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29 June 2008

More Champagne for Tunstall

Photo courtesy of Paul Barton / MOTO-RACER.COM

British Superbike racer Tom Tunstall made it three meetings on the podium in a row, as the Hardinge Ice Valley backed rider tasted champagne once again at Mallory Park over the weekend.

The fortunes for Tom and the team were as mixed as the British weather as they worked at honing the high powered Honda CBR1000RR machine to suit the tight nature of the 1.41mile Leicestershire track. With rain showers all but negating the second free practice session Tunstall was still searching for an optimum set-up on race day morning.

I've qualified in 5th on the cup grid but Im more concerned with the bike set-up at the moment. Im struggling to keep the bike stable and under control on the brakes entering corners, and then searching for grip exiting them. So far when we find a setting that helps one of the problems it makes the other worse.

"This track is quite a bit different to most that we race on with real heavy braking into the four tight chicanes and hairpins, then hard on the gas from relatively slow speed. We've tried a completely different fork and shock setting in the morning warm up session which has given us a better direction and weve decided to make another big jump for the race. It should work in theory and I guess Ill find out when I get into the first corner!

Race one saw Tunstall fighting for fourth with fellow Honda rider Mark Jessop, but with ten laps to go his paced slowed, eventually crossing the line in 5th. After the race Tunstall explained, It took me a couple of laps to get a feel for the bike and for sure it was an improvement. Its a tough place to pass here and I was being held up for part of the race but about two-thirds distance the bike started to miss-fire and cut onto three cylinders intermittently I tried changing all of the electronics settings I could but it made no difference and by then it was just a matter of bringing it home.

The Hardinge Ice Valley team worked hard to check and replace any suspect parts before race two, but the weather was to play its part once again with a heavy shower 30 minutes before the start.

Although dark clouds were above, the track was partly dry and it looked liked that trend was going to continue. On the grid he decided to change his front tyre from a hard compound full wet, to a lighter cut intermediate to match the rear. Just before the warm up laps another shower dampened the track further.

Having snatched a handful of places on the first lap Tunstall got held up behind Hydrex Honda rider Guy Martin, but by lap 15 both had caught and passed Jessop before passing Gary Mason on lap 18. In the closing laps Tunstall battled with Japanese Superbike champion Atsushi Wantanabe on the Rizla Suzuki and crossed the finish line to take third in the Superbike cup.

It was a difficult call but Im happy we made the right tyre choice. With a race like that its about which tyres will give you the fastest time to do the 30-laps not just a few fast laps at the start or the end. I tried not to be too greedy with the tyre life when the track dried and although they were sliding a lot they held up well. Its been a tough weekend and to finish it on the podium is great for all the team.

The result maintains Tunstalls position of second in the British Superbike Cup Championship with the next round taking place at Oulton Park in Cheshire over the weekend of 18th-20th July.

Photo courtesy of Dave Couldwell / MONOPICS

Photo courtesy of Paul Barton / MOTO-RACER.COM