Second place for Birchalls after close Assen battle

editorial image

After a thrilling and close race between Mansfield sidecar aces Ben and Tom Birchall and Reeves/Cluze in round six of the FIM F1 World championship, the victory eventually went to Reeves with the Birchall brothers coming home in a very close second place at Assen, Holland.

This was the championship’s second visit to the Assen circuit, better known as the Cathedral, and with only a short time between free practice and the two qualifying sessions on Saturday morning it was a busy time for the Mitchells of Mansfield-supported team, who qualified the LCR Suzuki on pole for the start of the 17 lap race on Sunday.

Ben had further surgery on his injured hand just 10 days prior to the Assen race and, although the fingers had more movement, it was always going to be a difficult task to race on the fast and demanding track especially with the hot weather the area was experiencing.

But the final qualifying session went well for the brothers, who posted the fastest lap of the session with a 1m 42.12s to claim pole position.

In front of 80,000 spectators it was Reeves who got the hole shot with Ben and Tom Birchall hot on their heels.

There followed a monumental battle between the two British teams, who dominated the race from the start and exchanged the race lead on numerous occasions throughout each lap.

The pace between the two was red hot and by the halfway stage of the race they began to reel in the back markers.

While Reeves got through relatively cleanly, the Birchall boys were held up and lost a few seconds to the leaders.

Once they were clear of the slower riders Ben and Tom fought their way back into contention for the lead, but ran out of time and had to settle for a very close second place at the end of a crowd thrilling race.

Ben said: “We knew it would be a difficult task for us this weekend as it is only 10 days since my surgery and although Mike Hayton did an amazing job on my hand it is still a bit tender.

“But despite this and the extremely hot weather we were so happy to secure pole position.

“The team worked hard in qualifying to find a good set up for the race which turned into a great battle with Tim Reeves.

“The main difficulty with me was to keep control of the outfit under heavy braking conditions, and then with six laps remaining we got tangled up with some back markers which held us up.

“But we managed to catch up again and were only a whisper away from the lead on the last lap but it was just that bit too late and we had to settle for second place.”

The next round is at Oschersleben in Germany on 23rd August when the Mansfield brothers will enjoy two races in the penultimate round of the series, and with three weeks to allow Ben’s injured hand to heal he should be back on top form.