SIDECAR PREVIEW: CAN ANYONE STOP THE BIRCHALLS?
Now with nine straight wins in a row, Ben and Tom Birchall will again start as firm favourites in the two 3wheeling.media Sidecar Races at this year’s Isle of Man TT Races, but the challenge for the top step looks closer than it has for a number of years…
The Nottinghamshire brothers have made the TT their own since 2015, with only a retirement in the opening race of 2016 preventing a run of 11 successive victories. And having won both races in the opening round of the Sidecar World Championship so far this season, there’ll be looking to maintain their near-perfect run of form with their Steadplan/Hager LCR Honda.
Can anyone beat the Birchalls? The competition looks close for 2023
However, the races from twelve months ago suggest they won’t have it all their own way, with the pairings Peter Founds/Jevan Walmsley (FHO Motorsport LCR Honda) and Manx brothers Ryan and Callum Crowe (Haven Homes LCR Honda) pushing them hard for victory.
Both pairings comfortably broke the 118mph barrier last year and were only a handful of seconds adrift of the win, which was particularly impressive from the Crowe brothers considering they still have only three TT race starts to their name.
Of course, it won’t be just about those three pairings and there’s plenty of experience in the top ten with Tim Reeves/Mark Wilkes (Bonovo Action LCR Yamaha) arguably the most likely to get amongst the podium places. Reunited for the first time since 2019, they took a brace of thirds in 2018 when they lapped close to 118mph and if they can repeat that form – and improve their reliability – their threat will be significant.
The same applies to Dave Molyneux/Dan Sayle who are back together after several years apart. Their pedigree is proven with Molyneux’s 17 TT wins still the fourth highest total of all-time, behind only Joey Dunlop, John McGuinness, and Michael Dunlop. But the question remains as to whether the Manxman will be able to make his twin-cylinder 890cc DMR KTM both quicker and more competitive.
Two welcome returnees more than capable of challenging for the podium are John Holden (Barnes Racing LCR Yamaha) and Alan Founds (Indelible Ink/Spartan Automotive LCR Yamaha), both back on the entry after missing last year’s event. Holden’s 21 podiums speak for themselves, although he has a new passenger this year in the form of Frenchman Maxime Vasseur whilst Founds, third in 2019, has Jake Lowther with him once more.
Dave Molyneux returns with his sweet-sounding DMR KTM outfit, with Dan Sayle alongside once again
Experienced pairings round out the top ten in Gary Bryan/Philip Hyde (SWC Groundworks/TTS Support Baker Honda) and Conrad Harrison/Andrew Winkle (Town Garage Horseford Ireson Yamaha).
As per the solo classes there’s strength in depth beyond the seeded competitors, with Steve and Matthew Ramsden (Ramsden Racing LCR Honda), Greg Lambert/Andrew Haynes (K&P Charlton/MW Travel LCR Honda), Darren Hope/Lenny Bumfrey (LCR Honda) and the returning Dan Knight/Ben Hughes (Green Ant Racing LCR Honda) all more than capable of getting in amongst the top ten.
The same applies to Wayne Lockey/Matthew Rostron, John and James Saunders, and Rob Hancock/William Moralee, as well as Gary Gibson, whose son and former passenger – Daryl – makes his debut as a driver this year having ridden alongside Molyneux in 2022.
Maria Costello is back for her third campaign in the Sidecar class and the only female driver on the entry for 2023; this time partnered with Colin Smyth. Michael Russell will contest the three-wheeled class for a second year as he attempts to complete every race in the schedule once again, this time partnered by Costello’s passenger from 2022, Vicky Cooke.
Michael Jackson, the best newcomer in 2018, is back on the entry with new passenger Jake Robertson after missing last year, whilst regular British Championship runners Chris Schofield/Dave Ryder and the Irish pairing of Derek Lynch/Anthony McDonnell will make their Mountain Course debuts in 2023.