Mansfield brothers Ben and Tom Birchall saw race action in the penultimate round of the FIM World Sidecar championship at Sachsenring in Germany at the weekend where the sidecar race was a support to the German round of MotoGP. But despite their best efforts they could only secure a fourth place finish to the 22-lap Gold race on Sunday and now are not in a position to retain their world crown.
Despite still suffering from the injuries received at the previous round in Croatia Ben decided he would be able to contest the race in Germany and just weeks after a skin graft operation he bravely took his place on the grid for free practice and qualifying.
The Mitchells of Mansfield supported pair made it through qualifying and were second fastest just two tenths of a second away from pole and when the race got underway on Sunday Ben and Tom were sitting pretty in third place and catching the two outfits ahead.
But as the race progressed the effects of his injuries began to take their toll and he was unable to maintain the pace. The Birchall brothers dropped back and completed their race in a safe fourth place to pick up 13 championship points.
Former champion Pekka Paivarinta now leads the title race with an advantage of 28 points over the current champions and with just 25 points up for grabs in the final round at Magny Cours it is not possible for the Mansfield brothers to retain their world crown. But all is not lost as Ben and Tom are only eight points behind Reeves and Cluze who hold the runner up spot and a top result from the final race could see the brothers move up into the runner up spot.
“Its disappointing that we have to relinquish our world crown but its all down to the accident we had in Croatia,” said Ben. “Before that happened we were positive we could have gone on to win the title again but its not all bad news as we still have the runner up spot to race for at the final round in September.
“We put 110% effort into our race in Germany but the weeks of operations and treatment on my back meant that I was not as fit as I could have been through lack of training and eventually it took its toll on me.”
“By half race distance I was feeling so tired but we soldiered on and made sure of the points for fourth place.
“I would like to say a big thank you to Steve at AM Leathers as a huge effort has been put in to getting the new leathers made up in time for this race. I have opted for the recommended high density protection suit with extra protection in the back this time instead of the lightweight leathers I used previously and they are just the job.
“We are grateful to Oxford Products for the prompt supply of our new HJC helmets. Our old ones were damaged in the crash and it’s thanks to the protection given by the HJC helmets that saved me from further injury.
Finally I must also extend my thanks to Pro-Refinishing of Sutton in Ashfield for the superb job they did in revamping the paintwork on the outfit at such short notice.”
Ben will now concentrate his efforts into getting himself fully fit in preparation for the final round of the series which will be held as a support race to the 24-hour Bol d’Or race at Magny Cours in France on September 11/12.
Prior to that Ben and Tom will be at Cadwell Park over the weekend of August 7/8 where they will contest the next round of the Battle of Britain Sidecar championship.