Mansfield duo Ben and Tom Birchall today put last year’s horrific smash behind them to win the first three lap sidecar race at this year’s Isle of Man TT festival, also setting the fastest ever race time of 58m 39. 776s.
This time last year Ben Birchall was in hospital nursing a badly damaged hand following a crash at the Black Dub, and it’s thanks to the skills of consultant surgeon Mike Hayton that he was able to race there again this year.
Click HERE to read the TT crash story from last year
Earlier this year the Birchalls pulled out of this year’s FIM World Championship after a scathing attack on title rivals Tim Reeves and Gregory Cluze following a crash at Donington Park.
Click HERE to read the story on the Birchalls quitting the World Championship
Ben said: “To win a TT race is an honour and from where we were last year after our crash it has been a long road back.
“I just want to thank my family, friends and sponsors for helping me through it and especially Mike Hayton the consultant for operating on my hand which allowed us to get back here.
“I also need to thank Tom for hanging on as I ran wide in a few places on the brakes as we were carrying a lot more speed which gave me a lack of time to adjust.
“I think I gave everyone a fright at the Gooseneck as we nearly ran straight on. It is a complete honour to be sat in here again as winners and let’s hope we can keep doing it.
“It is very important to have everyone, including Klaus Klaffenbock, in our team because, although we are a big team, we are also a very close-knit unit and Jim and Ed have been perfect all week.
“To be fair I have been very low this year but now this is me on the way back up and this result is for everybody that has helped me get back up here.”
Practice week was hampered by the weather as the riders lost valuable track time because of high winds and rain on the 37.73-mile mountain road course last week, and after just two decent evenings of practice Saturday’s opening race was postponed because of more high winds that made it impossible for the air med helicopter to fly.
Without the back up of the helicopter, racing is not permitted to take place and the three-lap Sure Sidecar race was finally run at 1.30pm today.
As the race began the Mansfield brothers were second on corrected time at the first checkpoint of Glen Helen.
They remained in second place just a few seconds behind Dave Molyneux and Benjamin Binns until the Manx pair pulled in with a problem on their descent off the mountain, leaving Ben and Tom to complete the lap in first position with a time of 115.285mph.
They extended their lead on lap two of the 37.73-mile Mountain road course to 13.5 seconds from nearest challengers John Holden and Dan Sayle, posting their fastest-ever lap of the TT course of 116.060mph, just six seconds shy of the fastest-ever lap for a sidecar around the TT course.
After a fast final lap the Birchalls powered the Manx Gas Racing Honda back to the finish at the Grandstand to take the second victory of their career at the TT, over 24.113s ahead of Holden and Sayle with last year’s winners Conrad Harrison and Mike Aylott coming home in third place.
The brothers were overjoyed with their win and delighted to have rewritten the record books with a new race record time of 58m 39.776s.
Tom added: “We were fairly quick during practice week and I knew that Ben was fit and strong and wanted the win more than ever.
“I knew from the word go we were on for one. but that second lap was just unreal; to do that sort of speed you are doing things that you wouldn’t think were possible but you adjust and catch up to it. “Ben was that smooth and that accurate it makes it easier and more predictable for me.
“After the crash last year, to win another race here is just unreal.
“We had a funny start to the year and it’s been so emotional for us. Thanks to everyone who has supported us and also to Ben for having the motivation to carry on as he still has a lot to give.”
The second TT race is scheduled for Wednesday when Ben and Tom will be hoping to add another successful result to their TT portfolio.
Podium picture courtesy of Manx Radio. Action shot by Peter Bull.