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15 April 2007

Tunstall Turns It Around

The second round of the highly competitive 2007 British Superbike Championship took place at the bumpy and ultra fast Thruxton circuit over the weekend and Huddersfield Superbike racer Tom Tunstall had his resolve tested to the full with torrid technical problems throughout practice and qualifying – however the plucky Yorkshireman turned it around with two excellent races and finished the weekend leading the British Superbike Cup Championship!

For Superbike rookie Tom Tunstall in only his second ever event on the 1000cc machine the first day of practice was spent acclimatising with the fastest circuit on the championship. "It’s been another day of learning, this circuit is so fast and the superbike spins up so much around here it's incredible. We’ve had a few problems with the bike and that hasn’t helped. But I need to modify my riding style to get the bike more upright so when it does spin it pushes the bike forwards rather than just stepping the rear out."

However, the second day of action saw a series of chronic technical problems hamper any chance of allowing Tunstall to continue his learning.

After only three corners his machine spluttered to a halt. Tom immediately started running with his bike back to the pits. The intermittent problem resurfaced again after only a lap. With no problems found, Tunstall again took to the track.

The bike lasted nine laps before any hopes of further track time went up in smoke when the engine terminally expired.

Having only a couple of hours before the single qualifying session, the whole team, with valuable support from the Hydrex Honda Team, worked relentlessly to prepare the Honda Fireblade.

With minutes to spare the Hardinge - Ice Valley backed machine was back on track. Unfortunately the bike still wasn’t running cleanly and frustration was obvious as, having only one bike, Tunstall was forced to sit out the session with no more than a handful of laps completed.

"I don’t know what to say – everyone has put in so much effort but it’s just been one of those days. With the little experience I have, I need as many laps as I can, but it just didn’t happen today. On the positive side I’m on the grid – last, but at least we’re there. Believe me after the day we’ve had that is a positive!"

Yet another engine change overnight meant the team’s committed worked continued, and proved successful as the bike didn’t miss a beat during the short Sunday morning warm-up.

In race one Tunstall’s determination was evident as he launched his CBR1000RR off the line, and immediately started picking up places. Within three laps he had improved his best lap time of the weekend by nearly a second. It was with relief that Tunstall saw the chequered flag, taking 3rd place in the Superbike Cup.

"I was glad just to finish!! I’m really happy with my start and the tyre Dunlop provided was faultless throughout the race. I know I can run faster, I’m still learning how to get the best from the track."

It was with revived confidence that the Hardinge - Ice Valley rider took to the grid for race two. Another cracking start saw Tom mixing it with riders starting two rows ahead, battling with former cup champions Chris Martin and James Buckingham. His pace again improved consistently, highlighting the ex-world supersport rider’s progress. Lap 12 saw the pace car brought out as Buckingham crashed out of the race.

On the restart Tunstall lost time exiting the final chicane, but again grafted his way to close down a two second gap and onto the back wheel of Aaron Zanotti and Irishman Marty Nutt. Tom just ran out of laps missing out on his first Cup win by one second, crossing the line with an average race speed of 104.9mph. His hard work and excellent ride was rewarded as the 2nd place result saw Tunstall take the lead of the Cup championship by a single point.

"Another lap and I’m convinced I’d have passed Marty as I was able to keep my pace higher – thanks again to the tyres. The race was a lot of fun and I was starting to get to grips with how much these bikes spin and slide. We’re making great progress and after all the problems we’ve had this weekend the champagne tasted that bit sweeter."

The next stop on the calendar is the Silverstone over the weekend of April 27th-29th.