Birchalls make history with double win and 117mph lap record
Ben and Tom Birchall are the new kings of TT sidecar racing. The Mansfield brothers have won six three-wheeler TTS after their dominant double in 2017. Having made their Mountain course debut in 2009 they underlined their supremacy by becoming the first crew to lap the 37.73-mile circuit at over 117mph on their way to winning the first Sidecar TT this year.
Ben said: “I didn’t realise we had broken the 117mph barrier. I saw people waving at Quarterbridge but it wasn’t until we got to Ballacraine and I saw a board that had 117 on it that I realised we had done it.”
The duo knew they had the pace to break the record after coming close to equalling their existing record during practice week.
“We lost a night of practice at the start of the week,” Ben explained.
“Others went quicker in our absence and that played on my mind so when we got out in the Saturday session I felt I had to put my foot down a little bit. Setting off at number one made me unsure what way to play things as well – I wondered if I should let someone else past or not.”
The two laps they put in during the Saturday practice session were to be the foundation of what was to come in Monday’s race, highlighting the extraordinary bond the brothers share in their desire to win.
“In the first session I was a long way in front of where Tom was in terms of being up to speed,” Ben recalls.
“Before the afternoon session I asked him how he wanted to play it – go for it or just take it steady away. Tom just looked directly at me and said ‘you just ride your bike.’
“That’s when we did the 116.675mph lap and everything clicked into place for us. We knew we where we needed to be.”
After putting the hammer down on lap one of Monday’s race, the brothers opened a gap on their rivals.
“We were eight or nine seconds up but I thought that wasn’t enough,” Ben explained.
“So I was just going for it and everything was going good on that second lap. Although we had a big moment at Union Mills when we nearly ended up in the Post Office!
“We were just carrying so much more speed through there and we got a big jump on the rise and ended up running along the gutter. We had another big jump at Rhencullen too.”
With the landmark record under their belt, Ben eased off slightly on the last lap to win by 26 seconds from John Holden and Lee Cain with Dave Molyneux and Dan Sayle third.
In a week when none of the solo riders got anywhere near the existing lap records, it was a moment of immense satisfaction for the Birchall brothers who eat, sleep and dream sidecar racing.
“The TT is bigger for sidecars than the world championships,” the double world champion says. “It is the biggest event of the year for us full stop.”
Their TT achievements are the result of an almost fanatical dedication to detail. Ben added: “We have crafted our approach over the last six or seven years.
“We have had the same two mechanics with us all that time and everything we do is almost a ritual. The petrol is put in the tank at 4pm every day, we even go for an ice cream at the same time every day. Everything else can fall apart around you at the TT, but by keeping to our set ways of doing things we keep everything ordered and consistent.”
Although they were unable to break their own lap record in race two, they took a comfortable win.
Ben concluded: “It’s been fantastic. The sun is out, the banks are lined with fans – where else would you rather be than riding around the TT course with your brother?”
‘Where else would you rather be than riding around the TT course with your brother?’
The Birchalls took control of both sidecar races
Some celebration for the sidecar teams after a great race
Brotherly love is there for all to see as Birchalls celebrate