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14 April 2009

Roller coaster weekend for promising Tunstall

Photo courtesy of Dave Couldwell / MONOPICS

After much anticipation the 2009 Visk British Superbike Championship finally kicked off over the Easter weekend. And for Superbike Cup contender Tom Tunstall and his Hardinge Doodson Motorsport team it was to prove an eventful season opener showing great potential for a very successful 2009 campaign.

With a winter's worth of preparation and positive tests completed in Spain and the UK, the team headed to the iconic Brands Hatch circuit in Kent, with their new Honda CBR1000RR fireblade, in confident mood.

The extended race weekend started well with Tunstall completing the opening session setting new personal best lap times around the short 1.2mile "Indy" circuit layout.

However, only three laps into session two, a mechanical problem caused the Yorkshireman's bike to cut out and, before he could pull off the track, Suzuki rider Ian Lowry hit the back of Tom’s bike at well over 100mph. Tunstall managed to stay aboard following the collision but the damage to the bike was immediately apparent.

The Hardinge Doodson team all worked long hours and travelled the country to get the required parts to repair the bike and get Tunstall back on track.

By the time the single F1 style qualifying session started on Easter Sunday afternoon Tunstall had done less than two of the six free practice sessions. However the race machine was back together albeit in an unfamiliar guise with a brand new Fabrication Techniques swing arm.

With only 25 minutes to check the bike, get a feel for the new chassis and set a fast time Tunstall had his work cut out but immediately impressed with a run of consistently fast laps and, provisionally in 14th overall and a close 2nd in the Superbike Cup, chose to sit out the rest of the session to save the bike.

For the first time since its inception into British Superbike Tunstall made it through to the second phase of qualifying.

Showing it was no fluke Tunstall not only posted an identical time but also a succession of laps that highlighted an impressive consistency which boded well for a strong race performance. With only one tyre at his disposal he again sat out the remainder of the session.

Having occupied a top 10 position for much of the time he was eventually nudged to 17th and in front of established superbike riders and teams like Buildbase Kawasaki and both Relentless Suzuki riders.

Tunstall remarked, "It's been one hell of a weekend so far but the team have worked endlessly to prepare the bike brilliantly for qualifying. I’m really happy with the feeling from the bike and to be anywhere near to top 15 after all the issues and the track time we’ve missed is incredible.

"The great thing is I still feel I can go faster and I’m really can’t wait to get stuck into tomorrow’s races."

Unfortunately Tom didn’t get chance to show his potential and that of the new Hardinge Doodson Honda in the races as exiting the fast Clearways right-hander on lap one of the first race the rear on Tom's bike slide out from under him and although he fought hard to stay aboard the 1000cc machine it was not to be and he was thrown clear at around 85mph.

The accumulation of issues over the event meant that no matter how hard the team worked it would not be possible to start the second race.

A disappointed Tunstall commented, "Of course I'm gutted not to come away with the results we were capable of and the team deserved but, as the phrase goes – that's racing!! Even though it's been a tough weekend I have proved what I am capable of and I'm already looking forward to the next round to show what we can do."

With the second round taking place at the picturesque Oulton Park over the May bank holiday weekend [2nd – 4th May] there is no doubt that the team will be fighting for a podium finish.

Photo courtesy of Dave Couldwell / MONOPICS

Photo courtesy of Dave Couldwell / MONOPICS

Photo courtesy of Andrew Harbron/londonbikers.com