Sidecarcross of European Nations and Quadcross of European Nations: qualifying
Top teams shine as Belgium and Holland claim the best sidecar starts, and the USA rules in Quads
Situated North-East of Berlin, and very close to the border with Poland, the Schwedt circuit in Germany offered the perfect venue for this annual team competition, attracting the very best sidecar and quad motocross racers in the world. The fight for grid places was therefore every bit as fiercely contested as any individual qualifying session. Whilst the air was cold, the overnight rain had passed, with the track in good condition. There was a sense of high drama in the air ahead of this gripping team event.
A handsome entry list of over thirty-six crews was divided into three classes (A/B/C), but split into just two groups for free practice.
For the actual qualifying races, the three groups would compete separately against others in their respective groups. The same structure applied to the Quad entry, which was blessed with a huge line-up numbering fifty or more four-wheelers.
Yes it was only practice, but American ace Joel Hetrick decimated Quad group two with an unbelievable time on lap five ahead of Dutchman Mike van Grinsven. Hetrick underlined how powerful the USA team would be. Kevin Saar had earlier laid down a marker in group one with his usual dramatic style as top European Quad exponent.
Marvin Vanluchene and Ben Van Den Bogaart set the standard in group One for the sidecar entry, and this was no real surprise. The second batch of sidecars featured new champions Bax and Stupelis, along with Koen Hermans/Lari Kunnas who looked impressive ahead of Jake Brown and Joe Millard.
Qualifying Races Sidecars
Group “A” contained the first team from each of the thirteen nations, headed by Marvin Vanluchene and Ben Van Den Bogaart for Belgium. With such a small grid for each of these races, there was plenty of room to race, and twenty minutes plus two laps in which to do it.
Bax and Stupelis did not make the best start, and found themselves working hard for a living, as the former champions Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart headed the field home ahead of France in the shape of Bastien Thomas and Nicolas Musset. Bax and Stupelis brought it home in third, but right on the back wheel of the Frenchmen. Jake Brown and Joe Millard were thirty seconds adrift in fourth.
1/ Vanluchene/Van Den Bogaart, 2/ Thomas/Musset, 3/ Bax/Stupelis,
4/ Brown/Millard, 5/ Varik/Daiders, 6/ Cerny/Musil.
You just had to fancy Arne Dierckens and Robbie Bax for the holeshot in this one, but equally Stuart Brown and Josh Chamberlain would be up for it too. Dierckens/Bax it was who took the lead and cleared off, from Van Werven and Kenny van Gaalen, with the Swiss Cuche cousins holding off Brown and Chamberlain. These two latter crews were at it hammer and tongs, and very much the battle of the four-stroke engines, with Cuche’s KTM holding off Brown’s AMS Husqvarna.
With a small grid of just twelve outfits at play, the race was very strung out, but that would change come the actual competition tomorrow.
Then there was drama, as the Cuche boys were out with mechanical woes, bringing their race to a close. This was only qualifying, but they would starting from the back row as a result. So it was a start to finish victory for the holeshot kings, Dierckens and Bax.
1/ Dierckens/Bax, 2/ Van Werven/Van Gaalen, 3/ Brown/Chamberlain,
4/ Normak/Kasesalu, 5/ Rupeiks/Liepins, 6/ Hamard/Villaines
This was the final decider, and could Holland steal at least one prime grid slot by winning a qualifier?
Well, hopes lay with Koen Hermans and his temporary Finnish passenger Lari Kunnas. The young Dutchman was favourite for this one, and would salvage some honour for the Netherlands if he could pull it off.
Hermans and Santermans/Beleckas were neck and neck into turn one, with Koen Hermans getting the verdict. The world number three needed this one and he looked very much in control on lap two.
Santermans held second, but had the Estonian crew Gordejev/Kivaste for company. If history repeated itself Gordeev would go strongly, but tended to fade later in the race. Certainly Santermans was going well.
But, at the front, Hermans and Kunnas were simply amazing, with almost a forty-second lead with five minutes left on the clock.
There was no way Hermans was going to throw this one away, and at the flag it was job done for The Netherlands.
1/ Hermans/Kunnas, 2/ Santermans/Beleckas, 3/ Gordejev/Kivaste,
4/ Auvray/Lebreton, 5/ Heinzer/Betschart, 6/ Hroch/Hroch
Qualifying races Quads
Quads kicked off the action with the USA getting a slightly bloody nose, as Dutchman Joe Maessen kept Chad Wienen at bay for the majority of the race, despite the American putting in the fastest lap on lap four. Estonian Kevin Saar was right on Wienen’s tail early on, but then disappeared from the action. Wienen typically pulled a rabbit from the hat and took victory.
Would the USA take this one by storm as well, only time would tell. From the gate it was indeed Thomas Brown of the USA who took the hole-shot from Mengelis of Latvia. The half sand-half hard-pack track was ideal for these quads, and they made a great race of it. The Latvian Mengelis was riding with an old injury, but seemed unaffected in the heat of battle.
Brown made no mistakes, but behind there was a great scrap between Tveraen of Norway, Mengelis and Graham Murray of the United Kingdom.
Behind them, an almighty fight raged race-long between no fewer than six quads scrapping over fifth place. Then Murray crashed out and they all moved up. Thomas Brown though, was in a class of his own to secure a convincing victory.
Late in the day, and were the USA now destined to take a clean sweep of Quad qualifying? Well, Joel Hetrick started well in second behind Manfred Zienecker from Germany, and once past him, went away impressively. Van Grinsven from Holland was also in the hunt and going well. Another young talent was Harry Walker from Great Britain, who was sitting fifth behind Jarvloo from Estonia. Half distance and the USA had an eight second lead, with Hetrick doing what he did in free training.
The battle for fifth and sixth between Walker and Justin Reid from Ireland was raging, with the British teamster getting the better of his Irish counterpart.
With three laps remaining, Hetrick was thirteen seconds in control for the USA, whilst Harry Walker lost out to Justin Reid, slipping down to sixth place.
Into the final stages and the job was done for Joel Hetrick and the USA.
Despite a short, sharp shower of heavy rain, spirits were not dampened.
It was also a fantastic ride by the German Zienecker who took second, from Grinsven for Holland.
We are LIVE again for all the team events themselves tomorrow, so stay with us here on www.fimsidecarcross.com for all the action as it happens.