Mansfield sidecar racers Ben and Tom Birchall denied first TT victory with puncture

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Mansfield sidecar aces Ben and Tom Birchall were denied their first win at the Isle of Man TT races when their LCR Honda suffered a puncture halfway through the first 37.73- mile lap on Saturday.

The pair had got away to a lightning start and were leading the race with a 6.2- second advantage when they brushed the grass bank at Kate’s Cottage, which was enough to deflate the sidecar tyre.

Tom immediately tapped Ben and the Manx Gas/Klaffi-supported riders pulled off the course to retire at Creg-ny-baa and sit the race out before returning to the paddock.

A bitterly disappointed Ben Birchall said: “To say I am gutted would be an understatement.

“I lost my line of sight at Kate’s Cottage and just brushed the bank, there was something sticking out, maybe a stone, and that was enough to lift the tyre off the rim.

“But we have to take the good points from the experience. Both Tom and I have really got to grips with the circuit now and our sector times show we are capable of challenging for a win in the future.

“Due to the nature of the time trial you don’t ride together with other competitors as you set off at 10 second intervals, and this was the first time we had actually made up time and been close to another rider.

“We got off to a good start, but there was a long way to go and you can’t take anything for granted around the TT course. It was looking good for us but we will never know if we were to have won our first TT, had we finished the race.”

Klaus Klaffenbock added: “After their bad luck at least Ben and Tom showed just what they are capable of. To be nearly seven seconds ahead after half a lap is a terrific achievement and everything now bodes well for the second race on Wednesday.”

Practice week was disrupted by bad weather conditions with rain causing Tuesday’s session to be abandoned and then Friday’s final practice was cut short to allow a fire engine on the course to reach a house fire in Kirk Michael.

However, Wednesday evening practice went without a hitch and Ben and Tom recorded their fastest lap of the week at an average speed of 112.1mp,h which is just a shade shy of their personal best recorded at the 2012 event of 112.9mph.

Ben and Tom are back on the course today (Monday) for a practice lap to make sure everything is running well for the second race, which is set for Wednesday at 2.15pm.

Picture by Baylon McCaughey.