Wilkinson & Millard finish fourth in the World as Vanluchene & Musset claim the title! 2023 FIM World Sidecarcross Championship Finale – Report, Results, Standings & Highlights
This was the day the long, hard 2023 FIM World Sidecarcross championship season came to its conclusion, and we were all filled with anticipation as to which of the only two teams in the running would prevail. There was a tremendous buzz of excitement in the air as we pulled into the paddock early in the morning. The sun was out and the spectators piling into the car park. Once again, the track had been watered, making one or two of the jumps difficult.
Race Report by Barry Nutley – Images courtesy of WSC
Warm Up – Thirty teams – a full gate, took to the track with Etienne Bax and Ondrej Cermak heading the times. In fairness, it was obvious to all watching, these were exploratory laps simply to re-acquaint the teams with the terrain.
French teams made up ten of the line-up, with three ladies present. Sophie Debosq was driving with Thalya Marquis alongside whilst Clementine Thamri was in the sidecar of her normal driver Charly Bonnet. This would be a tough test for everyone, male or female.
One hour before the off, silence descended as the early lunch was taken, and then it was time!
Race One – Out of the gate like a rabbit shot the red plate of Marvin Vanluchene and Nicolas Musset, chased by Etienne Bax/Ondrej Cermak. That was a fitting way to start the final two races. The battle was on with Foden/Humphrey third and the Lielbardis boys fourth.
Vanluchene absolutely nailed the start and got his head down like never before. He and Bax flew together in tight convoy for the first three laps and then dramatically, Bax was missing. A mechanical problem took him into the pits, so that slender chance of the title had gone. The Lielbardis boys then shot to second place with the Prunier brothers behind them followed by Prummer/Steegmans.
Lap five and Brett Wilkinson/Joe Millard were up to fifth and hunting Prummer down.
The Prunier boys were now five seconds down on Lielbardis and chasing hard, just as Koen Hermans moved ahead of Wilkinson. That is not what he wanted, because his fourth place was now in jeopardy from the Lielbardis twins.
Foden/Humphrey began to slide back, with Dan mindful of Ryan and the heat. Finishing somewhere was a better option than nowhere. Meanwhile, Vanluchene and Musset were on target to take the title with one race remaining and doing it in style as they extended the lead to twelve seconds over Lielbardis. The Prunier brothers sat in a fighting third place to the delight of the partisan fans.
Koen Hermans was also on a charge, passing Wilkinson, Keuben and Prummer into fourth. Tim Prummer was starting his weekend well, and then suddenly, the threat from Hermans had gone, as once more the Dutch champion had a problem and dropped out of contention. This left Prummer in a good fourth place which he was to hold.
Into the final two laps and Vanluchene just needed to bring it home, as Keuben/Lebreton recovered to fifth place ahead of Wilkinson.
High profile retirements were Bax, Van Werven and Hermans, with Vanluchene/Musset on the crest of a wave enjoying a much-deserved victory and title of 2023 Champions.
Race Two – The pressure was well and truly off for the newly-crowned champions as the gate dropped for the final race of the 2023 season. Teams who had a point to prove included Bax/Cermak and Hermans/Van Den Bogaart, both of whom had retired from the opener with technical problems.
Would Marvin Vanluchene/Nicolas Musset take it easy, or would they go for double glory?
He flew into the lead like a man inspired, chased once again by Bax/Cermak, Sanders/Rostngt, Marco Heinzer/Reudi Betschart and Tim Prummer/Jarno Steegmans. Moments later, Bax was out of the leading picture, down in tenth and fighting back through the traffic.
Marvin’s speed was sensational and on lap four he was twenty seconds clear of Tim Prummer having an equally brilliant ride, along with Marco Heinzer now third. Lielbardis and Brett Wilkinson were seventh and eighth, thereby keeping Lielbardis just behind Brett in the points.
The heat was intense and the atmosphere brilliant with airhorns going and cheering for the new champions. Prunier was in fifth looking like an overall result was possible.
Lap eight and Tim Prummer passed his Swiss rival Heinzer to go second as Wilkinson slipped to ninth behind Davy Sanders.
There was no touching the race leaders. They were closing the season as they had started in with a double victory and were true champions.
Bax meantime was back up to sixth place and closing on Keuben. These crews were all very close as Heinzer once again went second.
The man on the move now was Killian Prunier with a real chance of second overall on his home podium. With eleven laps gone he was past Prummer into third and an overall podium place.
Lap thirteen and the outgoing champions Bax and Cermak were up to fifth place behind Justin Keuben.
Heinzer was holding firm and now he was looking at a podium place. What a way for the father-to-be in a few days to celebrate!
Vanluchene was fantastically strong and did what he had to do. The double was theirs!!,
Then in the closing stages. Keuben went third for the podium, pulling Bax into fourth with him. This was drama in the extreme with the local commentator going berserk.
Final Championship Standings – Top 15