Isle of Man TT 2015: Sidecar race one report

Isle of Man TT 2015: Sidecar race one report
TT 2015

Ben & Tom Birchall dominate the opening sidecar race on the Island

The two 2015 Isle of Man Tourist trophy sidecar races promise to be the most eagerly awaited for many years.

With a record field of 42 entries, including the current World Champion Tim Reeves and his former World sidecar Champion passenger and TT winner Patrick Farrance, 17 times winner Dave Molyneux and his passenger Benjamin Binns, the reigning British F2 Champions Gary Bryan and Jamie Winn and the reigning British F1 Champions Sean Hegarty and James Neave.

Add into this mix last year’s race one winner Conrad Harrison and his passenger Mike Aylott and five other winning drivers and passengers like 2011 winner John Holden and his passenger Dan Sayle the scene was set for the magnificent spectacle of what is one of the race fans favourite races.

Conrad Harrison could not repeat last years winning performance taking third place in race one

Conrad Harrison could not repeat last years winning performance taking third place in race one

Two Sure sponsored three lap races would take place over this 37.73 mile circuit, so there was no refuelling needed or tyre changes like the solo machines.

Practice week was a near disaster for all the competitors, with the weather playing its part from high winds, heavy rain and even snow in some parts there was very little practice time for the sidecars. With Saturday’s race being cancelled and rescheduled for Monday 8th June there was a lot of down times for the teams. On Monday even with near perfect weather this was delayed for two hours due to a road accident on the course just before it was going to close for road traffic.

During practice there had been a coming together between the Birchall brothers and Tim Reeves/Farrance outfit at Greeba bridge with some pushing and shoving taking part for the whole of the lap,

Tension and nerves were very much in evidence at the start, but as the sidecars left the start line you could see that the top teams were very much on the pace with Holden taking an early lead from the Birchall brother’s driver Ben and passenger Tom, Harrison, Reeves and Molyneux. Reeves then developed technical problems at Barregarrow and retired.

In Ramsey Molyneux took the lead and was looking very comfortable then at Brandish he had to retire with a fault. Holden went back in front but was soon overtaken by the Birchalls who were showing no signs of nerves after their bad crash last year. Onto lap two they went through the speed trap at Sulby at 145 mph and at Ramsey they had a lead of nine seconds from Holden/Sayle followed in third by Harrison/Aylott and then Ian Bell and son Carl, with Bryan/Winn having a real battle with Alan Founds and Tom Peters for sixth place.

Increasing their lead at every sector Holden didn’t really have an answer to the Birchall’s who were giving a master class in sidecar racing around the island. Over the line going onto the final lap (The previous lap two was the second fastest sidecar lap around the island at 116.060 mph.) Holden remained in second with Harrison in third, Bell’s in fourth and Bryan and Founds having a royal battle with less than a second between them.

Holden & Sayle had no answer to the Birchall brothers settling for second place in race one

Holden & Sayle had no answer to the Birchall brothers settling for second place in race one

Onto the final lap the Birchall’s had a 12.8 second gap over Holden, increasing it to over 16 seconds at Ramsey and then over the mountain section showing just how dominant they were by increasing the lead to over 20 seconds. Harrison remained in third with the Bells in fourth and Founds in fifth still fighting with Bryan.

Taking the chequered flag the Mansfield brothers were absolutely delighted taking their second TT win by over 24 seconds from Holden, Harrison in third, the Bell’s in fourth and after an epic battle Founds taking fifth place by 0.7 seconds from Bryan. Without doubt a classic race indeed.

At the post race press conference Ben said “It’s an honour to win a TT so to win a second feels even more of an honour but it felt a long way off after what happened last year. I tried hard on the second lap today but I did run wide in a few places as I was carrying that much more speed than before. It was a bit scrappy so I settled down a bit more on the third lap and it felt a lot better. It hasn’t been the best start to the year and I’ve been a bit low so I’m a bit emotional now. It’s very important to have everyone behind you and that’s how it’s been. We’re a big team but we’re a close team.”

Brother Tom added: “We’d had a steady practice week and not much track time like everyone else but I knew Ben would be strong for the race. The delays can tip you over the edge but we kept calm and as soon as we went through Union Mills on the first lap, I could tell he was on it. The second lap felt a lot faster, you can really notice the difference in speed and you’re doing things you wouldn’t think possible. The third lap was only a fraction slower but it felt better and flowed better and it’s unreal to win another one. It’s been a strange start to the year but it’s a pleasure to be alongside Ben and it’s a testament to his character that he’s bounced back.”

The race was the fastest in sidecar history and their second lap was only six seconds behind Nick Crowe’s lap record time. Who knows with another performance like this the lap record could be broken in race two.

Words by John Mushet & images by Glynne Lewis

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