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Following an action-packed day, the Stade Pierre Mauroy is eerily quiet as fans and riders have vacated the area. The first night of racing is, of course, in the books and those who did attend were not left disappointed, as extremely-entertaining battles took place and a popular winner stood atop the podium.
The practice times from earlier in the day had already indicated that the racing could be quite tight, as just three tenths separated the top five in the timed qualifying session. The first of two heat races was fairly mundane, however, as Marvin Musquin disposed of Thomas Ramette with ease and rode off to an uncontested victory. Malcolm Stewart kept him honest, but was never really close enough to attempt a move. The second SX1 heat was the complete opposite though, as an unlikely challenger emerged.
Justin Barcia worked his way up from outside of the top three to take control of the heat on lap five, so at that point onlookers started to turn their attention to various other battles. Cedric Soubeyras kept things interested at the front, however, as he pushed forward from third to challenge Barcia on numerous occasions. The two exchanged countless block passes until Barcia stood the Frenchman up in the final turn, so had enough time to build a slight advantage that would keep him safe until the end of the heat.
Those riders that transferred directly were seen on track again just once before the main event, as they had to take part in a Superpole session that was eventually dominated by Marvin Musquin, but a handful of elite names were forced into the nerve-wracking LCQ. Tommy Searle (who bowed out of the heat race with an engine problem) took the holeshot in that, but was passed by Maxime Desprey just seconds later. Those two were quite safe through the rest of the race, but chaos ensued behind them.
Romain Febvre held the final transfer spot for the entire moto, but was passed by Jordi Tixier in the final turn and consequently lost out on a spot in the main event. The promoters are allowed to pick one rider to race the main, however, so obviously selected the fan favourite.
Any hopes of an action-packed SX1 main event quickly vanished when Marvin Musquin emerged with the holeshot. The Frenchman had clearly been the fastest rider all day and established a gap immediately, but Justin Barcia did manage to cut it down somewhat in the laps that followed. The gap was just a single second at one point, but backmarkers allowed Musquin to pull away again and that marked the end of the race for the win. The two were clearly quite close in speed though, as their fastest lap times were almost identical.
Malcolm Stewart was right in the thick of that fight at one point also, but lost a chunk of time to Barcia with a handful of laps to go and ended up a distant third. Cedric Soubeyras ended a quiet fourth, whilst Christian Craig pushed forward to fifth following an awful start.
Although a battle for the lead did not really materialise, all the contenders are in a position where they will have a realistic shot at taking the ‘King of Lille’ title tomorrow. The scoring here is put together in a similar fashion to the Olympics, so every position really will count on day two.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Image: Sean Ogden