After a dramatic crash in free practice on Friday, Mansfield brothers Ben and Tom Birchall rode through the pain of their injuries to record eleventh place in the short 11-lap sprint race and a fine third in the main race of the weekend, the Gold 20-lap event at Rijeka in Croatia where they were contesting round three of the FIM Sidecar world championship.
The Mitchells of Mansfield supported reigning world champions were hoping to repeat their performance from last year when they took the win but it wasn’t to be. As free practice got underway the pair had only completed a couple of laps when the outfit hit the high kerb and flipped onto its roof. Tom was thrown clear but Ben was trapped underneath as the outfit slid down the tarmac. Both riders were transported to the local hospital for treatment and it was Ben that came off worse with a badly grazed back.
On their return to the circuit they were unsure if they would be fit to race but decided to give it a go. They qualified in sixth place and went on to take 11th in the sprint race to pick up five championship points.
Feeling better on Sunday the pair went out to try and pick up as many points as possible – damage limitation. Despite the handicap of his sore back, Ben was determined to complete the gruelling 20 laps and this he did in style. Although the Mansfield pair were well down on the two leading machines they brought the outfit safely home in third place to pick up a further 16 championship points. Although they drop to third in the title race they are only one point away from Reeves in the runner up spot and 25 points adrift from Paivarinta who leads the championship.
“The crash was one of those things,” said Ben. “The kerbs are quite high here and they were freshly painted. The outfit clipped the kerb and slid across the track before turning turtle with me sliding along trapped underneath. My back is very sore but I was able to qualify and take part in the races. In race one we chose the wrong tyre which slowed us right down but in the second race we were able to make the podium. I had to borrow some leathers as mine were damaged beyond repair and my helmet is very battered but its testament to the HJC helmet that saved me from further injury – see attached pic)”
• Oxford Products Ltd supply Ben and Tom with Ben Spies replica HJC helmets and coincidently Spies finished in third place at Silverstone on Sunday in the British round of MotoGP!
Ben and Tom are scheduled to contest the Battle of Britain F1 Sidecar championship round at Oulton Park on Friday and Saturday with race one on Friday and the second and third races on Saturday.