This weekend the Donington Park Circuit will host the Motul FIM Superbike World Championship for the twenty-seventh time in history. This year the Premier Class will be the only WorldSBK Championship category to take to the track at Donington, while the WorldSSP and WorldSSP 300 classes will resume action in Assen.
As WorldSBK rolls into the Great British countryside for round four of the season at Donington Park. With sporting fever in the air across the whole world as summer kicks in, WorldSBK returns to its birthplace of Donington Park, where it all started back on a cold April Sunday in 1988. 31 years later and the Championship is red hot, with home-hero Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) leading an in-form Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with BRIXX WorldSBK) by 20 points, but that could all change in what is set to be, as ever, an unpredictable UK Round.
The man in the best form coming into the Prosecco DOC UK Round is Toprak Razgatlioglu, having taken his first 2021 victory last time out, the latest in a string of six consecutive podiums that have consisted of four second places, one third and now a victory. He also returns to a happy hunting ground at Donington Park, where he achieved a career-first WorldSBK podium by beating Jonathan Rea in 2018 on the final lap of Race 2. In 2019, they also went head-to-head in the closing stages; is another duel on the cards? Teammate Andrea Locatelli makes his racing debut at Donington Park this weekend and will hope for a solid weekend after visiting the track two week before.
“Donington Park is a great track! Normally I like it a lot as it is really fast and flowing, I think it is my favourite track, but the last time we raced there was 2019. I am excited because this weekend will be the first time with the R1 WorldSBK at Donington. I remember in 2018 that Michael won both races with the Yamaha, so this year of course I want to be fighting again for the win. We will see, I’ll say it again, I am really excited! A lot can happen and we will see what is possible in the race weekend, but my plan is to fight at the front again and to enjoy the races.”
Aiming to bounce back and strike with victory on home soil, Jonathan Rea took all three races at Donington Park in 2019. Whilst the last three races at the track may well have been good to the reigning six-time World Champion, the last three races of recent times were more of a challenge. Three third places at Misano left Rea wanting more, but when this is a ‘bad’ day at the office, you know his monumental consistency is strong. He aims to be back on the top step at Donington Park for a sixth time, whilst team-mate Alex Lowes hasn’t ridden Donington Park on a Kawasaki.
“I am really excited to go to Donington because we missed it last year. We had a great weekend there in 2019 and it is a circuit that I really enjoy riding at. From past experience it is also a good track for the Ninja ZX-10RR so I am excited to get the new and improved 2021 model there. Our first home race in two years and we will have some fans trackside, which is nice, although it would have been good to have a packed Donington. There will be a bit of atmosphere there and I am looking froward to it. I hope to make a really strong weekend and work from Friday morning to understand the tyre options Pirelli has brought, and we will continue to fine-tune our bike to be ready for the races. At the recent Navarra test we tried some chassis options and we have a great understanding of the working window of the bike, so we have options should we face some limitations. I feel we really understood how we could get the bike to turn better and that will help us in some sections at Donington.”
“It is great that we are heading back to the UK round of WorldSBK after missing it last year because of the Covid-19 situation. There will not be as many fans as we would like, due to the limitations that have been put in place, but it will be great to be riding in front of the British fans again. Coming up through the BSB series I feel a really good and close relationship with the fans here. That is going to be one of the main things that is going to be really enjoyable. The second thing is that I like the track, it has always been a fun track for me, and I have taken some good results there. On top of that the Kawasaki – looking back – has always gone quite well there. This will be my first time trying the Ninja ZX-10RR at Donington and I am excited about it. It is a track that looks like it works well for the bike. Kawasaki has won plenty of races there and the target for me is to get back on the podium. We had solid second and third rounds of the championship, but maybe the higher temperatures and some track layouts did not quite suit the bike quite as well as some others. So, the target is clear for this weekend. Get back on the podium like we started the year in Aragon and enjoy the whole weekend in front of the home fans.”
After a difficult Misano where he couldn’t crack the front-running pace, Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) needs a resurgence at Donington Park, the circuit where he took a first ever World Championship win at back in 2008’s 125cc World Championship GP. Three fourth places at Misano leaves Redding 45 points back in the title race, whilst on the other side of the garage, Michael Ruben Rinaldi was in sensational form at Misano, with two wins and a second, something he hopes will act as a key change in 2021 after a difficult first two rounds. Two 12th places in 2019 for Rinaldi at Donington Park, something he should improve on this weekend.
“We’re going back to racing in England after a year’s absence and for me, it’s a very pleasant feeling, also because of the great memories I have of the 2019 season in which I won the BSB title. We come from a not easy weekend like the one in Misano and in Donington my goal is to come back to win. It will be my home GP and I’m very happy that I will find so many fans to support me.”
Michael Ruben Rinaldi
“Donington is a circuit where I have not been particularly comfortable in the past. But now the situation is very different. Certainly, we will need to find the speed to be competitive. We will work hard both on Thursday and in Friday’s free practice to get to Race-1 in the best conditions. Of course, it’s not like racing in Misano but I’m confident that we can have a positive weekend“.
Team HRC riders Leon Haslam and Alvaro Bautista are ready to race at one of their favourite venues and one that also has a special place in the hearts of the WorldSBK fans. Last time out, the team worked hard at the Misano World Circuit, completing the third championship round with a best result of sixth for Alvaro Bautista in race 1. Leon Haslam’s weekend was hindered by a few small issues that he is confident he can iron out in time for his home round.
There was no UK SBK event last year owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, but both Bautista and Haslam reached the podium during the 2019 event at Donington Park. The British event is often characterised by mixed or wet weather, conditions in which both the riders are comfortable, Leon having in fact scored one of his 2019 podium-finishes in the rain (Superpole Race).
“Donington is a very nice track, one of my favourites when we went there with the 125cc and 250cc championships in fact. When I returned two years ago with the Superbike I found it more challenging due to the type of bike, but still very enjoyable. I especially like the mixed section of the track. I am also very happy to be back knowing that there will be fans in the grandstands because there is so much love and support for the sport and for Superbike here in the UK. As far as the set-up is concerned, we don’t have any reference points for this track, so we’ll start from a basic set-up and try to improve from there. In testing at Navarra we tried some electronic things that will probably help us in this race and let’s hope the weather is good and we can work well all weekend, never a given in England. As a team, we are really keen to take steps forward and move closer to the front, so we look forward to Donington with optimism and a determination to do well.”
“We didn’t race at Donington last year so it’s especially nice to be heading there again now. It’s my home circuit and so I’m really looking forward to it of course, particularly as we’ll have the support of some local fans. We completed a test after the Misano race weekend and they never stop working back in Japan, so we hope we can hit the ground running at Donington and fight for the kind of results we know we can achieve.”
After the third round at Misano (ITA), WorldSBK took a short break with no races taking place over two weekends. BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team used that time for two days of testing at Navarra (ESP). The Spanish circuit has been added to the calendar this year and will host the seventh race event of the season from 20th to 22nd August. The tests provided an opportunity to continue development of the new BMW M 1000 RR, while simultaneously becoming familiar with the characteristics of the circuit. Their focus now switches to the upcoming weekend at Donington Park.
“For me, the Navarra test was good for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it was to continue the development of the new BMW M 1000 RR. We had some items that we needed to confirm there and we were able to do that. Then it was great to learn the circuit and get some data there for when we go back in August for the races. Now I am obviously looking forward to my home race at Donington. I’ve had a lot of success there in the past and I really hope that we can find the set-up to enable me to be more consistent and stronger over the race weekend. We need to work on finding those last little items now to put us in that position. The new M RR has had a big step in terms of engine and braking performance and quite a number of other things so we just need to find the last part of the jigsaw so we can use all of this. I am looking forward to going there and fingers crossed we can have some good British weather. But we take what we get and try to get a strong result.”
Michael van der Mark
“It was good to have a test at Navarra, not only as we race there later this year, but also as we had faced some problems at Misano and BMW responded very quick so we had some new parts to Navarra test. I was happy with the test; it was a step in the right direction but of course you have to see if it also works on a different track but luckily we have Donington this weekend. Donington is fantastic; I really love these old-school circuits. I had some good results there in the past and I love the circuit and the history and after missing it last year, it is good to go back there now. Regarding the characteristics, for me the first part is the best; it is fast and flowing and a really exciting section of the track. The last part does not really fit to that but there you have some really good overtaking opportunities so the circuit is exciting in two very different ways.”
Donington Park Circuit, built in 1931, is located in the East Midlands near Sherwood Forest, and is 4023 metres long, with seven right and five left hand turns and has a maximum gradient of 8 per cent slope. The radius of the curve goes from a minimum of 24 metres to a maximum of 333 metres. The circuit direction is clockwise and the rider in pole position starts on the left. This track alternates between fast flowing ‘up and down’ sections (eg Hollywood) to slower parts with curves interrupted by short straights that force braking and sudden acceleration like the Melbourne Hairpin (curve 10). The exit of Turn 8, known as Coppice, sees the highest acceleration out of any corner. In the two medium length turns, Old Hairpin and McLeans Corner, which interrupts the straight opposite the finish line, riders never drop below 100 km/h and can gain considerable time by keeping up their corner speed.
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