Outgoing world champions Ben and Tom Birchall from Mansfield scored three top four results in round six of the Eastern Airways Battle of Britain F1 Sidecar championship at Anglesy over the weekend and remain in third place in the overall rider standings but have reduced the deficit between themselves and Alan Schofield – who holds second place – to just four points with two rounds (six races) remaining.
The Mitchells of Mansfield supported brothers were at a slight disadvantage as they were first timers at the North Wales circuit but it didn’t take them long to learn the intricacies of the undulating and exciting 1.550-mile coastal circuit and despite a slipping clutch they were able to post the second fastest lap time in qualifying to begin their races from a front row grid position.
The weather took a turn for the worse and Saturday’s first race was held in heavy rain but this didn’t appear to bother the Mansfield pair who shot off the line to establish a four second lead on the first lap. By lap four they were into the back markers and weaved their way safely through to gradually extend their lead to over 13 seconds and cross the finish line for a convincing victory over 13.6 seconds ahead of Reeves and Cluze.
“We were happy to qualify in second place after riding with a slipping clutch although if we hadn’t had that problem we could have done better” said Ben. “We changed the clutch in between practice and the first race and ended up winning. The bike ran well and the Avon tyres were spot on, we also put in the fastest lap of the race so we were really happy with the result.”
The weather on Sunday was even worse with a blustery and menacing wind accompanying the driving rain. As the lights went out for the start of race two, Ben and Tom were quick to anticipate the start and led the riders around the first part of the course. But as they approached the spectacular corkscrew they were overtaken by Reeves and Cluze and as they exited onto the paddock straight they were caught out in the treacherous conditions, spun the outfit and were left stranded in the middle of the track. They were quick to restart but rejoined way down the field almost in last place.
Undeterred, Ben got his head down and began to reel in the riders ahead picking them off one by one until they moved back up into fourth place on lap seven of the scheduled 14.
But as he was lining up Clark and Graham for third place the red flag brought the race to an early end and the Nottinghamshire riders had to be content with fourth place.
“The treacherous conditions caught me out,” said Ben. “We spun and were very nearly at the back of the field when we rejoined. We had got up to fourth when the race was stopped otherwise I think we could have got to the podium.”
The rain abated in time for the last of the three races and Ben and Tom slotted into second place. They took a gamble on intermediate tyres but it began to rain again mid race and that impeded their progress, allowing Reeves and Cluze to pull away and establish a five second lead. Although they posted the fastest lap of the race on the final circulation they were unable to catch the leaders and finished in second place, the gap reduced to just three and a half seconds.
“It is harder to race in drying conditions than when it’s really wet. It began to rain again half way through the race so the intermediate tyres went off a little bit. But towards the end it began to dry out again and we were able to post the fastest lap of the race on the last lap. I would like to say a big thank you to Avon Tyres; they pulled out all the stops and have been great all weekend.”
The Birchall brothers remain in third place overall and are now only four points away from the runner up spot. They are 91 points behind Reeves who leads the series but with six races and 150 points still up for grabs it is still mathematically possible for the Mansfield pair to take the title.
The penultimate round is at Donington Park on October 24 when Ben and Tom will be chasing a hat trick of wins to edge nearer to their rivals ahead of the final showdown at Mallory Park on October 31.