Based upon practice Saturday afternoon’s Locate.im Sidecar Race 1 looked like it could be a record breaker. In ideal conditions the outfits charged off down Bray Hill led by lap record holders Ben and Tom Birchall. Thoughts that this may be an easy win were dispelled at Glen Helen where John Holden / Lee Cain held a lead of 1.14s. The Birchalls were in second place with Tim Reeves / Mark Wilkes in third. Dave Molyneux /Dan Sayle held sixth; the Sulby speed trap indicating that they were well down on top end compared to their rivals. The Birchalls took Ramsey hairpin in good style; the sidecar wheel pawing the air as they powered around the tight bend. Reeves was more spectacular; but after 9 outfits had passed the red flag came out; halting the race. Veteran driver and outfit constructor Tony Baker with daughter Fiona as passenger had crashed at the 120mph+ corner at Sky Hill, one mile out of Ramsey. Thank fully their injuries were not as serious as they may have been; Tony sustained a broken leg; whilst Fiona suffered severe bruising. We wish them a full and rapid recovery.
The outfits returned to the Grandstand and whilst they were being prepared for the restart practice for the solos took place.
It was early evening when the outfits again faced the starter. There was to be no repeat of the closeness of the first running; Ben and Tom duly took their seventh Isle of Man win and in the process absolutely shredded the record books in setting both lap and race records. So fast was their pace that their race average was 0.868mph faster than the 2017 lap record.
They bettered the old record on each of the three laps, moving the outright lap record to an astonishing 118.694mph, and they came home 47.1s clear of John Holden/Lee Cain with Tim Reeves/Mark Wilkes completing the podium in third.
The Birchalls, unhappy with their first run were determined to grab the second opportunity. They led from start to finish; at Glen Helen on the opening lap, their advantage over Holden/Cain was a slender 2.1s with Reeves/Wilkes only a further 1s back as Alan Founds/Jake Lowther, Pete Founds/Jevan Walmsley and Dave Molyneux/Dan Sayle completed the top six.
As the lap progressed, the Birchalls continued to extend their lead and as they swept around Ramsey Hairpin they had opened a lead of 6.7s. The lead increased on the run to the Bungalow and it was clear they were on a very fast lap – indeed, as they flashed across the line at the end of the lap, they had broken their own lap record with a speed of 117.502mph.
That gave them a more than healthy lead of 13.1s over Holden/Cain and although Reeves/Wilkes continued to hold onto third, there were problems for Founds/Lowther who pitted to make adjustments; losing 79s in total including 10s penalty for having too many helpers in the pit. Molyneux/Sayle retired from the race whilst holding onto sixth; again they had suffered fronm a lack of top end. Meanwhile, newcomers Michael Jackson/Harry Payne set a stunning opening lap of 106.242mph.
The pit stop dropped Founds to 21st place but there were no such problems at the head of the field and the Birchalls were setting a sensational pace. They led by 16.3s at Glen Helen, 20.2 at Ramsey Hairpin and by the end of the lap, they had extended their lead to 26.1s having smashed their 19m old lap record a truly amazing lap of 118.694mph.
Holden/Cain became only the second crew to lap at more than 117mph with a lap of 117.370mph and they were now 19 seconds clear of Reeves/Wilkes. Founds/Walmsley were up to fourth with a new personal best lap of 114.613mph ahead of Conrad Harrison/Andy Winkle and Founds/Lowther who had amazingly climbed all the way back up to sixth.
On the third and final lap, the gaps between the front runners continued to widen and with a final lap of 117.771mph, the Birchalls came home for their seventh TT win and their fourth in a row. Holden’s runner-up spot was his ninth podium in a row and 19th in total; while passenger Lee Cain became the fastest Manx passenger. Reeves/Wilkes came home in a good third place; having set their personal best laps during the race.
Peter Founds/Walmsley took fourth place with Alan Founds/Lowther taking a brilliant fifth place given their earlier pit stop and it was Harrison/Winkle who completed the top six.
Darren Hope/Lenny Bumfrey, Gary and Daryl Gibson, Gary Bryan/Phil Hyde and Greg Lambert/Julie Canipa rounded out the top ten.
After the race Ben revealed that they had to work hard for the win and paid tribute to his brother and their team. He said: “you never know what pace you can run on the Isle of Man. Tom’s been incredible – faultless. We had a bit of a moment at Windy Corner – I’m blaming the wind. We’ve got a great team and Chris builds some great engines.”
They have raised the bar to previously unimagined levels and are as close to unbeatable as it is possible to be in this sport.
Locate.im Sidecar Race 1
- Ben Birchall / Tom Birchall LCR Honda 117.987mph
- John Holden / Lee Cain Silicone Honda 116.398mph
- Tim Reeves / Mark Wilkes LCR Honda 115.675mph
- Peter Founds / Jevan Walmsley DDM Suzuki 114.133mph
- Alan Founds / Jake Lowther LCR Yamaha 110.820mph
- Conrad Harrison / Andy Winkle Bellas Honda 110.322mph