Ben and Tom Birchall from Mansfield in Nottinghamshire rode to a brace of second places at Brands Hatch in round five of the Eastern Airways Battle of Britain UK F1Sidecar championship over the Bank Holiday weekend to retain their third place in the overall points table with three rounds (nine races) remaining.
The Mitchells of Mansfield FIM World champions completed their qualifying in second place and started all three of their races from the front row of the grid alongside championship leaders Tim Reeves and Greg Cluze.
It was always going to be an uphill battle for the Mansfield brothers as Reeves is extremely quick around the 1.199 Brands Hatch Indy circuit and this weekend was to be no exception.
Qualifying went well for Ben and Tom who posted a fastest lap time of 48.665 seconds to earn a front row start to the three 16-lap affairs and as the first race got underway they were quick off the mark, leading the field around the first lap. But Reeves was not going to be beaten on his home track and he took the lead on lap two with the Birchall brothers in hot pursuit. Although they stuck with the leaders for much of the race, once they got mixed in with the back markers their progress faltered and they ended up crossing the finish line six seconds adrift in second place.
“We knew Tim was a Brands Hatch specialist and it soon became apparent that this was the case. We did stick with them but once the back markers came into play they were able to pull a gap on us. But we have made a few changes to the set up and will come out fighting in the second race!” said Ben.
Race two went much the same way but was more of a close battle at the front. Reeves got the hole shot but was overtaken by Birchall who held station for laps three and four before relinquishing the lead once again. The pair battled it out and pulled a 10 second gap on the following pack but although the gap between the two was down to 2.5 seconds Reeves once again took the victory ahead of Birchall.
Race three was a disaster for the world champions as they were forced out with fractured oil fitting on lap seven.
“We did some more tinkering about with the settings and this time we has the measure of Tim. I was confident we could win that race but it wasn’t to be. The fractured oil fitting was just one of those things and there was nothing more we could do.”
The Birchalls retain their third place in the championship on 202 points. Reeves leads with 268 and Alan Schofield is in second place on 222. With three rounds (nine races) and a further 225 championship points on offer the title chase is far from over.
The next round is at Anglesey on September 19 but prior to that the Birchalls travel to Magny Cours in France where they will contest the final round of the FIM World championship on September 11 which runs as a support race to the World Endurance 24 hour event – The Bol D’Or. Practice and qualifying take place over Thursday and Friday with the 15-lap race scheduled for 11.50am CET on Saturday.
Although the Birchalls cannot now retain their world title they have everything to race for as a good result at Magny Cours could see them clinch the runner up spot.