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07 May 2007

Tough Break for Tunstall

The latest round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championships proved to be a rollercoaster weekend for Hardinge Ice Valley racer Tom Tunstall. Having led the cup race his continued progress aboard the 1000cc machine was cut short with a wrecked gearbox.

The bank holiday weekend saw the UK’s most popular motorsport – the British Superbike Championship continue at the picturesque Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire.

The Hardinge Ice Valley Motorsport team had a hectic week after a 120mph crash had smashed the teams Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade into two pieces only five days before they were due to take to the track at Oulton.

"The whole team have done a fantastic job. Not just to rebuild the bike, but also checkout all the components and provide me with a bike that I can have full confidence in."

The twisty and undulating 2.69mile track is renowned for testing Superbike riders’ skills and was yet another learning curve for rookie Tunstall. In all practice session he made great strides forward culminating in his best qualifying of the year so far taking 2nd on the Superbike Cup grid.

"I’m happy with how its going – I was quick this morning on race tyres and underlined that with the qualifying. We’re more competitive and looking good for tomorrow’s races."

The constant threat of showers held off for the first of the two 45mile races, as the grid was formed.

A strong start and first lap saw Tunstall hold his 2nd place, closely behind cup leader Tristan Palmer and South African Hudson Kennaugh on the factory backed Yamaha. On lap two Palmer ran wide into the tight "Hislops chicane" Tunstall needed no second invitation and dived into the lead.

Fellow Honda rider Palmer, who won both races last time out, fought back and retook the lead with Tunstall in close attendance. By lap 10 former cup champion joined the battle and sneaked past Tunstall.

On lap 14 the gap was up to a couple of seconds but with Tunstall starting to close down the cup leaders.

But just before Tunstall crossed the line to complete the lap disaster struck as he lost drive and with a loud rattle from the engine he knew his race was over.

"I’m gutted. With only two laps to go it’s very disappointing to not get to the finish and back onto the podium. Hopefully we can get it ready for the next race in two a half hours."

Immediately the team set to work swapping the engine and diagnosing the gearbox parts required. Unfortunately for all the hard work a replacement gearbox output shaft couldn’t be located meaning Tunstall was unable to make the grid for race two.

"Frustration doesn’t cover it. Everyone has worked so hard before and during the weekend and we were going well. We must now spend the time before the next race ensuring we do all we can to avoid watching another race from pit lane & giving away more points. On the positive side I was fighting for the lead in race one which shows we’re getting stronger."

The next race takes place at Snetterton in Norfolk over the weekend of 18th – 20th May.