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29 April 2007

Tough time for Tunstall

The third round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship proved to be a tough day for Superbike Cup contender Tom Tunstall including a 120mph crash!

The International circuit at Silverstone holds good memories for Hardinge – Ice Valley Motorsport rider Tom Tunstall. Having scored podium results in both the British 250cc and Supersport Championship races Tunstall was looking to add a Superbike Cup podium to his tally, as well as increasing his lead of the Superbike Cup Championship.

During the practice and qualifying sessions Tom made good progress, understanding the fastest way of getting the high powered Honda CBR1000RR round the Northamptonshire track. However Tom didn’t capitalise fully the single qualifying tyre and was disappointed to be placed 5th of the Cup riders.

"Unfortunately I didn’t get a good rhythm on the qualifier – but I’m feeling confident for my pace over the full race distance so now I’m concentrating on getting a good start and working hard over each of the 20 laps."

However cup runners James Buckingham and Marty Nutt faired worse both crashing and ruling themselves out of the following days races.

Tom’s determination was clear as he launched of the grid for the first of the two races immediately picking up positions through the first few corners. Disaster stuck as the packed headed into the Abbey Hairpin. Having his front wheel clipped Tom was launched into the air. He managed with the help of the marshals to restart the 1000cc machine but the damage caused meant he was forced to enter the pit lane to retire.

"I can’t believe it - to be out of the race is very disappointing. It was a case of too many riders and not enough tarmac. I was up the inside of another rider who turned in early and I didn’t have the room to miss his bike. Still at least I get another shot this afternoon."

The sun was starting to burn through as the grid was formed on the 2.2mile track for the second race.

Completing the first lap Tunstall was up to third, and battling with Kawasaki mounted Malcolm Ashley.

By the start of lap 14 Tom had pulled clear by four seconds and was at the same pace as the Cup leaders ahead, unaware however that just ahead Steve Plater’s Yamaha had blown up dropping oil on the track.

As the Yorkshireman entered the 4th gear copse corner he was thrown from his machine at around 120mph. fortunately with the large run-off area Tunstall slid to a halt grazed and bruised but otherwise OK. The same couldn’t be said for his bike which had stayed on its wheels and careered into the air fence at near 100mph.

Having walked back to the pits a battered Tunstall remarked, "After not scoring in the first race the plan was to bring the bike home and get any step on the podium. It was all going well until I hit the oil. I’d seen a yellow flag but before I could react I was just a passenger and in the air. I’m a bit knocked about but it’s testament to my Arai helmet and M-Tech leathers that I can walk away from a crash as quick as that. I’ll console myself that it could have been worse and must now focus on getting things straight for Oulton."

Tom was one of three riders brought down by the oil and the race was stopped for safety reasons. In a cruel twist the British Superbike Championship rules (unlike all other high level motorcycle championships) dictate any riders not on their bikes when the race is stopped are excluded, robbing him of third place and the championship lead by only 3 points.

Tom and the team haven’t got long to prepare physically and mechanically with the next race at Oulton Park this coming bank holiday weekend.