Speedway Emmen celebrates its tenth season of racing this year. We sent our occasional Dutch correspondent “Hans De Vice” over to the Netherlands last weekend to catch up on the action in this F1 World Qualifier season opener.
Twenty-two F1s in the pits but the cars of Ronnie Bruins (118) and Arjan Ligthart (112) never made it out so twenty lined up for Heat One on a track that, frankly, resembled a ploughed field before the meeting began. Sterling work by the track staff saw much of the soggy shale moved to the inside of the track after the opening banger races to give the F1 drivers a fighting chance of grip but it was bumpy (in a Stoke, Nelson sort of stylie). A Psychedelic Furs song came to mind as Jan Kuin’s pink 699 car made the early running chased by Tom Maris (161), Johannes Bijlsma (2) and Jelle Tesselaar (410). Mark Tesselaar (40) lost it on the pit bend, collecting another family member Jac (440) as Kuin forged ahead until Cor Meijer (69) lost it at the end of the home straight, as did Jan Roelof Wijbenga (228). They were joined by Bart Koopmans (38) and with 228 stuck across the track yellow flags were needed.
Kuin led the restart but went wide allowing Maris (161) to squeeze by while bumpers came into play further back. Hiddinga was stranded mid track on turn two as a result, facing the traffic so another caution saw Maris’s lead reduced to nothing. At the green, Maris forged ahead with Axel Nijs (32) and Henk Jan Ronitz (240) second and third. Danny van Wamelen (47) moved into third after Nijs spun. Maris had a quarter lap lead but another caution saw his hopes of victory dashed. He drifted wide into the slurry at the restart and van Wamelen was through with three to run. Bijjlsma slid wide on turn one showering the crowd with shale but a drier inside line was appearing and van Wamelen bounced his way to the win from Ronitz and Nijs.
Heat Two fielded 19 cars, Koen Maris (61) loading up after the opener. Kuin again made a good start from 410, 161 and 69. Ligthart made this heat but faded quickly and Kuin caught the infield barrier, handing the lead to Tesselaar. Wijbenga, Koopmans and Hiddinga again traded bumper paint, assisted by car 47 while Maris took the lead then lost it again to 410. Hiddinga climbed the pit bend infield banking for a better view, then Nathalie Wekema (332) went hard into the fence on turn one. Her appeal for assistance went unnoticed, even though a flag marshal was just metres away and it was only after Tesselaar (410) had taken the flag that help arrived, Nathalie being removed in the ambulance and taken to hospital to treat a nasty elbow injury.
Just 13 cars for Heat Three and this time Tom Maris kept ahead of the pack to take the flag in a surprisingly fast race despite the rather undulating track surface. Hiddinga shook off the unwanted attentions of Sierd De Vries (UK54) for second with van Wamelen fourth.
Sixteen cars for the Final with Kuin and Maris charging ahead while others found trouble. Maris made a move on the 699 car but caught the infield barrier coming off the pit bend and spun, letting Kuin back in front chased hard by De Fries. Hiddinga was stuck on the pit bend, a hazard for the oncoming cars but Kuin still lead from Meijer and De Vries with Danny van Wam already in the top five. Cor spun Kuin who was clobbered by Mark Tesselaar allowing the pilot of the ex-Harris car to pull away pursued by van Wamelen who survived a big hit from Wijbenga on the first bend. The shunt put Tesselaar (40) into a spin instead and the flame-out as he tried to restart brought out the yellow flags, reducing Meijer’s handsome lead to zero.
The restart order was 69, 47, 228, 38, 350, 2, 345, 54, 215, 240, 440, 699 & 161. Meijer went early to keep the lead while Wijbenga tried again to remove the 47 car, got it wrong and lost ground. Next time around Cor went wide letting van Wamelen through but launched an attack on the 47 rear bumper entering turn one. Danny shrugged off the assault and pulled away while 228 shifted Koopmans and put Meijer in the mire to take second. Sparks flew from sump guards as the cars bucked and bounced around the track but van Wamelen had the race in the bag, with Wijbenga a fighting second and Koopmans third.
It was a long meeting not helped by the state of the track which was down to the bedrock by the end. Racing commenced a shade after 12 noon but with races for F1, F2, Micro F2 and bangers the F1 final finished around 8pm and there was still the banger DD to go! Congratulations to all the drivers who turned out to race in trying conditions and commiserations to Nathalie Wekema who could be side-lined for several weeks after her heat two incident – not a good way to start your 2017 season.
Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Ant & Mick Jenkins