Mansfield brothers Ben and Tom Birchall rode to a win and second place in the two world championship races at Schleiz in Germany on Sunday to move within a whisker of the lead in the 2010 FIM Sidecar World Championship.
The current world champions were up against former champion Pekka Paivarinta and passenger Adolf Hanni who won the opening round of the new campaign at Le Mans in April. The Mitchells of Mansfield supported brothers were determined to narrow the five point gap separating the two top teams and dominated free practice and qualifying setting a fast lap of 1m 29.542 to claim pole position to the set of two races.
As the short sprint race of 11 laps got underway on Saturday the Birchall brothers shot away to establish the lead, swiftly followed by Paivarinta. On lap two the flying Finn was overhauled by Hock/Becker but although the German team got within a couple of seconds to the world champions they were unable to keep up the pace leaving Ben and Tom to romp home to a fine victory some four seconds ahead of Hock. Paivarinta was a further four seconds adrift in third place and the best of the rest was Tim Reeves who crossed the finish line in fourth position, some 17 seconds after the leaders.
The 25 points accrued from the sprint race gave the Birchalls a four point advantage at the top of the rider standings and boosted their confidence going into the gold race on Sunday.
Run over 22 laps of the 3.805km circuit Ben and Tom once again began their race from pole position. But this time they didn’t get the flying start they needed and were fourth after the first lap some 3.2 seconds behind the leaders.
But undeterred by this Ben got his head down and powered the LCR Yamaha past both Reeves and Hock to tuck into second place behind Paivarinta on the second lap. The pair began to pull away from the rest of the field and battled it out for the lead over the next few laps with Ben putting in the fastest time of the race on lap six with a time of 1m 28.856s, just under the lap record time of 1m 28.289s the Mansfield pair set in last year’s race.
But lady luck was not on their side and as the race progressed the bike developed a fault with the brakes which caused Ben to have to ease off and bring the bike home in a very safe second place. This time it was Reeves who came home in third place, some 24 seconds after the leaders crossed the finish line with Hock finishing in fourth place.
The result saw Ben and Tom relinquish the series lead and hand it back to Paivarinta who now holds a one-point lead over the Mansfield pair.
“When I encountered the problem with the brakes I had to back off a bit and knowing I was a long way ahead of anyone else I just brought her home safely,” said Ben. “I was lucky to be able to continue as I didn’t know if the problem would get worse but it seemed to hold it together ok and we got the result. I am gaining in confidence more and more with the new bike and also the Avon tyres and am looking forward to getting out on track again soon to continue my world championship campaign and also the Battle of Britain series. I have to say a big thank you to all my sponsors and supporters who have given me their backing this year and both Tom and I will be doing our utmost to bring back some strong results for them throughout the season.”
The next round of the FIM World championship is on June 20 when the team visit Rijeka in Croatia before returning to the UK for the next round of the Battle of Britain which takes place just six days later on June 20 at Oulton Park in Cheshire