be fully fit here.
Other big names playing “catch-up“ include Britons Stuart Brown/Joe Millard who have just sixteen points from one finish, Brett Wilkinson/Dan Chamberlain who sit tenth on twenty-three points, and worst of all, the unfortunate Czech Cermak brothers Tomas and Ondrej.
They travelled to Holland, only to come away with their pockets empty of points.
A double retirement sees them in the same position as Bax, with a zero to their names at the moment.
If conditions are wet in France, then standing water could easily collect on the low turns, and the surface will become very rutted and slippery. If it is dry, then expect blisteringly fast racing, a complete contrast to the opening round. These conditions should play into the hands of Giraud, who has already demonstrated just how quick he can be. But equally, Willemsen did not win ten titles by being a slouch on any track.
It all shapes up to making an epic sidecar cross weekend, and we all know how much the French love the sport. But most of all, they love their man Giraud.