Mansfield brothers Ben and Tom Birchall completed the 2012 FIM World Sidecar championship in third place to claim the bronze medal at the end of a close and exciting year of racing.
Going into the final round at Le Mans on Saturday there were just four championship points separating the top four teams in the competition and the title would go to the team who won the final race.
Things were looking promising for the Mitchells of Mansfield supported team as they completed free practice and qualifying in a comfortable first place and began the final outing from pole position.
As the race began Ben and Tom were second into turn one, close on the heels of Reeves/Hawes with current champions Paivarinta/Hanni in third place. But it all went wrong for the Nottinghamshire duo when Paivarinta came alongside at turn four and both outfits went for the same piece of tarmac. This resulted in a collision with the Birchalls coming off worse as Paivarinta clipped the front of their outfit spinning them round a full 180 degrees and flipping it onto its roof.
The outfit suffered serious damage which meant that Ben and Tom’s race and their championship challenge was over. Paivarinta was able to carry on although passenger Adolf Hanni fell from the machine a few seconds later and they too were out of the race.
“Obviously we are both disappointed that we were not in a position to challenge for the world title,” said Ben. “But for that crash I am sure we would have been right in the thick of the action and in with a good chance of winning the race and the title. Our main sponsor Andy Mitchell pulled out all the stops to help us get the outfit prepared for this race and nothing was left to chance. But there is nothing certain in racing and it was a twist of fate that took two of the top teams out and left a third slowing with gear box problems which paved the way for Reeves to take the honours.
“What a year this has been for us, who would have thought that despite all odds with an underpowered engine we could have won a succession of pole positions and completed a highly competitive season in third place. It has been a fantastic championship this year and couldn’t have been any closer with the four of us covered by just four points going into the last race. But this has left us hungry for more next year and preparations are already ongoing to improve the performance of the outfit for the 2013 world championship.
“I must convey our get well soon wishes to Adolf Hanni who was quite seriously injured in his fall. Adolf is a great character and gave us a lot of support at the TT this year, we wish him well.
“Due to the nature of the repairs that have to be carried out to our machine we will not be in a position to contest the British championship round at Assen next week but we will be working around the clock to try and get the outfit up and running for the final two rounds at Silverstone and Brands Hatch.”
Ben, Tom and all at Birchall Racing would like to convey their congratulations to Tim and Ashley for bringing the world title back to the UK.
Photos credit Mark Wally Walters