World Superbikes return to Donington
The FIM Superbike World Championship returns to Donington Park after an absence of just one year, this time for the European Round, the second event on the 2011 championship calendar. Once again Donington becomes a ‘blast from the past’ as the Leicestershire circuit was the scene for the first-ever World Superbike round, which was held back on April 3rd 1988. It is also worth mentioning that Donington Park was also the first permanent park circuit in England, and the first motor cycle race took place there on Whit Monday in 1931, which is exactly 80 years ago.
Recent history however shows that the slightly revised circuit that lies under the flight path of the nearby East Midlands airport, will be the venue for another fast-paced battle between the protagonists of this year’s championship, starting with Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi.
On his Althea Racing Ducati 1098R, the 38-year-old Spaniard won both races in the opening round at Phillip Island (Australia) and is raring to go for the second round of the season. Checa has not obtained any outstanding results in his Superbike years at Donington, but it must be added that he has never really had a bike as competitive as the one he has been riding since the start of the season.
Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia) on the other hand has always had a good feeling with Donington, winning there both in 250cc and in MotoGP. In Superbike, between 2007 and 2009, he was on the podium four times in six races but so far has missed out on the win. This year the reigning world champion intends to make amends for that, especially in the wake of his two second places in the opening round of the season.
Another Italian rider, Marco Melandri, also has a good feeling with Donington. Following his podium in Australia the Yamaha World Superbike Team rider is now aiming even higher on a track where he won in 250 cc in 2002. Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare) on the other hand has only a best result of third to his name at Donington and is focusing on getting his GSX-R1000 machine closer to the front.
But the men to watch at Donington will undoubtedly be the ‘Brit-Pack’ who have always been able to find that little bit ‘extra’ at their home event. There is always a special atmosphere at the British rounds and this will certainly help to spur on the likes of Rea, Haslam, Sykes et al. Unfortunately the number has been reduced by one as James Toseland (BMW Motorrad Italia), who crashed during testing at Motorland Aragón, has a fractured right wrist and will now have to miss the European Round.
Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda) wants to make up for the misfortune that befell him in Australia, when a nasty crash in testing forced him to reign in his natural talents in the race. Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) took a hard-earned podium at Phillip Island, and the 2010 championship runner-up picked up a couple of useful results at Donington the year before, a third and a fourth. After leading for a couple of laps and going close to the podium in the opening round, Ireland’s Eugene Laverty (Yamaha World Superbike Team) aims to demonstrate that his place on the factory R1 machine that twice won here with Ben Spies in 2009 is fully-deserved, while the other two Brits to follow closely will be Tom Sykes, who was on the Donington podium in 2008 as a wild-card, and Biaggi’s Aprilia team-mate Leon Camier, hopefully fully recovered from a recent debilitating illness.
Points (after 1 round of 13): 1. Checa 50; 2. Biaggi 40; 3. Melandri 27; 4. Haslam 27; 5. Fabrizio 18; 6. Rea 17; 7. Haga 16; 8. Sykes 15; 9. Laverty 14; 10. Smrz 14; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Ducati 50; 2. Aprilia 40; 3. Yamaha 29; 4. BMW 27; 5. Suzuki 18; 6. Honda 17; 7. Kawasaki 15.
Luca Scassa’s last-gasp win on the Yamaha ParkinGO machine over Broc Parkes (Kawasaki Motocard.com) and Sam Lowes (Parkalgar Honda) has added extra flavour to the Supersport World Championship, which is now booming in quality – following the arrival of several talented youngsters – and quantity. A return in grand style for Yamaha has also fleshed out the Honda-Kawasaki duopoly and now there are three manufacturers fighting for the win. Donington will surely see the riders who finished on the podium at Phillip Island again up at the front, with the addition of Fabien Foret (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), who raced injured in Australia, while all eyes will also be on Gino Rea (Step Racing Honda), who hopes to be fully-fit and the promising Italian Roberto Tamburini from the Yamaha Bike Service Racing Team.
Points (after 1 round of 13): 1. Scassa 25; 2. Parkes 20; 3. Lowes 16; 4. Salom 13; 5. Harms 11; 6. Ellison 10; 7. Marino 9; 8. Iannuzzo 8; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Yamaha 25; 2. Kawasaki 20; 3. Honda 16; 4. Triumph 6.
– Yamaha Preview
Yamaha World Superbike Team riders Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty head to Donington this weekend for round two of the 2011 World Superbike Championship. After a month’s break from the opening round in Phillip Island both riders are keen to get back onboard their YZF-R1 race bikes and pick up where they left off. Both Melandri and Laverty have still relatively little time in the seat of the R1 but nevertheless impressed at the opening round in Australia. The Italian Superbike Rookie Melandri delivered his maiden podium for the championship in race two, giving the reigning world champion Max Biaggi no rest all the way to the line. Laverty, also a Superbike Rookie, was looking as promising as his teammate, leading race one for a period; race two saw multiple ghost neutrals hiding his true potential. Melandri visited his doctor on Monday this week, and was given the all clear for a healthy shoulder.
As they set up in the UK for the second round of the championship, they do so with Melandri sitting in third in the overall standings with 27 points, his teammate Laverty sits in ninth with 14 points, 13 behind Melandri.
Donington Technically Speaking by Yamaha World Superbike Team Technical Manager and Crew Chief for Marco Melandri – Silvano Galbusera
It’s been two years since our last race here with Ben Spies but we will start with the same setting from last Phillip Island’s race and see which direction Marco wants to go in. We will start with the second solution we found in Australia from race two with more traction in the rear and we develop from there. Of course we will also use a different gearbox as we did with Ben. The Donington track has changed a little since our last visit and Marco is a lot lighter than Ben so we have to adjust the settings to take this into account.
Donington Technically Speaking by the Crew Chief for Eugene Laverty – Frankie Carchedi
We sacrificed a lot on set up for Phillip Island as it’s notorious on tyre life. We will be going back to a more basic setting for Donington that we used in Magny Cours and Portimao for testing. This should make the bike more neutral for handling and braking which you need for Donington. There will be no major changes as the base is really good, the focus will be on letting Eugene do some more laps to learn the Yamaha a bit more.
Yamaha World Superbike Team – Marco Melandri
I’m feeling good and very happy to be getting back on my bike this weekend, one month with no riding seems very long. Donington has always been a good track for me, I had good races there in MotoGP and I think our bike will work well. My only concern is the weather, I’m hoping for some sunshine as I still haven’t had much experience on the Pirelli wet tyres.
Yamaha World Superbike Team – Eugene Laverty
I’m pretty excited for Donington. After Phillip Island it’s looking very promising, we showed a lot of potential there. We’ll wait and see what the results are come Sunday but I’m quietly confident, I think we are going to be very strong. I like Donington a lot, especially the fast flowing nature of the track and I’ve always enjoyed riding it.
Yamaha World Superbike Team Manager – Andrea Dosoli
After the good start to the season in Phillip Island we’re glad to be back in Europe, on this historical race track. Donington Park is an important race for us where we want to confirm how competitive our package is. Our engineers have been working hard in the last weeks in order to offer both riders the best starting set up for the British track. Eugene and Marco haven’t stopped training so I’m confident that they will be able to perform well on what could be considered the ‘home track’ for both: Eugene, coming from these Islands but Marco also used to live close to the Donington circuit. We’re hoping for good weather and that all fans will enjoy the races.
Championship Leader Luca Scassa Prepares for Donington with Yamaha ParkinGO Team
Yamaha ParkinGO Team riders Luca Scassa and Chas Davies arrive in Donington with purpose having put on an impressive performance at the opening round of the 2011 World Supersport Championship in Phillip Island last month. Scassa delivered a sensational race victory, using the 2009 World Supersport Championship winning R6 to its full potential to snatch the chequered flag on his first race with the bike. As a result the Italian rider arrives in Donington as the championship leader, looking to defend his position, and hoping to replicate the success of Cal Crutchlow who took the R6 to victory in Donington at its previous visit in 2009 on his way to the championship title.
Scassa’s teammate Davies had been on track to share the podium having started strongly however he was one of a number of riders suffering from punctured tyres during the inaugural race. Davies will be keen to make amends for this and gain his first championship points of the 2011 season in front of his home crowd at Donington.
– HRC Preview
The first of two British-based Superbike World Championship rounds takes place at Donington Park this coming weekend even through the thoughts of the entire paddock will be directed eastwards after the series of tragic events that have struck Japan recently.
Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda) will get his first chance to go racing in front of a home crowd this season when he gets to Donington and Ruben Xaus (Castrol Honda) is looking forward to his second race weekend for his new team in this category.
The 4.023km circuit will look a little different this time around, after work was completed recently to improve run off in several areas and make the paddock area larger. The basic track layout is almost exactly the same as it was the last time WSBK racing visited this historic circuit in 2009, but the Foggy Esses have been widened and initial indications are that exit speeds and thus lap times should be improved.
An often dramatic first meeting of the year at Phillip Island left Rea battered and bruised after several crashes but he still posted a remarkable fourth place finish in race two, despite not being able to display his absolute best form. Rea has been given the all clear to race after undergoing a thorough medical examination recently, a factor that has lifted his level of expectation and confidence. Rea enters Donington in an overall sixth place in the championship standings after one round of 13 in total.
Xaus is keen to enjoy more track time on his CBR1000RR, having had much of his testing programme interrupted over the winter months. The tall rider from Catalunya sees Donington as fertile ground to return to in his quest to get back to full competitiveness. Ruben scored points in one race in Australia, and he sits 13th at present in the overall standings.
WSBK Rider Comments
Jonathan Rea, Castrol Honda says: “I am fine now, just the odd pain in my wrist and I have been training hard in preparation for Donington. I have picked myself up and I’m feeling good. It’s nice to be racing in the UK and it is only a short ferry journey and drive from home to get there. I am looking forward to seeing some friends and fans at the first of two British races this year. I really like Donington, I’m glad it is back on the calendar, so I’m looking to start the weekend strongly and move on from there. The circuit has an unbelievable layout and the first three sweeping sections are brilliant.”
Ruben Xaus, Castrol Honda says: “I have two feelings about Donington.
The first one is that I am hungry to go racing again because a month is too long between the first race and the second one. The second feeling is that now the sun is shining in Spain but in England it will be cold for our sport, and there is no guarantee what it will be like. I like the circuit there, it is very historic and I have some good memories. It is quite a technical track also. As soon as we are there and racing we will put a lot of rubber on the track surface and the conditions may be better than we expect. I just need more track time on the bike right now.”
World Supersport Preview – Lowes Leads The Honda Charge Towards Donington
As the Supersport World Championship now returns to its normal European base of operations right through until the final round at Portimao in mid-October, the early evidence is that Donington should offer many Honda CBR600RR riders the chance to shine.
The first round of the championship in Australia saw Sam Lowes (Parkalgar Honda) take a podium finish in one of the closest finishes ever seen in this category, when only 0.033 seconds covered the first three home. As Donington approaches Lowes is by no means the only British-based Honda man capable of attacking the top three steps of the podium, as both James Ellison (Bogdanka PTR Honda) and Gino Rea (Step Racing Team Honda) have the speed and the equipment to allow them to compete on home asphalt, despite each feeling the effects of lingering injuries.
The first round in Australia was a war of attrition on several fronts, as Ellison left Phillip Island with an injured knee which needed surgery to let him race there while Gino Rea suffered a nasty thumb injury in practice. Lowes also suffered foot and finger injuries after a few crashes in testing and practice in Australia.
Fabien Foret (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) will have to overcome the effects of two badly hurt fingers on his throttle hand and the pain from a fractured L3 vertebra when he gets to Donington. Foret, the
2002 champion in this class for Honda, will nonetheless be back on the grid looking for a strong points score alongside his impressive new teammate and French compatriot, Florian Marino (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda). Marino had terrible start in Australia, but overcame this disadvantage to post lap times that would have put him right with the leading riders. He finished that race seventh, one place behind Ellison.
Some new and old Honda forces will converge on Donington again this weekend, with Robbin Harms (Harms Benjan Racing Honda) looking for another top five finish to go with his fine PI result. Seasoned campaigner Miguel Praia (Parkalgar Honda) is looking for his first race finish of 2011, as is a well-equipped and well-motivated rider from Eastern Europe, Pawel Szkopek (Bogdanka PTR Honda).
Swede Alexander Lundh (Cresto Guide Racing Team Honda) was an impressive ninth in Australia with Ondrej Jezek (SMS Racing Honda) 12th, giving the Czech rider an appetite for even more points at Donington. The final points from Australia were earned by Honda riders Bastien Chesaux (MACH – Moto Academy Swiss Honda), Balazs Nemeth (Team Hungary Toth Honda) and his team-mate Imre Toth.
Vladimir Ivanov (Step Racing Team Honda) just missed a point in Australia, making him all the more determined to pick up some in England. Mitchell Pirotta (KUJA Racing Honda) was a non-finisher at his home race in Australia but will start his international career full of hope for a good result at Donington.
The third round of the championship tales place in the Netherlands, at the Circuit van Drenthe near Assen, on Sunday 17 April.
WSS Rider Comments
Sam Lowes says: “It will feel a bit strange to go and race at Donington in the World Championship. The circuit was all new to me at Phillip Island and we were on the back foot a bit, so it was good to get a good podium finish there. The early practice sessions should be a bit better for me at Donington as it’s only about and hour-and-a-half from my house and I know the track quite well. My injured finger still feels a bit weird, but it’s no problem on the bike. I have done a lot of mountain a biking since I got back from Australia but when I tried to do some running my foot started hurting, a reminder of my testing crash. We had a mega result in Australia so I want another one at Donington.”
Fabien Foret says: “I will be ready for Donington but maybe not at 100% full fitness. I have I had two surgical operations on my fingers and the piece of bone I fractured on my L3 vertebra has meant I have had to rest a lot and walk around on crutches while I remained in Australia after the race. My back injury is not a big risk because the fracture is to the small section that sticks out at the side but it has been very painful. I lost a lot a lot of tissue and skin from the middle finger and ring finger of my right hand in Australia, so I had one surgery to join the fingers together to aid healing after a tissue graft, then a couple of weeks later another operation to separate the two fingers again. So, I may not be 100% at Donington but I will be OK for Donington and I like the track.”
James Ellison says: “We went to Mallory Park to test last Wednesday and did good lap times, so I am happy to race. I should be fine for Donington after my knee injury and surgery in Australia. I have been doing a lot of rehab work on my knee, building up the small muscles that surround the knee joint rather than working the big muscles that move the leg. It was hard to move around on the bike at PI just because I could only use my upper body to steer. Donington is physical but I am on better condition than I was in Australia and I’m really looking forward to this weekend in Britain.”
Florian Marino says: “I was happy to be able to match the pace of the leading riders at Phillip Island but I will be out to have a better result at Donington. I rode there on a 125 but on a 600 it will be different. Unlike Australia, I will make a good start to the race for sure!”
Gino Rea says: “I really want to go for a podium at my home race, like I got at Silverstone in 2010, but my injured left thumb is not much better than it was in Australia and I have got a splint on it right now. I have to keep it straight to let the tendon repair properly. I am going to try and race with it like that at Donington but If I cannot grip the bars I may have to take the splint off, which will harm the healing process. I am going to take it step-by-step and there are also supposed to be some changes on the bike for this race. We will see what the changes are when we get to Donington.”
Miguel Praia says: “Donington was a great track for me in the past. I think it will be similar to what it was then and I really enjoy the layout of the track. England for us is like a home race as the team is based there and there are lots of Portuguese fans. It is always extra motivation for me racing in the UK and I am looking forward to it after the promise shown in Phillip Island.”
– Team Suzuki
Team Suzuki Alstare’s Michel Fabrizio is looking forward to this weekend’s World Superbike Championship second round at Donington Park in England, as last time he raced at the circuit in 2009, he finished on the podium.
The 4.023 kilometre circuit has been slightly revamped since 2009, but remains essentially a flowing circuit, with a few stop-start sections that require heavy braking. The circuit was the scene of the first ever WSBK race in April 1988 and 34 races have taken place at this popular venue so far.
Michel Fabrizio: “The last time we raced at Donington, I finished with a podium in race two, so my memories of it are pretty good. I understand that the track has been modified a bit since then, so we will all be starting off learning about the changes and what effects they have on getting a good set-up. Most of the track is pretty flowing, but there are couple of places where you have to be really hard on the brakes and that is why a good set-up and well-balanced bike is vital.
“A lot of people seemed to be unduly concerned about how the weather may be at this time of the year, but the last race in Australia wasn’t as good as we all expected, so Donington might be OK. Whatever the weather is, it will be the same for everybody and if it happens to be cold and wet, then that’s how it’s going be and I and the others just have to get on with it. On the other hand, it may turn out to be a fine, Spring day and everybody will be happy – especially the fans.
“British fans are always very enthusiastic about their racing and I hope that the weather is OK and we get a good crowd. I am feeling very positive about Donington and will be aiming for a good practice, qualifying and Superpole and then another great Donington podium.”
– Althea Ducati
The Althea Racing Team and rider Carlos Checa are ready to start the European segment of the World Superbike Championship as they head to the UK for the upcoming round at Donington Park.
Round 2 comes a full month after the inaugural round held in Australia, at Phillip Island, at the end of February. Carlos had the best weekend of his Superbike career at that opening round, topping the timesheets in every session, before securing pole position and a fantastic double race win. Carlos could not have begun the season in a better way, scoring a full 50 points to put him at the top of the standings after the opening round.
Now attention turns to Donington which did not feature on the 2010 Superbike calendar, meaning that Carlos has not yet faced the challenge of this track on board the 1198. His recent performances on the Ducati inspire confidence and so, although the UK round will not be easy, the Althea Racing Team is determined to rise to expectations.
“I like the Donington track, I’ve not been lucky there in the past but that’s been a consequence of the races, nothing to do with the track itself. I want to forget the past and pretend the wins at Phillip Island never happened, in the sense that we’ll start this weekend with the same programme and the same determination as ever, as if it were the first race of the season. It’s a track where top speed doesn’t count much and could therefore be good for us. Of course our rivals are numerous, because as well as the usual suspects, Biaggi and Haslam, there will also be other Brits who are historically fast when riding at home. We just have to hope that it’s not too cold there but, all in all, I feel optimistic and am ready.”
– PBM Kawasaki
Kawasaki Superbike Racing Team rider Chris Vermeulen is planning on returning to action this weekend in round two of the World Superbike Championship at Donington Park.
It will be the first time the 28-year-old former World Supersport Champion will have raced since sustaining a serious knee injury at the opening round of last year’s World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island in Australia.
The Australian MotoGP race winner had an operation to rebuild his knee last July and is now in the final phase of rehabilitation after such complex surgery but was forced out of his home race last month due to still not being 100% fit.
However this weekend, he aims to be back in action aboard the Paul Bird Motorsport-prepared Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R at the team’s home round and at the circuit he knows well due to his British Championship experience.
Meanwhile team-mates Tom Sykes and Joan Lascorz will be determined to do well for their very own reasons going into Donington. Yorkshireman Sykes has fond memories of the Leicestershire track having nearly won a WSB race as a wild card in 2008 whereas the last time Spaniard Lascorz raced in the UK, he suffered a huge accident at Silverstone which ended his World Championship aspirations last year.
Both riders are hoping to improve on their performances in Australia a month ago with Sykes bringing the new bike home to a best result of eighth and coupled with the addition of Vermeulen, the team are hoping for a string of solid results.
Paul Bird, Team Owner: “It’s great to welcome Chris back into the team and hopefully he can give a good account of himself now he’s back to somewhere near full fitness. This is an important race for the team and I’m expecting all three riders to be strong this weekend, there should be no excuses. We all have good memories of Donington Park over the years and this is our best shot in ages so we’re looking to be at the cutting edge as we know this bike is good enough.”