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07 May 2006

Tough Italian job for Tunstall

The fourth round of the prestigious World Supersport Championship proved to be an eventful and a challenging weekend for Huddersfield racer Tom Tunstall.

Situated in spectacular former royal parklands, the historic Italian circuit of Monza, just north of Milan, is famous for its fast speeds and close fought races. With this in mind Tom and the Hardinge - Ice Valley Motorsport team were looking to build on the strong ride at Valencia two weeks earlier and come away with yet more World Championship points, even though it was his first time at the circuit.

The weekend started off tough as the first Friday qualifying session would see Tunstall uncharacteristically down the world class grid in 33rd place - afterwards he remarked: "We followed some advice on how we should set the bike up for Monza to increase the grip, which I was struggling to get at Valencia. However it really didn't work for me. Unfortunately we tried to work with it but in the end we had to revert back to our base set-up."

This plan worked well as the second free practice session saw Tom slice more than a second off his lap times, and importantly regain the all-important feel and confidence in the bike.

Fired up and ready to lift his grid position, the final qualifying session didn't start well, as Tunstall suffered from a slipping clutch and headed straight back to the pits. Reverting to his spare machine it took a couple laps for the Yorkshire man to familiarise himself in with his second bike. On his third flying lap he improved on his Friday time.

In the meantime the team had worked furiously to repair his favoured machine and once complete Tunstall immediately swapped.

However, just after starting his first flying lap he lost momentum once more as the clutch terminally expired at just over 165mph on the start-finish straight. Stranded at the side of the track he eventually managed to find a lift to the pits on the back of a scooter.

On his spare bike once again, Tom only managed another three laps before the session ended but still managed to improve slightly, lapping at an average of over 110mph, but still slower than his morning best.

"To be honest I can't believe the problems we're having this weekend, I'm struggling to have the opportunity to find a fast rhythm with the bike at this track. One things for sure, starting from 33rd on the grid will make for a tough job to get some more points."

With a new engine fitted for the race day warm up it was obvious that Tom wasn't beaten, as straight away he improved his times, consistently lapping faster than qualifying.

With the Italian sun beating down on the 3.52 mile track and the massive crowds totalling over 96,000, race conditions looked near perfect.

As at the previous round, the Hardinge - Ice Valley backed rider made another lightning start, ending the first of the 16 laps in 21st position and by lap three Tunstall had pushed hard to get to 19th in the group. Whilst chasing down Italian Mauro Sanchini on lap 12, the Honda mounted rider pushed too hard and, after initially saving a front end slide, ran wide and lost control of his bike and was thrown back onto the track at over 70mph.

Unscathed he commented, "I made a great start and was pushing the bike as hard as I could. That lap it was just a bit too hard, and I was unlucky to get caught out on the kerbing at the edge of the track. To be honest I was lucky not to get hit by the riders following. Of course it's been a very hard weekend and I'm unhappy I didn't make the flag, but I pushed well from the start and was trying all I could to bring home some points. Unfortunately when you race bikes on the limit sometimes you go over!."

The next round is back in Great Britain with Silverstone hosting the British round of the Championships on May 28th.