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