10.10.2011. The final round of the Eastern Airways British F1 Sidecar championship was a weekend of ups and downs for Ben and Tom Birchall as they were unable to complete the first race and finished eighth in race two before going on to take a hard fought second in the final event at Mondello Park in Ireland at the weekend resulting in them completing the championship in fourth place.
The rain began to fall during qualifying and got worse as the session went on causing the Mitchells of Mansfield brothers to miss out on the opportunity to set a fast lap time. As third fastest competitors they were placed on the second row for the start of the first of the three races. With the rain pouring down the pair set off but were boxed in at turn one and had to make a quick decision to run off into the gravel to avoid taking everyone else out with them. Being stuck in the gravel the machine was not able to be moved and the pair sat the race out from the safety of the marshals’ post.
Because they were unable to set a time in race one Ben and Tom were placed at the back of the grid for the start of the second encounter. The race was shortened to eight laps because of red flags and hold ups in other classes and as they got underway in terrible conditions Ben and Tom made their way through to 11th place on lap two before pushing forward to eighth on lap four. Although they remained in eighth place they were right on the tail of the group ahead and crossed the finish line less than a second away from fourth position.
It was still raining as the riders took their places on the grid for the final race of the championship and the Birchall brothers began their campaign from the fourth row of the grid. They got away to a blistering start to head the pack into turn one but as they crossed the line to begin lap two the red flag halted the race and they had it all to do again. At the re-start they were in third place after the first lap and moved up to second one lap later to chase after champions elect Tim Reeves and Greg Cluze who were some distance ahead. But the rain stopped and the track began to dry causing the wet weather tyres to overheat. They completed their race in second place well ahead of Lawrie/Neave who were a distant third some 10 seconds adrift.
“It was not a brilliant weekend for us,” said Ben. “The weather didn’t help us but that’s racing, in those conditions anything can happen – and it did in the first race! But considering we only contested five of the eight rounds, to finish in fourth place was quite a respectable outcome.
“We would like to convey our thanks to Paul Jackson of Montgomery Transport for their continued support and also all our sponsors for their support over the year.”
Ben and Tom travel back across theIrish Seato Bishopscourt at the end of the month for the annual Sunflower Trophy meeting. Having won there for the last two years and also the current lap record holders, this time they will be seeking another win to complete their hat trick.
Photo by Wally Walters