On an unfamiliar track Ben and Tom Birchall rode to a brace of second places at Oschersleben in Germany on Sunday to retain their second place in the rider standings with one race left to run in the 2011 FIM F1 Sidecar World championship.
Never having been to the Oschersleben track before, the Mitchells of Mansfield duo was on the back foot before they started. The heavy rain that fell during free practice and the first qualifying sessions did little to help them but they soldiered on in an effort to learn their way around the circuit prior to final qualifying and ahead of the two world championship races that made up the penultimate round of the series.
They encountered a fuel leak in final qualifying resulting in the pair only able to complete half of the session and thus losing vital track time. But they were able to post a quick enough time to secure second place on the front row of the grid for Sunday’s 10-lap sprint race behind series leaders Paivarinta and Hanni.
The Birchall brothers completed their first race in a strong second place behind the championship leaders and Ben said: “We went into the first race with the knowledge that we didn’t have the pace to match Paivarinta. He has competed at the circuit on a number of occasions, the last being only a few weeks ago while we of course had no track experience prior to this weekend. But although we couldn’t match his times we did beat the rest of the field and finished second so I am happy enough with the result.”
The gold race took place later in the day and once again the Mansfield pair was second on the grid. Although they were again unable to catch the Flying Finn they had by this time mastered the course and were matching his lap times and completed the race in second place some 12 seconds ahead of Hock/Becker who finished in third place.
“That race went a lot better for us,” said Ben. “We all but matched Paivarinta’s qualifying time during the race although we were unable to catch him and had to settle for second place once again. Tom and I plus all the Birchall Racing team would like to congratulate Pekka and Adolf as they have clinched the world title for the second time, (third time for Pekka with a different passenger the first time).”
Paivarinta and Hanni have been confirmed as 2011 world champions with Ben and Tom just needing a further four championship points from the final race to clinch the runner up spot.
The final round of the world championship takes place at Le Mans in France on Saturday September 24 with free practice and qualifying on Friday ahead of the 18-lap race that runs prior to the Le Mans 24-hour motorcycle race.
Ben and Tom return to domestic action next weekend (September 7-11) when they head to Donington Park for round six of the Eastern Airways British F1 Sidecar championship that runs as a support class to the British Superbike championship. Free practice takes place on Friday with qualifying at 1pm on Saturday ahead of race one at 5.35pm. The second 10-lap race is on Sunday morning at 10.30am.