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01 July 2007

Tunstall Just Misses Podium

Off the back of a weather affected meeting in Ireland the latest round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championships was to follow a similar vein in Scotland at the weekend. And for Superbike rookie Tom Tunstall the wet weather experience was starting to pay off.

Knockhill, just north of Dunfermline plays host to the only round of the British Superbike Championships held north of the border, and this year's round was unfortunate to be staged after heavy rainfall, meaning races were delayed, abandoned and in some cases cancelled altogether.

The free practice sessions all enjoyed dry conditions and Hardinge Ice Valley rider Tom Tunstall was quick to get on the pace – going into the qualifying session less than a second off the fastest cup runner.

The one and only qualifying session kicked off only minutes before the rain that was to influence race day started to fall. After only a few minutes the rain increased, leaving no more opportunities for riders to improve their time and leaving Tunstall fifth fastest in the Superbike Cup.

"It was a bit manic – like the first lap of the race! Unfortunately I didn't get a clear run with riders all over the track. I was nearly a second off the times I've been doing all weekend, so it's frustrating to end up 5th. But it's the race that counts and with a good start we should be there."

Heavy rain over the following 24 hours brought chaos to race day. Track flooding caused the Superstock race to be abandoned, and other races to be cancelled all together.

With all activities suspended Tunstall remarked: "With the streams across the track it's not safe to race. Fortunately race direction has got things in hand and we should be on track as soon as it';s safe. The marshals and spectators are the ones I feel sorry for!"

Eventually the standing water was dispersed and by the time the grid was formed the tarmac was steaming with sun bathing the short 1.27mile track.

Tunstall was baulked off the line ending lap one in fourth and as the track continued to dry he lost more time and another place to Irishman Marty Nutt.

With ten laps remaining dark clouds once again covered Knockhill and rain started to fall once more. Tunstall's pace didn't falter and having closed down a four second gap he took back fourth on lap 19 and held it to the flag.

"I got blocked off the line and had to shut off on the run to turn one. Then once the track started to dry out my tyres, especially the rear was all over the place. Going into corner the back end kept coming around, it was like riding on marbles. When it started to rain again and the track was wet, the tyres came back and I felt more grip, which is different to the tyres I've used in the past."

With yet more heavy rain the Supersport race was postponed and the second superbike race took place when the track was clear once more.

The withdrawal of the Hawk Kawasaki team meant Tunstall moved forward another row and made good use of it with an excellent start and concluded the first lap in second.

Immediately Tom's growing wet experience was evident with lap times a lot faster than race one. On lap five Paul Barron barged past and took Nutt with him. With seven laps to go and holding fourth Tunstall was nearly five seconds behind Superbike veteran Malc Ashley.

Tunstall's lap time continued to tumble as he fought hard to secure the podium position. Despite Tom's best efforts and impressive lap times it was not enough and he crossed the line just over half a second from third.

"I'm gutted to miss out on the podium. I was really pushing hard and to get so close… It's been a great day for my confidence and understanding of what I can get away with on a wet and drying track."

"With more weight, more power, and a different characteristic of tyre, the Superbike is something else. The rear was spinning all the way up the start and finish straight not to mention out of the corners. It's been my lack off experience that has let me down today, but as the lap times show I’m getting stronger."

Tom and the Hardinge Ice Valley Team's next outing is at Oulton Park in just under two weeks time.