IoM TT: The Birchall boys secure the victory in a race delayed by sea mist
Mansfield’s Ben and Tom Birchall took their fourth career TT win on Friday with victory in the second Sure Sidecar race at the 2016 Isle of Man TT Races.
The IEG Racing duo were locked in battle with Dave Molyneux and Daniel Sayle from the first lap but when they retired, they had a comfortable lead and eventually took the win by 38.7 seconds from John Holden and Andy Winkle with Tim Reeves and Patrick Farrance taking the final podium spot.
Delayed by over three hours due to sea mist, the race finally got underway at 1.30pm and it was Molyneux and Sayle who led at Glen Helen on the first lap but only by a tenth of a second from Holden and Winkle with the Birchalls only a further second back. By Ramsey, the gap was half a second but it was now Holden who was leading with the Birchalls still only a second further adrift in third.
However, it was all change again at the Grandstand as Molyneux retook the lead, his advantage over the Birchalls being 0.9 seconds as Holden slipped back to third, now almost four seconds back in third, while Reeves and Farrance slotted into fourth.
Second time around at Glen Helen and there was another change at the top of the leaderboard as the Birchalls grabbed the lead for the first time. They were now half a second ahead of Molyneux and Sayle with Holden and Winkle still well in contention in third, just two seconds behind.
However, as the lap unfolded, the Birchalls began to put the hammer down and by Ramsey Hairpin, they’d stretched the gap to 4.5 seconds. With a second lap speed of 116.615mph, their lead had grown further still, now standing at 6.2 seconds as they started their third and final lap.
Holden and Winkle were still in third but now 11.7 seconds behind Molyneux and seemingly out of touch whilst Reeves and Farrance remained comfortable in fourth. Pete Founds and Jevan Walmsley who were running in sixth place pulled in to retire just after passing the start and finish.
There was more drama though at the head of the field as Molyneux and Sayle failed to make it Glen Helen on the final lap, retiring at Ballig Bridge. That made it a lot more comfortable for the Birchalls at the front and their advantage over Holden and Winkle now soared to 21.7 seconds with Reeves and Farrance promoted up the order to third.
The Birchalls now had full control of the race with a 28 seconds lead at Ramsey Hairpin and they were able to successfully bring the outfit up and down the Mountain to clinch their fourth win.
Holden and Winkle were secure in second and with the runners-up spot, they took the overall Sidecar Championship with Reeves and Farrance salvaging their TT race week with another podium.
Karl Bennett and Lee Cain were another crew to make amends for a first race retirement with the local crew taking fourth with Matt Dix and Shaun Parker also having a career best finish in fifth.
Father and son team of Steve and Matty Ramsden ended their successful fortnight with sixth as Alan Founds and Aki Aalto, Gary Bryan and Jamie Winn, Tony Baker and Fiona Baker-Milligan and Gordon Shand andPhil Hyde completed the top ten, Baker-Milligan consolidating her tag as the fastest-ever female passenger with more 110mph plus laps.
At the post race conference Reeves spoke first. “Very happy to be in the room. A massive congratulations to Ben and Tom and John and Andy. We have to be able to find abit more to run at their pace. I know where we can make these improvement and we will be doing this as soon as we get back. Patrick did a fantastic job.”
Patrick added. “We know what we need to find and we have already started making plans. I would like to dedicate this podium to Dwight Beare who lost his life in the first race.” This was echoed by other in the room to a round of applause.
Then it was John Holden’s turn. “If someone said at the start of the week we would have a first and second place I would have taken it. We had a good start, the conditions were a little cooler but it wasn’t slippy anywhere. We are racing World Champions and we are just a couple of old boys from Clitheroe.”
Andy added. “I wasn’t disappointed with second after last year. They keep calling us the Lancashire pairing but I’m from Staffordshire.”
The winners were clearly delighted with their win. Ben was first to speak. “I knew what pace we could run at and didn’t want to overdo it at the start. I’m thrilled and honoured to win another TT. The team has worked hard all week to rebuild the engine. Thanks to them Tom and all our sponsors. I could see Moly at certain point and at one bit we unintentionally touched when I think he missed a gear.”
Tom added “Our boards out on the road really helped. The last one I saw said 29 seconds up. The amount of support we had from the fans was unreal with the waving their programmes and cheering. We’ve had a tough week with having to rebuild the engine. We’re really pleased to be racing on the day of the Senior TT.”
Away from the celebrations it was another tragic day for the sidecar world with the death of Ian Bell from Bedlington in Northumbria. The very popular 58 year old former winner was racing with his son Carl, who sustained minor injuries, when he was involved in an incident at Ballaspur. Our sympathies and thoughts are with his family and friends.
Race images – Glynne Lewis & Al Smith
Report – John Mushet