IOM: Sidecar race one TT 2016 – Holden & Winkle prosper in race of attrition
With another fantastic line up of World Champions, British Champions and Isle of Man winners the two 2016 Isle of Man sidecar races promised to be one the most eagerly awaited races of this year’s festival.
With glorious weather throughout the practice week all the teams had managed to complete a good number of laps which gave them the opportunity to check all was in working order for the gruelling three laps around this 37 mile circuit. John Holden and Andy Winkle by the last practice were the pace setters with a 115.349 mph lap with the likes of Ben and Tom Birchall, Tim Reeves and Patrick Farrance, Isle of Man pair Dave Molyneux and Dan Sayle not that far behind so the scene was set for the Saturday’s first race.
With 17 times Sidecar TT winner and home favorite Dave Molyneux and passenger Dan Sayle non-starters after a problematic qualifying week, the Birchalls were first to leave the line shortly after 4pm. The race was delayed after lap one when race was red flagged following an incident at Rhencullen. The Birchalls led at Glen Helen first time around, 1.3 seconds clear of John Holden and Andy Winkle. Tim Reeves and Patrick Farrance were only a tenth further back in third with father and son team of Ian and Carl Bell in fourth from Peter Founds and Jevan Walmsley and Isle of Man pairing of Karl Bennett and Lee Cain.
By Ramsey, the Birchalls had added a further second to their lead. Reeves and Farrance had dropped seven seconds to Holden and Winkle and seemed to be without the pace to challenge the front two. Indeed, they slipped back to fourth behind the Bells at the Bungalow. Another team in trouble were Bennett and Cain who retired at Sulby Crossroads.
An opening lap of 115.543mph gave the Birchalls a significant advantage of 8.1 seconds over Holden and Winkle and Reeves and Farrance, who had reclaimed third from the Bells, although it was tight with just half a second separating them. Pete Founds and Walmsley were still in fifth with brother Alan moving up to sixth.
The first seven crews were all over 110mph but at the front of the field the Birchalls were pressing home their advantage. By Glen Helen on lap two their lead had increased slightly to 9.2 seconds. The Bells were now back up to third and, although they were 17 seconds behind Holden, the Bedlington based pair had edged away from Reeves and Farrance, with the difference now 4.3 seconds.
A second lap of 116.798mph saw a new lap record set by the flying Birchalls and the gap between them and Holden and Winkle grow to 24 seconds. The Bells were another team out of luck having stopped at Barregarrow Crossroads to make adjustments. That promoted Reeves and Farrance back up to third as Pete Founds and Walmsley closed to within 0.7 seconds of the former winners. Alan Founds & Aki Alto, Matt Dix & Shaun Parker now occupying the remaining top six places.
With first and second places now seemingly secure, all eyes turned to the battle for third and, sure enough, Pete Founds and Walmsley had moved into the final podium spot at Glen Helen albeit by just half a second from Matt Dix and Shaun Parker.
However, there was drama on the final lap and after passing through Ballaugh with a 34 second lead, the Birchalls retired soon after at Sulby Crossroads promoting Holden and Winkle back into the lead. Soon after this, Reeves and Farrance were also out having stopped at Glen Duff with an engine misfire problem.
It all meant Holden and Winkle came home for their second TT win, their first since 2011 with the Founds brothers, Peter and Alan, claiming their maiden podiums with Jevan Walmsley and Aki Alto in their respective chairs.
In a race of high attrition, another father and son team of Steve and Matty Ramsden secured their best ever position in fourth as Dix and Parker and Wayne Lockey and Mark Sayers completed the top six, all three crews setting their best ever laps. For the Ramsdens, a final lap of 111.387mph was their first above 110mph.
There were also impressive performances from newcomers Mick Alton and Chrissy Clancy and Lewis Blackstock and Patrick Rosney, the duo finishing in 13th and 14th place. Alton set the best lap by a newcomer driver with a speed of 108.008mph.
At the post race press conference all six men were in high spirits. Alan Founds said “ This was unexpected. The bike wasn’t running that well, we were over geared and had to use fifth gear on the bends and were losing out on the straights. It’s a dream we had a five year plan and to be sat here after three years is brilliant.” Aki added “I wasn’t expecting this, everything came together and I’m really happy to be on the podium.”
Pete Founds said “We raced at our own pace. We had loads of practice laps and just did what we had to do without getting too involved with other teams out there. We have a few changes to make for the second race but to get second is amazing.” Jevan added “This is brilliant we took it steady and got on the podium. We have had great form in the British Championship and it’s working here.”
The winners were also in a buoyant mood. John said “We had no answer to Ben and Tom (Birchall) on their second lap. We just kept going and couldn’t do much about them. We were lucky but you’ve got to finish to win it. Not bad a 59 year old bloke winning the TT. “
Andy also added “Last year I was injured and hated walking around here. I went to France with John testing on the bike in March and knew I could do this again. We’re like an old married couple having been together for ten years and to win a second title is just great.”
Sadly the first lap incident took the life of the very popular 27 year old Dwight Beare from Melbourne in Australia. His Isle of Man passenger Benjamin Binns sustained a broken ankle and is in a stable condition. Dwight had based himself on the Isle of Man during the last few years to compete in the TT and the British F2 Championship. He will be sorely missed by his fellow competitors. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
Report – John Mushet
Images – Glynne Lewis