TOM TUNSTALL, Hardinge Ice Valley’s top British Superbike privateer, added to his silverware collection with another podium finish in the British Superbike Cup Championship at Oulton Park.
The down-to-earth Denby Dale racer finished third in the Cup race – which is incorporated within the main British Superbike event – as teams were once again treated to changeable weather throughout the weekend’s practice and qualifying sessions.
It was a tremendous effort by the team who achieved their fourth consecutive podium in the class.
Having posted the third fastest time in the wet practice Tunstall qualified fifth on the Cup grid for Sunday’s races.
“Qualifying went okay considering the lack of decent track time at the weekend,” said Tunstall.
“But we still had a few suspension issues to iron out.”
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 in time for action, and with the track still drying, tyre choice was 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 Tunstall ended the opening lap in fourth.
By lap four he was up to second and embroiled in a battle with Martin Jessop and Australian Shannon Etheridge.
But the pace was too much for Etheridge who crashed out on lap 11.
At the flag Tunstall took third, only a second behind Jessop, to notch his fifth podium of the year.
He said: “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.”
But race two proved frustrating when, despite having another clean start he was pushed wide and lost time in Cascades, the long left-hander.
From eighth he 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 but despite setting his personal best time on the undulating track he was unable to bridge the difference.
And with rear tyre problems in the closing laps he was unable to hold off Etheridge and finished sixth.
“After the podium in race one it was 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 tyres didn’t last the distance.
“We had been using the softer option and it 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.”
He added: “It’s been our fourth meeting in a row we’ve got onto the rostrum and, all things considered, it’s been a good meeting.”
The next round of the Championship crosses the border to Knockhill in Scotland on August 8-10.