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Wilkinson finishes 2nd in FIM Sidecarcross Championship Quali race in Portugal – Report & Results

Wilkinson finishes 2nd in FIM Sidecarcross Championship Quali race in Portugal – Report & Results

It was such a relief to be away with a new season of FIM Sidecarcross World Championship racing and to see the excitement in the paddock emanating from all the teams. The group ballot was done, and the order set for qualifying. Overnight rain had cooled the air, and the tension was palpable. There would be no need for Last Chance with just thirty teams entered.

Words by Barry Nutley – Images by WSC

Free practice

Tom van de Lagemaat/Robin Konst topped the pile in the early stages, with Brett Wilkinson/Joe Millard and Davy Sanders/Jarno Steegmans both attacking the track hard in Group “A”. The predominance of four-stroke power was evident in this session, with just a couple of Megas and a sprinkling of Zabels playing their part. Marvin Vanluchene and Glenn Janssens looked cautious but composed as they explored lines and options.

Group “B” had some fast teams, with Prummer/Lebreton, Hermans/van den Bogaart and the Lielbardis twins all looking good. At this time in the season, with so much ahead of them, it was about making sure everything worked on the bike, everything fitted where it should, and they all felt comfortable. From what we saw that all seemed to be fine.

Pre-Qualifying Practice

As we all know by now, this session is all about one flying lap, and the teams have thirty minutes to find it. The result determines their gate position for the qualifying races.

The first group saw Justin Keuben and Dion Rietman on fire with a terrific performance. Showing nothing of “new bike nerves”, they blasted eight tenths of a second clear of defending champion Marvin Vanluchene.

Davy Sanders/Jarno Steegmans narrowly edged out Brett Wilkinson/Joe Millard, who in turn was fractionally ahead of fellow British team Foden and Humphrey. Keuben’s fastest lap time was 1.43.548, with just five seconds covering the top eight. That established the Keuben/Rietman AMS as top dogs in the session.

Half-way through Group “B” and Lielbardis had already stolen the lead from Koen Hermans/Ben van den Bogaart, with the Prunier brothers next up.

Tim Prummer was in the pits after a fast crash over the whoops after just one lap. Rodolphe Lebreton his passenger took a big hit and was declared doubtful for the weekend, but he is made of sterner stuff as you will see. Lielbardis’s time almost matched that of Keuben’s, falling short by two-tenths of a second.

Group “A” Qualifying Race

A cracking start by Keuben/Rietman took them into a tight situation at turn one, which hampered the progress of Vanluchene, but gave the lead very briefly to Foden/Humphrey. Fighting back out of the turn, Keuben regained control and shot away down the hill. Then came two British crews, as Wilkinson/Millard grabbed second with Foden now firmly third. In fourth lay Davy Sanders/Jarno Steegmans, with Stephan Wijers/Han Van Hal.

The race at the front had opened up, when on lap two, Keuben crashed out of the lead, with the driver needing medical assistance trackside. He sustained a leg injury and would not take part in the rest of the meeting. Vanluchene had fought his way to third, and then second at this point. In passing Wilkinson at half-distance, he went into the lead.

Wilkinson/Millard, meanwhile, kept the pressure on, to finish less than two seconds behind Vanluchene at the flag.



Group “B” Qualifying Race

From the gate Koen Hermans/Ben van den Bogaart shot up the straight but were eclipsed into the first turn by Jason van Daele/Loet Van der Putten. The Belgian is always quick off the mark, and today was no exception.

Hermans slotted second ahead of Tim Prummer/Rodolphe Lebreton, who astonishingly, were competing after their big crash in timed practice.

Then the Lielbardis boys were past, and into third. As the race unfolded, it was obvious the French Prunier brothers were also intent on a good place as they made headway through the field. One by one they knocked on the door as they moved up. Also going with them were Tim and Sem Leferink, but the Pruniers had the beating of them. Hermans, once in front, opened a twelve-second lead which must have given him great satisfaction, given his mechanical dramas of last season.

Van Daele held fourth place ahead of the Leferinks but was unable to stop the Frenchmen from claiming third.