Familiarity breeds contempt, so the saying goes. In the case of Tanel Leok and his new De Carli Racing Yamaha team, the saying is wrong. The Estonian has spent spent several weeks in the team's home country of Italy, and as his familiarity with his new surroundings, team and mount has grown, so has his confidence and proficiency on the factory-backed Yamaha. This weekend, at the first round of the Italian championships, he banged his cards on the table in no uncertain fashion with a strong second place finish behind world champion David Philippaerts.
The 2009 racing season is getting into full swing, and the attentions of the world's top riders were this weekend fairly evenly divided between a major international event in Belgium and the first round of the Italian Championships at Montevarchi. A strong line up of riders resembling a mini GP lined up for the Italian race at the spectacularly hilly track of Montevarchi, starkly carved out on the side of a sizeable hill. Tanel did his moniker of Estonian Express proud right from the outset, and qualified in second position, less than half a second adrift of world champion Philippaerts.
THERE WAS STILL TIME FOR FUN AT THE TEAM PHOTO SHOOT
If there is a chink in the Estonian's armoury, it is his starts. Although he has been working on this aspect of his racing tirelessly, the magic grail of consistent good starts has thus far still eluded him. In race 1, his start could be called fair to middling, as he piloted his shiny blue machine over the steep uphill start straight in around 10th position. Tanel Leok in a determined mood is a sight to behold, though , and on this crisp winter day in Italy, he was oozing determination in bucketloads. He charged through the field like an irresistible force, and towards the end of the race, he got teammate and former world champion Antonio Cairoli in his sights. With a target to fix on, he was even more motivated, but in the end time ran out, and he crossed the finish line in third position, behind Philippaerts and Cairoli.
On a day that was clearly going to be Yamaha-dominated, wily GP veteran Josh Coppins got he holeshot in race 2 and rabbited away. Tanel was mired even deeper down the pack on this occasion, and had to haul himself forward from 15th position. By mid-race distance, he had passed most of those in front of him, including Philippaerts and Cairoli, but Coppins was by now a speck on the horizon, and Tanel had to contend himself with second spot.
There were smiles all round in the team tent nevertheless. The quiet Estonian had done his talking the way he knows best - by hanging on the throttle cable with determination. A second overall on his debut in the Italian championships for his new team is nothing to sniff at, particularly so when the only rider allowed to climb on a higher step on the podium was the current world champion.
Tanel remains in Italy for the next round of the Italian championships, and his preparation for a full-on assault on the world title continues unabated.
TANEL CAPTURED ON ONE OF HIS RARE TALKATIVE MOMENTS
This report is available online