It was a battle of the Brits on Sunday when the two best teams in the world went head to head for supremacy in the second round of the FIM World Sidecar Championship held on home tarmac at Donington Park, Ben and Tom Birchall missed out on the win by the narrowest margins at the end of a gruelling 19 laps although they retain their series lead and added yet another lap record to their profile.
In the dry conditions on Friday Mansfield brothers Ben and Tom Birchall were the fastest by over three seconds and went on to again head the leaderboard in the first qualifying session on Saturday. But the weather prevented them from sealing pole position as, although it was dry when they began the final session, it started to rain as they were half way around the circuit on the first lap. Then the heavens opened and torrential rain prevented any further track action leaving Ben and Tom to start the race from the middle of the front row alongside Reeves/Cluze and Hegarty/Neave.
As the lights went out it was Reeves who got the hole shot swiftly followed by the Birchall brothers and the pair soon began to pull away from the pursuing pack. The two former world champions battled it out, circulating in close company until the Mitchells of Mansfield supported duo hit the front on lap six of 19. They began to pull a gap on Reeves but at the half way stage of the race backmarkers came into play which allowed Reeves to once again latch onto their back wheel. On lap 12 Reeves managed to get ahead at the Melbourne Loop and the pair were side by side as they headed towards Goddards. Throughout the remainder of the race the two top teams in the world stuck together with Ben showing Reeves his front wheel on numerous occasions and on the last lap they were once again side by side as they exited Goddards. On the drag to the flag they were virtually level but the win was awarded to Reeves who broke the beam just nine hundredths of a second ahead of Birchall. Steinhausen/Kolsch was the third team home over 31 seconds behind the battling Brits which shows how fast the pace was.
Ben and Tom retain their series lead over Reeves and also take the credit for putting in the fastest lap of the race 1m 34.767s which sets a new lap record.
Ben said: “We led the race for six laps and had stretched out a fairly comfortable lead. But then we came across some backmarkers which slowed us sufficiently for Reeves to catch us. Tim then tried every trick in the book to get past us and finally overtook us on the brakes at the Melbourne Loop. The gap between us was never more than 0.3s and in the end we missed the win by a mere 0.099s although we did set a new lap record in our efforts to regain the lead and we are still leading the championship. We were quickest in free practice and first qualifying but the changing weather conditions caught us out in the final session. But we were happy enough with a front row start and enjoyed a cracking race. Thanks to all our sponsors for their continued support and we hope to repay them with a win next time out.”
The next round is at Rijeka in Croatia on June 14 but prior to that Ben and Tom will contest the Isle of Man TT where they took their first win last year in the second of the two sidecar races where the action begins on Monday evening with the first practice session.
Picture credits: Wally Walters