Ben and Tom Birchall lived up to expectations on Monday afternoon and led the opening 3wheeling.media Sidecar TT race from start to finish, the Haith Honda duo lapping at 119.22mph, just a fraction outside their own lap record, to win their 11th TT and eighth in a row.
The battle for second went all the way to the chequered flag though and it was the Manx pairing of Ryan and Callum Crowe (Haven Homes) who secured second place, in just their second TT race, from Pete Founds/Jevan Walmsley (FHO Racing) by the tiny margin of 0.11 seconds, both lapped in excess of 118mph on their final lap.
Nine miles into the race at Glen Helen on lap one, it was as predicted and the Birchalls were leading the way but their advantage over the Crowes was only 2.39 seconds with Founds/Walmsley only another 1.8 seconds further back. Dave Molyneux/Daryl Gibson (DMR) were running in fourth place ahead of Gary Bryan/Phil Hyde and Lewis Blackstock/Patrick Rosney.
Newcomer drivers Lee Crawford and Harry Payne slotted into seventh and eighth respectively with passengers Scott Hardie and Mark Wilkes, but one crew already out were Steve and Matty Ramsden, the father and son combination stopping at Glen Vine.
By Ballaugh, the Birchalls had extended their lead to 3.8 seconds with the Crowes, in turn, stretching the gap to Founds/Walmsley to 2.6 seconds – but with only 6.4 seconds covering the top three, it was still tight.
The dominant duo were getting into their stride though and their lead had crept up to 6.8s as they rounded Ramsey Hairpin for the first time, the Crowes losing time as they fought their way through the crews that had started ahead of them.
The Birchalls flashed across the line having lapped at 117.90mph on their opening lap and although both the Crowes and Founds/Walmsley set new personal best laps of 117.12mph and 116.96mph respectively, they’d slipped to 7.7 seconds and 9.3 seconds behind the Birchalls. However, with just 1.54 seconds between second and third, the battle was on.
Molyneux/Gibson and Bryan/Hyde were still running in fifth and sixth but with a superb lap of 112.36mph, Crawford/Hardie were now up to sixth. Tim Reeves/Kevin Rousseau and Blackstock/Rosney were both out of luck though and retired at the pits whilst Payne/Wilkes pulled in at the Creg. Estelle Leblond/Clement Carre were also out of luck having stopped at Hailwood Heights.
On the second and final lap, the Birchalls really put the hammer down and by Glen Helen, they’d added another four seconds to the lead but there was still only 1.8 seconds between the Crowes and Founds/Walmsley. Molyneux/Gibson were holding onto fourth and 11.9 seconds clear of fifth which was now occupied by the flying Crawford/Hardie having overhauled Bryan/Hyde.
A lot of attention continued to fall on the battle for second for the remainder of the lap, just a second between the Crowes and Founds/Walmsley at Ramsey, but there was to be no stopping the Birchalls and a lap of 119.22mph, just outside their own lap record, gave them their 11th TT victory by 14 seconds.
A superb lap of 118.72mph saw Founds/Walmsley become the second fastest sidecar crew in TT history but the Crowes lap of 118.57mph – almost 2mph quicker than Dad Nick’s lap – meant they held onto second place – albeit by just 0.1 second!
Molyneux/Gibson brought their 890cc KTM home in a good fourth place but with Crawford/Hardie going out at Ballacobb on the final lap, Bryan/Hyde and Harrison/Winkle came through for fifth and sixth. Gary Gibson/Tom Christie, Roger Stockton/Bradley Stockton, Gordon Shand/Frank Claeys and Bruce Moore/Ashley Moore completed the top ten.
Michael Russell, who’s due to follow in the footsteps of Ernie Coates and start every race this week, took a fine 12th with French passenger Freddy Lelubez.