Birchall Brothers Rule in Le-Mans.
As the lights went out for the first race of the 2017 “FIM Sidecar World Championship”, it was John Holden and Mark Wilkes on their “Barnes/Sillicon Racing” LCR, Kawasaki who got the hole shot into the first complex of corners, this was to be short lived though as Ben and Tom Birchall on their “Birchall Racing” LCR, Yamaha, nipped up the inside of Holden/Wilkes in the first chicane. Right behind the Birchalls was Pekka Paivarinta and Kirsi Kainulainen on their “44-Racing” LCR, Honda. Paivarinta and Kainulainen tried their best to follow the Birchall Brothers past Holden and Wilkes but it was not to happen. It was not till three corners later that Paivarinta and Kainulainen managed to nip pass when Holden/Wilkes left a small space. By this time Bennie Streuer and Kevin Rousseau on their “Team Streuer” LCR, Honda, were right on the tail of Holden/Wilkes.
By lap four, the top three places were to change. John Holden and Mark Wilkes were to retire from the race. They had major brake problems, the front brake was jamming on and not releasing. This was to give Streuer and Rousseau a chance and give chase to Paivarinta and Kainulainen.
There was a great battle for fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh in the first half of the race, between Michael Grabmuller and Sophia Kirchhofer on their “Polizeisportverein Wels Delta Racing Team” LCR, Yamaha, Lewis Blackstock and Patrick Rosney,”Dave Holden Racing” LCR, Suzuki, Scott Lawrie and Ben Hughes, “Team SLR” LCR, Suzuki, and Estelle Leblond and Melanie Farnier on their “Racing Side” SGR, Suzuki.
However it was Grabmuller/Kirchhofer who managed to break free, and keep a good fourth. Blackstock and Rosney gave chace to Grabmuller/Kirchhofer, but Grabmuller/Kirchhofer managed to make a good gap and were really to have a lonely race in the fourth place. Lawrie/Hughes were left to battle it out with Leblond/Farnier. The French ladies were to push Lawrie/Hughes to fight hard for their sixth place at this time in the race. Eventualy Lawrie/Hughes were to break free of Leblond/Farnier, and they gave chase to Blackstock/Rosney.
Gunther Bachmaier and Manfred Wechselberger on their “MSV-Schwanenstadt, PSV-Wels” LCR, Suzuki were locked in a battle with Jokob Rutz and Marcel Fries, “Sidecar-Racing-Team Rutz” LCR, Yamaha, for most of the race with Bachmaier/Wechselberger keeping the upper hand.
With the final laps in sight the Birchall Brothers had pulled a massive lead on second place, Paivarinta and Kainulainen, who had managed to get a small lead over Streuer and Rousseau. Grabmuller and Kirchhofer were in a safe fourth place, with no chance of any other team catching them, barring any problems. Lawrie and Hughes had managed to catch and pass Blackstock and Rosney, but they had no chance to catch Grabmuller/Kirchhofer. Lawrie/Hughes could not rest easy though as Blackstock/Rosney were not finished their fight to retake the fifth place. These two teams had managed to break free from Leblond and Farnier, so they could concentrate on their own battle now. Leaving Leblond/Farnier on their own.
With the top three teams now out on their own, there was to be an abrupt end to the race when the red flags came out on lap 15.
An incident involving Bachmaier and Wechselberger was the cause. The team had gone off track and hit the wall taking with them advertising boarding. Their machine was extensively damaged with the impact. And unfortunately passenger Wechselberger had to be taken for medical treatment with foot and hand injuries.
With this red flag, it was the Birchall Brothers, Ben and Tom who took the win, also they had the fastest lap of the race a time of 1:44.685. Paivarinta and Kainulainen took second place, with Streuer and Rousseau the final spot on the podium, in third. Grabmuller and Kirchhofer, a lonely fourth place, but a good result for the team.
Lawrie and Hughes were very lucky to get the fifth place finish. They had to be pushed into pit lane after the red flags came out. The team had thought that a main fuse had blown giving them no electrical power. This was not the problem though, it turned out that the battery had broken. Apart from this the team were really happy with the fifth place.
A great sixth place to Blackstock and Rosney. They were really pleased with how the whole weekend had gone. First time at Le-Mans, and first GP, and no problems with their short chassis machine.
What a great seventh place to Leblond and Farnier. Their home GP, and first time racing a GP. The team were not frightened to put up a good fight when needed, and very professional how they did it.
Rutz and Marcel would inherit eighth place after Bachmaier and Wechselberger’s off. The team were happy with the result, but unhappy with how it came about.
Ninth place went to Franck Barbier and Goulven Crochemore on their “Team FB Superside” SGR, Suzuki. The team were really happy how things went and they had no problems with their machine throughout the weekend.
Tenth Place went to Tony Baker and Fiona Baker-Holden on their “Cumbria Express” Baker, Suzuki. Another team delighted with the result. It was looking like the team might not even start the race, as driver Tony has been having a lot of pain in his hip. They missed out on free practice and one qualifying session.
The next World Championship round will be nearing the end of May, at Oschersleben, Germany.