Following their double win at Snetterton in the British championship on Sunday, Mansfield brothers Ben and Tom Birchall travelled directly to the Isle of Man where they took part in qualifying on Monday evening for the two sidecar races at the Southern 100 meeting and going on to take a second and third place in two thrilling races.
The Ace Hire and Sales Race (Wednesday)
Starting the first race on Wednesday evening from the second row, the Mitchells of Mansfield supported brothers were third away but soon overtook John Holden and Andy Winkle to move up into second place.
The action was very close with just half a second separating Ben and Tom from race leaders Reeves/ Farrance with Holden/Winkle right in their wheel tracks. Pole sitters Dave Molyneux and Dan Sayle recovered from their bad start and joined the top three with all four outfits pulling away from the following pack.
As they approached Cross Fourways on lap four, Moly made a brave move past the Birchalls to move into second place. Ben wasn’t letting him get away and the pair exchanged places throughout the remainder of the lap with Reeves, Moly, Birchall and Holden passing the start line separated by just two seconds.
They all maintained their position into the fifth lap with the gap between first and fourth down to 1.3 seconds, but no sooner had they passed the start line the race was red flagged for an incident further downfield and a result was declared on positions at the end of lap four with Ben and Tom stepping onto the podium in third place.
“The conditions were really tricky out there as the track was dry in some parts and wet in others.”
“We all chose a different tyre combination so one was better in some parts than the other three! It was certainly an exciting and entertaining race and that last lap would have been a hum dinger!”
“We would like to pass on our best wishes to the two riders that were injured during the race and wish them a speedy recovery.”
Manx Gas Sidecar Championship (Thursday)
The second race on Thursday afternoon was run in perfect weather conditions and with the highly competitive field it was essential to get away to a good start. As the race began it was Reeves who headed the field with Ben and Tom in their wheel tracks. As they went past the start and finish to begin lap two the top four outfits of Reeves, Birchall, Molyneux and Holden were already pulling clear from the field with less than a second covering the four of them.
Ben and Tom took the lead as they started lap three with Moly following through, but he was to retire with a technical problem a few seconds later. This left Birchalls in the lead with Reeves and Holden right behind them. In their efforts to retain the race lead Ben and Tom broke the existing lap record only to lose it one lap later when Reeves went a fraction of a second faster and on lap six history was made when all three of the front runners broke the 100mph barrier.
On the penultimate lap they were into the back markers and Reeves snatched the lead on the run to Cross Fourways. Ben was unable to make it back to the front and they finished the race in second place.
“We set out to try to win and that’s when lap records tumble. It was a great race but of course it is difficult to run at the front and not make a mistake. I knew Tim was there waiting and when we ran slightly wide he took the advantage.”
“On that last lap the back markers unsettled me a little bit and I had a bit of a slide and he was alongside me. He wasn’t going to give in and we both only just got round but it was good fun. Thanks a lot to the Southern 100 club and also our sponsors and friends, we really enjoyed it.”
On their return from the Isle of Man Ben and Tom will head to Thruxton for the next round of the British championship over the weekend of July 22-24 where there are three races to contest. Currently the Birchalls top the 600 cup standings and they will be seeking more top results to extend their championship lead.
Main Image courtesy of Clare Freestone and Peter Bull
Words By Helen Pask