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14 September 2008

Tunstall Back on the Podium

Photo courtesy of Dave Couldwell / MONOPICS

The latest rounds of the British Superbike Championships were held at Croft over the weekend. And it was a welcome return to the Cup rostrum for Hardinge Ice Valley racer Tom Tunstall with a third place finish in race two.

Located near Catterick it is the only time in the year the ever popular superbike series visits the team's home county of Yorkshire, and having secured two podium finishes in 2007 Tom and the team were looking for a repeat performance.

Following the "Roll for Pole" qualifying session Tunstall was placed 5th and, having never been out of the top three throughout the weekend's practice sessions, Tunstall was a little disappointed but explained, "After the wet practice session this morning we still had some work to do with the bike set-up and as the first phase of qualifying is only 25 minutes we were up against it and ran out of time. Being on the row behind the other guys isn't too bad and we did make some progress with the bike which hopefully we can continue in the warm up session tomorrow."

Due to noise restrictions at the North Yorkshire track the race day schedule was tight with only a few hours covering the warm-up session and both races.

Race one saw Tunstall complete the first of 20 laps around the 2.13mile track in sixth place. By lap seven he'd caught and passed Martin Jessop to take fifth place but with nearly three seconds separating him from the rider ahead.

Taking only three laps, the Yorkshireman had caught Aussie Shannon Etheridge, passing him straight away and towing Jessop with him.

Over the remaining laps Tunstall battled with fellow Honda rider Jessop - consistently passing him on the brakes only to be out powered on the straights - and ended the race in 5th.

"It was a frustrating race, Jessop's bike clearly had the legs over mine and although I could get past him in different parts of the track he'd just fly past on the straight. At the end of the day I did what I could with what I had."

Race two started in a similar vein with Tunstall ending the opening lap in sixth.

Tunstall was embroiled once more in a battle with Jessop and Etheridge, but this time with ex-MotoGP rider Chris Burns holding third, just ahead.

The four way dice eventually became a two man duel as Jessop made a mistake on the brakes into Tower Bend on lap seven and Burns's MV Agusta expired one lap later.

Once past Etheridge, Tunstall tried to pull clear but couldn't shake the Kawasaki man. Learning from race one Tunstall decided not to tow his rival and deliberately drifted wide in the final corner allowing Etheridge to take third. For the remaining seven laps Tunstall followed and planned his move.

Entering  turn one on the last lap Tunstall swept past under braking and, although the Aussie fought back in the final Complex section of corners, Tunstall had it covered and crossed the line to take his long overdue sixth rostrum of the year.

"I knew I could lap faster when I was ahead of him but I learnt from race one that there's not a lot to be gained from towing the competition round. So I let him by, held my nerve, and waited for the last lap. I knew he'd have a go back but I was determined to get back on the podium."

The penultimate event on this year's calendar takes place at Silverstone over the weekend of September 26th-28th where the Hardinge Ice Valley team will be aiming to taste the champagne once more.

Photo courtesy of Dave Couldwell / MONOPICS

Photo courtesy of Dave Couldwell / MONOPICS

Photo courtesy of Dave Couldwell / MONOPICS