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20 July 2008

Oulton Podium for Tunstall

Photo courtesy of Dave Couldwell / MONOPICS

Hardinge Ice Valley's Tom Tunstall added to his silverware collection once more at the weekend, with a third place finish in the British Superbike Cup race one at Oulton Park.

Back to Oulton for the second time in 2008, Britain's top Superbike teams were again treated to changeable weather throughout the weekends practice and qualifying sessions.

Having posted the third fastest time in the wet practice Tunstall qualified 5th on the Cup grid for Sunday's races: "Qualifying went ok considering the lack of decent track time this weekend, we still have a few suspension issues to iron out and we've got something to try in warm up. With my position on the grid I'm close to the other cup guys so with a few tweaks we'll be up for a good race."

The morning warm up session was effectively cut short with yet another shower leaving the Cheshire track damp meaning the suspension changes were inconclusive.

With less than an hour between warm-up and race one the Hardinge Ice Valley Team worked flat out to prep the Honda CBR1000RR machine ready for race one, and with the track still drying tyre choice was going to be crucial.

Having taken advice from Steve Plater, just in from his supersport practice, the team elected to start the sighting lap on wet tyres. But with the 2.69mile track now virtually dry another frantic tyre change was required on the grid, this time to full slicks.

With a strong start the Yorskshireman ended the opening lap in fourth. By lap four he was up to second place and embroiled in a battle with Martin Jessop and Australian Shannon Etheridge.

The pace was too much for Etheridge, crashing out on lap 11. At the flag Tunstall took third, only one second behind Jessop, taking his fifth podium of the year.

"It was a close call to get the wheels changed in time and the guys did a great job. I got off the line well and pushed every lap but Jessop's bike just had the legs and I couldn't get him back. It was close, roll on race two."

In race two Tom again got off the line well but was pushed wide and lost time in the long left hander, Cascades. Ending lap one back in eighth, Tunstall had fought through to fifth by lap six but had lost ground on the cup riders ahead.

With a consistently faster pace than race one Tunstall tried to close the gap. Despite setting his personal best time on the undulating track he was unable to bridge the gap, and with rear tyre problems in the closing laps was unable to hold off Etheridge, coming home in sixth.

"After the podium in race one it's disappointing to finish sixth but I did all I could. I was pushing hard and the lap times were consistently better but this time the tyre didn't last the distance. We have been using the softer option and it had looked like it wasn't going to be a problem but for some reason maybe due to a lower track temperature it didn't work in race two.

It's been our fourth meeting in a row we've got onto the rostrum. All things considered, it's been a good weekend".

The next round of the British Superbike Championships crosses the border to Knockhill in Scotland over the weekend of the 8th-10th August.

Photo courtesy of Dave Couldwell / MONOPICS