360° GARAGE

Side­car supre­mos Ben and Tom Bir­chall open up the shut­ters...

Performance Bikes (UK) - - CONTENTS - Words Jon Urry / Pho­tog­ra­phy Paul Bryant

The Bir­chall broth­ers swing open their work­shop door for PB to nose around

IT’S NOT UN­USUAL for race teams to cadge a bit of space on some­one else’s premises: Tommy Hill’s race team were in the back cor­ner of a ware­house, while SMT Rac­ing were in a shed at the back of a metal fin­ish­ing fac­tory. But Bir­chall Rac­ing – tucked away in a haulage yard – is the most im­pres­sive. This is where the three-times world side­car cham­pi­ons and eight-times TT win­ners Tom and Ben Bir­chall de­velop, build and sell GP-level side­cars. And they’re as good on the tools as they are in the chair...

“We orig­i­nally started in Ben’s work­shop but moved here two years ago,” ex­plains Tom. “We had out­grown the work­shop and luck­ily our long-term spon­sor, Andy Mitchell, was good enough to give us some space in his haulage yard.”

In­side their work­shop, the broth­ers build world-class side­car out­fits from scratch. And if you need any more proof of their abil­ity to fab­ri­cate one of th­ese re­mark­able ma­chines, you just need to look at their rac­ing pedi­gree. This year, with Ben driv­ing and Tom in the chair, the broth­ers took both side­car TT wins, set­ting a new 119.2mph av­er­age lap in the process. And all of this while also com­pet­ing in the side­car world cham­pi­onship, where they were sit­ting in third place

‘The F2 and TT side­car is a more tra­di­tional out­fit and is shorter than the F1 (be­low) – about 1.5 me­tres com­pared to the F1’s 2.5 me­tres. It uses a 600cc en­gine that is al­lowed to be tuned to Su­per­sport rules, with most teams opt­ing for a Honda mo­tor. It has a twin lead­ing link fork, so the con­tact patch changes and makes it very dif­fer­ent to ride. It’s more sta­ble and ag­ile than the F1, so is bet­ter at the TT. This is a cus­tomer’s bike that we are re­fresh­ing. A rolling F2 chas­sis from us is about £25,000, and you can race it in the Bri­tish cham­pi­onship and TT.’ over­all when PB vis­ited them. They haven’t fin­ished a sea­son out­side of the top three for 10 years!

“You can’t re­ally buy any­thing off the shelf for a side­car aside from the wheels, tyres, en­gine and han­dle­bar grips,” laughs Ben. “They are be­spoke race ma­chines that blend both car and bike tech­nol­ogy. If you want to race one, you ei­ther have to build it your­self or give us a call...”

Hav­ing learnt how to con­struct an out­fit un­der the watch­ful eye of Swiss side­car-build­ing leg­end Louis Chris­ten, the Bir­challs be­gan build­ing their own four years ago. Now the go-to guys in the three-wheeled world, they make com­plete GP-spec F1 and TT-spec F2 side­cars, as well as enough spares to keep teams from all over the world run­ning.

“We can sup­ply a ready-to-race GP-spec side­car rolling chas­sis iden­ti­cal to the one we race for £36,000, which given a mo­tor, some tal­ent and a good pas­sen­ger you can win a GP world cham­pi­onship on,” says Ben. “It’s a dou­ble-edged sword; we go rac­ing to win but we also sell our side­cars and of­ten get beaten by them!”

If you have dis­missed side­cars as a bit ‘Wallace and Gromit,’ the Bir­chall’s beau­ti­ful race ma­chines will soon change your mind...

F2 side­car

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