Tanel Leok is not given to idle chatter or senseless boasting. In fact, he is not given to much chatter at all. He is the strong, silent type, with a lot of emphasis on the silent. He is a realist above all where his craft is concerned, and with the Bulgarian GP looming large, there was more than a tad of concern of his voice. The leg injury that he had sustained earlier in the season had not yet fully healed up, and with the racing season gathering steam, there is precious little opportunity for it to heal up.
Whereas the problem could be masked to some extent in the deep sands of Valkenswaard, the GP circus was now headed for Sevlievo in Bulgaria. The track, with its nosebleed elevation changes, is beautifully carved out on a Bulgarian hillside and provides a lovely, inviting contrast to the lush greenery. Appearances deceive, though, for the visually inviting track is technical and tough. Whereas in the sand Tanel could scrub off speed in the corners by using the natural wheel-grabbing qualities of the underground, here the track is hard and slippery, requiring far more frequent dabs of the foot to keep the plot semi-upright. The monstrously big jumps and thudding landings off the drop-offs don’t make matters any the more gentle on an injured leg, either.
Tanel rode a steady race to bring his factory Rockstar Energy Suzuki to the 12th spot in qualifying. In the process, he sustained a nasty bump again, and it was a far less than comfortable rider that lined up for the first race on a sunny race day. The race was nothing spectacular for the Estonian rider, but he knows that consistency counts, and kept plugging on, adding to his world championship tally with 14th place.
A much better launch in race two held much promise, but Tanel was forced wide in the normal first turn mayhem party, and had to built up his race form 16th position. Strange as it may seem for a track that looks wide enough to land a jumbo jet on, the ideal racing line is actually quite narrow and passing opportunities not that prevalent. The problem with this is that even you may be faster than the riders ahead of you, it is easy to fall into their rhythm – and speed range as you battle to get by. Nevertheless, Tanel carried on, and was rewarded with a good few spots up the ranking. As is always the case with challenging tracks, it became a race of attrition, and as the conditions claimed a few victims, he was ready to pounce. When all was ridden and done, the Estonian crossed the line in eighth spot, good for another handful of points in his world championship basket.
Tanel was less than happy with 11th overall for the day, but he took some comfort from the fact that he scored points in every outing. He holds 10th position in the world championship ranking, and is dead set on improving on this once he is fully recovered.
“It wasn’t really my best day out,” he admitted after the race. ” The track is technical and slippery, and I had to use my leg a lot. I am still not 100% comfortable, and struggled to find a good rhythm. It got much better in the second race, though. I am working hard on getting fully healed up, and will try my best again at the Italian GP.”
The world championship circus makes the transfer to Fermo in Italy for the Italian GP next weekend.