WorldSBK hits Donington this weekend
Donington Park is located in the East Midlands, not far from Nottingham and the famous Sherwood Forest: it was opened in 1933 and its use was converted during World War II, as it hosted a military vehicle depot until 1955.
Recovered in 1971 after nearly two decades of neglect and abandonment, it is known in the UK as The Heart of British Motorcycling.
Donington Park provides a mixed track although quite fast with many changes of elevation and some sharp corners: these features require heavy braking and sudden acceleration (as the Melbourne Hairpin), which put enormous strains on the tyres. .
On the straight stretch coming out of turn 8, the famous Coppice, the highest acceleration coming out of a corner is reached.
The most spectacular section of the circuit is composed by the two turns, Old Hairpin and McLeans Corner, which break up the straight opposite the finish: both appear tight like a hairpin, but fast as a bend, with speeds above 100 km/h.
Donington Park is not a circuit that gives particularly high speeds, the maximum speed is just over 270 km/h, and the average speed settles down to 160 km/h. Here the tyres are usually found to work with low surface temperatures.
In order to address better the typical English weather conditions, Pirelli makes available for this event almost its entire range of solutions and compounds.
The keyword for the tyre choice to deal with this track is flexibility: the tyres here should achieve the 55° lean and lateral acceleration, despite their working temperature being not particularly high.
Donington Park circuit requires front tyres to maintain their shape and ensure front-end stability, particularly in the first part of the track: that is why in 2015 Superbike riders which is why in 2015 the Superbike riders had chosen between two different SC1 development compounds, protected from both wear risk and the occurrence of cold tearing, or the SC2 range, which offers good support.
Rear tyres are stressed by sudden and violent typical Donington Park acceleration: despite the low temperatures, in 2015 the entire WorldSBK grid opted for the SC0 tyre, the softer solution available. This proved to be the ideal one for the smooth asphalt of Donington, while avoiding a performance decline despite the not reaching the optimal temperature for the use of a soft solution.
The poleman in Sepang by seven tenths, a winner in Malaysia and Buriram and a consistent podium finisher in WorldSBK season 2016, Sykes’ season has seen him make up a lot of ground since the end of 2015. The Yorkshireman’s key rivals this season have had their opportunities at favoured tracks so far in the year, with Davies doing the double at Aragón and Rea in Assen, along with a good host of surprises that have seen expectation fade in contrast with reality, and Donington Park is the track that traditionally most favours the 2013 WorldSBK Champion. Although Sykes struggled slightly in comparison to the steamrolling performance of teammate Rea in 2015, the Yorkshireman’s performance at Donington Park last season was perfect as ever. With six wins out of the last six at the British track – on the cusp of making a new record – the name of the man to beat as the paddock heads to the parkland classic will most definitely be pencilled in as Sykes.
Championship leader Jonathan Rea arrives at the home track of the top 3 key title contenders having extended his points lead once again as he pushes to retain his crown. Despite not winning a Race in the last 4 held since the grid lined up in Assen, the longest stretch for the Northern Irishman since joining Kawasaki, the reigning Champion knows that consistency is key. Rea is the only rider to have been on the podium in every Race so far in 2016, and showed in very different conditions in each Race in Malaysia exactly why he currently counts on an even bigger advantage now the paddock is back in Europe. Focused on the end game, Rea’s rivals take it in turns to compete with him as he remains calm and collected, hauling in the points and watching the advantage grow, as well as maintaining an impressive win rate. Rea is always a threat, and Donington will be no different.
Chaz Davies, currently the closest challenger to Rea, followed the KRT pairing home in the UK in 2015, with two solid third positions. The Ducati that emerged at the end of the season as an improving but consistent challenger hadn’t been as strong mid-season, however, and the story has further moved on since. Despite Rea being the most successful rider at Imola, Davies took a stunning double for Ducati at home in 2016 and cemented the earlier performances in the year as true indications of the pace of the package – both man and machine. As the paddock heads to Donington, a stronger Ducati and the focused, even faster Davies of late could be a combination to fear.
Sepang saw another winner come to the fore, as Honda’s Nicky Hayden took his maiden WorldSBK win in a stunning wet weather display at the Malaysian track. The first victory for the American rider since moving to World Superbike is a milestone both on paper and for the confidence of the 2006 MotoGP World Champion, and Donington Park is a circuit the veteran campaigner knows: just like Sepang. Hayden is gaining traction and knowledge in his first season and it showed in Malaysia.
His teammate Michael van der Mark will also be a force to be reckoned with, with a run of podiums already in 2016 for the consistent frontrunner. Van der Mark had a difficult Round in the UK last season, but is a previous winner at the track having won the WorldSSP race at Donington during his 2014 title winning campaign: the Dutch rider took pole, the victory and set the fastest lap. Having ironed out the inconsistencies from his nevertheless impressive rookie season, van der Mark is hunting his first victory and is not afraid to fight for it.
Another contender not to be forgotten at Donington is MV Agusta rider Leon Camier. After a best ever P4 at Imola at the team’s home Round, its now the rider’s turn to feel the local support as Camier suits up to attack Donington. With good momentum and growing consistency, the MV Agusta is a well-handling machine that should gain from Donington having a much shorter main straight than those in Sepang, and Camier is an experienced rider who has so far this season has done nothing but impress.
Milwaukee BMW will also count on home support in the UK as the reigning British Superbike Champions returns to a track they know well. Josh Brookes could be one to watch in the wet, too, if the British weather is true to stereotype.
Josh Brookes could be the only Australian on the grid as Grillini Kawasaki have replaced Josh Hook with Sheridan Morais for the rest of the season.
Yamaha’s Alex Lowes will also be pushing for a good result on his home track, riding despite his collarbone injury sustained in Sepang as Pata Yamaha contest their home round with Lowes and Cameron Beaubier. Beaubier is set to ride in place of injured Sylvain Guintoli.
Aprilia pairing Savadori and De Angelis will be keen to keep their learning curve improving as IodaRacing start to establish themselves in WorldSBK and rake in the points. De Angelis is a veteran of Donington from the MotoGP World Championship and has been on the rostrum and the front row at the Derbyshire track and Savadori, although a WorldSBK rookie, won the STK1000 race at the track in 2015, too.
Rain or shine – and at Donington it can never be predicted – one thing is certain: the historic 4km ribbon of tarmac in England is sure to serve up a classic weekend contest as WorldSBK passes the halfway point in the season.
The 2015 Pirelli statistics for Donington Park
- Total number of tyres Pirelli brought: 4260
- Number of solutions (dry, intermediate and wet) for the Superbike class: 5 front and 7 rear
- Number of tyres available for each Superbike rider: 34 front and 38 rear
- Number of solutions for the Supersport class (dry, intermediate and wet): 4 front and 4 rear
- Number of tyres available for each Supersport rider: 22 front and 23 rear
- Superbike Best Lap Awards won by: Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team), 1’27.914 (Race 1, 9th lap) and Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team), 1’27.640 (Race 2, 2nd lap)
- Supersport Best Lap Awards won by: Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), 1’30.425 (14th lap)
- Temperature in Race 1: air 15° C, asphalt 21° C
- Temperature in Race 2: air 14° C, asphalt 21° C
- Maximum race speed reached by Pirelli DIABLO Superbike tyres: 268.9 km/h, by Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) in Race 1 at 1st lap and in Race 2 at 3rd and 6th lap.
- Maximum race speed reached by Pirelli DIABLO Supercorsa tyres in Supersport: 245.6 km/h, Niki Tuuli (Kallio Racing) at 1st lap.
World Supersport returns to a very different kind of track at Donington Park
Last time out at Sepang International Circuit saw the WorldSSP grid shuffle as Italian Ayrton Badovini took his first win. Joined on the podium by local hero Zulfahmi Khairuddin and Brit Gino Rea, the wet but drying track saw none of the key title rivals up until Round 6 finish on the podium. The next stop is sure to mix things up once again, as the long straights and sweeping corners of Sepang are replaced by the classic parkland circuit of Donington Park in Derbyshire.
Kenan Sofuoglu, reigning Champion and points leader in the series once again after Imola, put on a calm performance in Sepang to ensure he came home with points in tricky conditions. Concentrating on his title rivals instead of his position within the Race in Malaysia, the Turk finished ahead of key rivals Randy Krummenacher – his teammate – and Jules Cluzel. Of those the Turk considers his biggest threats in the search for another WorldSSP crown, only American PJ Jacobsen finished ahead of Sofuoglu in Sepang. The Championship leader won the race at Donington in 2015, too, beating Jules Cluzel over the line by just under a second. Confidence for the most experienced Puccetti rider will be high going into Round 7 at the British parkland circuit.
Kenan Sofuoglu’s rookie teammate Randy Krummenacher, after a sterling start to the season, had less confidence in the wet as the Swiss rider rode the Kawasaki around Sepang for the first time in the conditions. Fast in the dry and setting a new Best Lap that was then only marginally bettered by his veteran teammate, Krummenacher does count on less experience at Donington but has raced at the circuit before, in the 125 World Championship, and will be eager to go toe-to-toe with the Turk once again.
MV Agusta Reparto Corse’s Jules Cluzel was second at Donington in 2015 and has already won races and set pole positions in 2016 as the traces from his big crash in Jerez last year are slowly fading. The French rider has a good podium record at the track and experience of Donington dating back to before his days as a regular winner in WorldSSP, and will be looking for the same pace in the UK that saw him take a spectacular win in Buriram ealier in the season.
Honda rider PJ Jacobsen, although P5 in the standings after Malaysia, has shown his speed once again in 2016. Expensive crashes in Aragon and Assen when leading mean the American can be said to have fewer points than his pace on track should have earnt, and a calm ride in Malaysia shows the Honda World Supersport Team rider has learnt lessons from his experience. After coming home P5 in Sepang, the number 2 bike was the first of the pre-season favourites for the title to cross the line and Jacobsen is recovering his momentum well.
Local heroes are easy to find on the WorldSSP grid. After last season saw Kyle Ryde take a stunning podium as a wildcard, this year contemporaries such as Kyle Smith and Gino Rea will be attempting to get on the rostrum too as Ryde adjusts to a new team and bike at Schmidt Racing Team. Assen winner Kyle Smith and now twice-podium finisher this season Gino Rea have both had difficult starts to the season, before finding some momentum and traction to haul in the points. Both great riders in the wet, British weather could help out the local heroes too. Reigning national Supersport Champion Luke Stapleford also had a good outing as a wildcard at Donington in 2015, and will be hoping to repeat the feat on his Triumph – the same machine he rode at the track in 2015, and the one on which he won the national crown.
WorldSBK is back from Asia and STK1000 rejoins the fray
Donington Park in Derbyshire is the latest date on the calendar that sees the STK1000 Cup line up for another fantastic contest. The current grid have only raced at Donington once – in 2015 – which could prove an exciting leveler in a series that always produces top class racing, thrills and spills. In particular, 2014 Cup winner and current leader Leandro Mercado, one of the most experienced in the field, heads to Donington as a STK1000 rookie at the track after not racing in the Cup last season.
Key rival Raffaele De Rosa, who is equal on points with experienced Argentine rider Mercado, is a man who does count on knowledge of the 4km English circuit. Although incumbent title holder Lorenzo Savadori, now riding in WorldSBK with Aprilia, won the Race at Donington in 2015, Althea rider De Rosa was on the podium alongside his compatriot and could find the experience proves a small advantage. Likewise Roberto Tamburini, who was on pole at Donington in 2015, and will be looking to use his experiences last year to help push him to the podium.
P3 in the points currently belongs to rookie Michael Ruben Rinaldi, Leandro Mercado’s teammate, who may find the points gap between him and his Aruba.it colleague easier to manage in Derbyshire as the track is new to both. Ruben Rinaldi will be hoping it is so, as the Italian rookie suffered a crash at his home race in Imola and will be wanting to kickstart his early-season momentum once again.
On a grid of so many Italians, there will be only two home riders on the STK1000 grid: Gregg Black riding for MTM / HS Kawasaki and Luke Jones, who replaces injured Brian Staring at Agro On–Benjan-Kawasaki. Having scored points already this season, the Brit Black will be hoping to do that again at home at Donington Park. And a home track it truly is for the local rider, who was born nearby in Derby – the nearest city to the track. Luke Jones also counts on experience at Donington, after having raced in both the British Superbike and British Supersport Championships.