Sidecar-racing superstars Ben and Tom Birchall are gearing themselves up for a new, action-packed season and gunning for more success.
The Birchall brothers, of Mansfield, have forged a massive reputation within the sport, which culminated in them being crowned world champions last year.
But they are determined not to rest on their laurels and are not only aiming to retain their world title in 2017, they are also bidding to land the British Sidecar Championship for the second year running, as well as tackling the world-renowned Isle Of Man TT races and the prestigious Isle Of Man Southern 100 event.
“Our preparation for the season is going very well, and we are nearly ready to make a start on our testing programme, ahead of the first race,” said 40-year-old Ben, the team owner. “We leave soon for a week’s testing in France, and everything is looking good.
“We are delighted our loyal sponsors are to continue with their support, and we are looking forward to the start of the new season. We want to reward our sponsors and supporters with race wins throughout 2017.”
The Birchalls like to keep those sponsors strictly local, and their machine will again be supported this season by the trucking company, Mitchell’s Of Mansfield. They will contest the world and British championships on their LCR chassis powered by a Yamaha R6 engine, supplied by CF Motorsport, of Alfreton, while they will rely on a smaller LCR short chassis with a Honda 600cc engine for the Isle Of man races.
“We have had to change for the world championships because everyone is on a 600 engine,” explained Ben. “Last year was a development year and we used a Honda, but this time we have switched to Yamaha because it will give us more power. We have done a lot of work over the winter, developing the new-style engine.”
Ben and 30-year-old passenger brother Tom launch the season in the first round of the worlds at Le Mans on April 15. That date clashes with the opening round too of the British championship, which will make it harder for them to defend, but they say the world title will be given priority, with further rounds to follow in Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands and Croatia.
Last year, the Birchalls had the world crown sewn up one round early after winning every race. But they expect a stronger challenge this time round, although Ben insists that the hardest part of their whole season will be the TT races in May and June.
“They are the toughest of the lot,” he said. “We have had four TT wins in the past, and we’ll be hoping for more, but it’s a major event and because it’s a one-off, you only have one chance to get it right.”
When the brothers clinched their latest TT triumph last summer, they were hailed as the pride of Mansfield by the town’s Executive Mayor, Coun Kate Allsop. Few would disagree with that.