With the 2011 Isle of Man TT fuelled by Monster Energy little more than a month away, two of the leading sidecar crews entered for this year have been dominating the opening races of the British championship.
Tim Reeves, who is still chasing his first TT win, won both races at the first Eastern Airways British Sidecar Championship meeting of the year.
Partnered by Gregory Cluze, who will race with Reeves at the TT, the three-times World Champion fought off a massive challenge from TT rivals Ben and Tom Birchall.
The Birchall brothers, who made a successful TT debut in 2009, are returning to the Mountain course this year after being forced to miss the 2010 event.
Starting from a second row grid position at the Brands Hatch meeting, the Birchalls slotted into second place behind Reeves and Cluze in the first race. The two leading outfits soon pulled clear of the rest of the field, but, despite setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 14 with a time of 48.239s (90.14mph) they were unable to get within striking distance of their rivals and settled for a close second place at the chequered flag, just 0.7s adrift.
Ben Birchall said:
“We had a few minor issues in qualifying and of course Tom is carrying quite a bad injury. He has a cracked kneecap and pelvis which only happened three weeks ago. He has been having some intensive laser treatment and is on the mend but not quite there yet.”
“We made a few changes to the outfit after Saturday’s qualifying period and when we went out for morning warm-up we were fastest. We have a good race pace and made a good start into second place although Tim pulled a bit of a lead on us at the start. But once my tyres kicked in we began to catch him. A couple of 10ths is a lot around this Indy circuit and you can never be a second a lap quicker than the leader.”
“On saying that, we were closing in until we hit the backmarkers; I hit them wrong and Tim got through, but then he was held up and I got through so we see-sawed a lot.”
Race two was the last on the Easter Monday calendar and this time the Mitchells of Mansfield-supported brothers started from the front row. On the opening lap they fell to third, but recovered to second on the next circuit. By then, however, Reeves and Cluze were already 1.2s ahead.
Although the Birchalls gave it their best shot they were unable to catch the leaders. The race was red flagged for an incident further downfield and a result declared at 15 laps, giving the Birchalls second place and Reeves victory once again.
Ben Birchall added:
“I am happy with two seconds. Despite his injuries Tom was superb in the chair and did a great job out there. We must give a big thank you to John Lawson who transported Tom to Ipswich four times last week for treatment which has helped speed up his recovery. Also thanks to Mitchells of Mansfield, and all our sponsors for their continued support plus we are pleased to bring on board NAPIT UK who have agreed to help us this year.”