Mansfield sidecar racers Ben and Tom Birchall wrapped up their 2014 world championship challenge with a win in the final round of the FIM F1 Sidecar World Championship at Le Mans in France to seal the runners-up spot in this year’s world series.
The pair completed their qualifying with ease, setting pole position, and as the lights went out the Mitchells of Mansfield-supported team shot away to get the hole shot into the first corner with champions Reeves and Cluze right behind in their tyre tracks.
But as they approached the first chicane Reeves made a move to overtake which left Ben and Tom fighting off the challenge of Paivarinta and Karttiala, who were also in the mix.
However, the Birchalls had the measure of the Finns and powered the LCR Suzuki away to battle for the lead with Reeves.
On numerous occasions the Birchalls were forced wide to the extent that their pace was compromised, but they fought back each time until once again they were pushed so wide they had to run down the escape road to avoid a crash.
They rejoined the race down in third place some five seconds behind Paivarinta and, in their efforts to catch the two outfits ahead, broke the lap record on two occasions.
After passing the Finn it was not long before they caught and passed Reeves and this time they pulled away to establish a hefty lead, going on to cross the finish line some 10 seconds ahead of Paivarinta.
Ben said: “It has been a difficult year for both Tom and me and also our sponsors, friends and family, but once I overcame my injury we were back on top form.
“Taking the win and also the lap record here at Le Mans is a special achievement for us, especially as it is the last round of the championship.
“After being pushed off the track, to come back strong and win the race is a good end to our season. We will come back strong next year and our priority is to bring the world title back to Mansfield.”
Because they were unable to race at Croatia the Birchalls’ championship lead was wiped out and they were left with a 50 point deficit.
The surgeon did an incredible job to save Ben’s hand and, although he was still riding severely injured and undergoing several operations between races, he rode through the pain to bring the deficit down to just 16 points.
Another race and the championship could have been theirs.
The race from Le Mans will be shown on Motors TV on Thursday at 11pm.
PICTURE BY WALLY WALTERS