Following their crash at the Isle of Man TT races just a few weeks ago Mansfield sidecar racers Ben and Tom Birchall made a welcome return to the FIM world Sidecar Championship at the weekend when they rode to a second place finish at Assen where the race was featured as a support event to the Motogp Championship round at the weekend.
Still recovering from the serious hand injury sustained in the accident on the Isle of Man Ben did just enough in qualifying to gain a respectable grid position, saving his energy for the race. The Mitchells of Mansfield supported team recorded four or more laps and set a fast time which was sufficient to start the race from the front row of the grid in second place.
Race day threw up some challenges as just prior to the start of the race there was a rain storm. But the track was drying quickly and the riders opted to go out in damp conditions on slick tyres in the hope the rain would stay away.
Ben said: “The conditions being damp at the start were a little difficult for me as it put a lot of strain on my injured hand; but as the track dried we were able to get up to our normal speed.”
The Birchall boys got the hole shot into the first turn and held the lead for the first couple of laps before being overhauled by Reeves/Cluze. But the leaders did not pull away and Ben was able to remain in touch circulating about three seconds adrift. As the race unfolded the track dried out and Ben was able to push a bit harder setting the fastest lap of the race (1m 42.599s) in his efforts to catch the leaders. But it was a little too late and the Birchall brothers crossed the finish line in second place the gap being just 2.35s.
Ben said: “We were pleased to set the fastest lap but also very pleased it was the final lap. We brought the gap down to just over two seconds but I was so relieved to have finished as it was a long, hard race for me in the circumstances. I need to thank Mike Hayton for his fantastic efforts in putting my hand back together which enabled me to actually race today. To think where we were three weeks ago it’s an amazing effort by the consultant to get me relatively fit. Also to the Hyperbaric chamber in Nottingham and Phoenix Physio and Laser clinic for the work they did leading up to the Assen race. My team have been amazing, everyone has dug in to help so I could rest up and my main sponsor Andy Mitchell even drove the transporter to Assen which was such a help as I couldn’t drive that far. To finish the race on the podium with MotoGP was amazing.”
The second place earned Ben and Tom 20 championship points and puts them back up to second in the overall rider standings. The next round is at Sachsenring in Germany on July 13 and is once again a support race to the MotoGP championship.
pic credit Wally Walters