World SBK 2012 – Round Five – Donington
— World Superbike heads cross-channel and Donington-bound
The 2012 eni FIM Superbike World Championship continues its first European leg of races this coming weekend at the Donington Park circuit in the UK, where it all began back in 1988, the year of the very first round of the production-based series. 25 years and 301 rounds further on, the East Midlands track 180 kms north of London is getting ready to offer even more excitement at what will be the fifth of 14 rounds this season and races number 598 and 599 in its history.
The complicated Monza weekend left the points standings virtually unchanged, Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing) still in control but with a two-point lead over Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati). With his triumph at the fastest circuit on the calendar Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) is now just six points away from the top slot and ready to make the most of home advantage. Donington is ideal ground for another great race by Sykes, who first emerged on the world scene in 2008 when he finished second on a Suzuki as a wild-card rider behind the three-times
champion Troy Bayliss.
Biaggi has never won at Donington but he does have a 50% podium record, four times out of eight. His compatriot Marco Melandri, currently fourth in the table 25 points behind the leader, has gone better in the UK, taking his first win in Superbike last year and sharing the day with Carlos Checa.
In 2011 the Spaniard picked up the most points (45 out of 50 with a win and a second place) on a Ducati, a bike that in all of its different versions has won at Donington 17 times in 38 races. Another rider to keep an eye on will be Jonathan Rea, fifth in the points table but 27.5 points behind Biaggi: the spectacular northern Irishman has never been on the podium at Donington while Honda have not won a race here since 2008 when Ryuichi Kiyonari scored the double in a wet race.
The numerous UK fans expected to pack into Donington will also be cheering on their local hero Leon Haslam, the BMW Motorrad man who hails from just down the road near Derby. Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli (Effenbert-Liberty Racing Ducati), who scored his first win in the wet at Assen but then had to take a rain check from pole at Monza due to a problem in the warm-up lap, is also sure to be back on the ball this weekend.
It will also be a home round for the Crescent FIXI Suzuki team, which will line up with Leon Camier, podium finisher in 2011 with Aprilia and American John Hopkins who will probably not be in perfect form after picking up a broken bone in his foot at Monza. With the possibility of utilizing reference data accumulated in recent editions of the BSB championship, the Suzuki GSX-R might be in with a chance of gate-crashing the WSB regulars’ party.
Good news comes on the weather front, with a sunny weekend on the cards: after the rain that has ruined the last two rounds at Assen and Monza, the British crowd will be hoping for some true Superbike action at their home event.
Points (after 4 of 14 rounds): 1. Biaggi 97.5; 2. Checa 95.5; 3. Sykes 91.5; 4. Melandri 72.5; 5. Rea 70; 6. Haslam 68; 7. Guintoli 66; 8. Laverty 64; 9. Smrz 42.5; 10. Giugliano 41; etc.
Manufacturers: 1. Ducati 140.5; 2. Aprilia 108; 3. Kawasaki 97.5; 4. BMW 96; 5. Honda 74; 6. Suzuki 20.5.
The Supersport World Championship for the medium cylinder sector bikes continues its unpredictable run with four different winners in four rounds and a spectacular start to the season. The group is headed by former double champ, Turkey’s Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki DeltaFin Lorenzini) who after claiming the opening round win has proved to be the most consistent rider in terms of results and placements. The chasing group is led by Sam Lowes (Bogdanka PTR Honda), who is yet to win a race but who provided such a great spectacle to finish runner-up at Monza, a result that allowed him to cut the gap to the Turk to just ten points. Unlike Superbike, Supersport is run over a single race format and each win assigns 25 points.
The biggest step forward in this sense has been made by series newcomer Jules Cluzel (PTR Honda) who was brilliant in the wet to conquer his first win in the category and move to within 13 points of Sofuoglu. Just one point ahead of Cluzel is his fellow Frenchman Fabien Foret (Kawasaki Intermoto Step) who is still up in the leading positions despite only notching up four points in the last two outings.
Alex Baldolini (Power Team by Suriano Triumph) is the leading Italian in the points, in fifth place and the only man capable of keeping up with the front-runners, if one excludes Lorenzo Lanzi who dominated in the wet at Assen in a one-off outing. Baldolini knows Donington well, having raced there in Moto2, while right behind him is Australian Broc Parkes (Ten Kate Racing Products Honda) whose season has gone from bad to worse recently after he crashed out of the lead at Monza.
The Donington weekend event schedule will not include the two Superstock categories or the KTM European Junior Cup which now take a break until the next round at Misano on June 8-10.
– BMW Preview
Without time to draw breath in the FIM Superbike World Championship, following a dramatic race weekend at Monza (ITA), “Donington Park Circuit” (GBR) is the venue for the fifth round of the 2012 season (11th to 13th May). The races take place on English soil, but are held under the European flag. Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport is determined to continue its progress to the very top and to fight for the top positions with both factory riders, Leon Haslam (GBR) and Marco Melandri (ITA).
Donington is something of a home race for both of them, for Englishman Leon as well as for Italian Marco. No rider knows the circuit as well as Leon, who grew up and still resides close to the track. Marco also lived just a few kilometres from the circuit for several years, and still feels at home there. The Italian celebrated his first victory in the Superbike World Championship in race one at Donington last year, and went on to finish runner-up in race two. Leon just missed out on a place on the podium, finishing fourth in both races.
In the current 2012 season, Marco lies fourth in the Riders’ Championship with 72.5 points. Leon, who claimed his best ever result on the BMW S 1000 RR with second place in Monza, is sixth with 68 points. Together, the pair has already scored 140.5 points for Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport this year. In the Manufacturers’ Championship, BMW is fourth with 96 points. Only the best result from each race counts towards this championship.
Marco Melandri: “I really like the track. Last year I had my first win in the Superbike World Championship there. The track is very good fun. The first section is very fast and smooth and the last part is all stop and go and requires hard braking. It is good fun because you have to change rhythm. I think we can enjoy a good race there on our RR, but a lot depends on the weather. I just hope that it will be dry and good weather for us.
Donington is kind of a home race for me. I used to live just a few kilometres from the track, so I have many friends there and good memories. I am looking forward to returning there. I was back there for last year’s race, but have not lived there since 2009, so I miss the place.”
Leon Haslam: “I really enjoy Donington. Last year we had a tough time, as we nearly had a big crash in race two and the conditions weren’t great but I think this year, with the improvements that we have made at BMW Motorrad, I can look forward to racing in front of my home crowd. We will have to wait and see what the weather will be like, but hopefully it will be a lot warmer than last year.
Donington is renowned for being one of the heaviest braking circuits. You have the first section, which is all fast and flowing with lots of undulations. Then you have the last three or four corners of the track with real heavy braking, tight hairpins so you have a mix of all the different aspects that you need from a circuit. It always produces good races, so I am looking forward to it.”
Andrea Dosoli (Head of Race Operations): “After two race weekends with really unpredictable weather we are now facing the next round where we do not know what conditions will await us. Donington is a very special race track. The first part is flowing and the last part has stop-go characterteristics. We are confident that our RR can perform very well there. We are working in the right direction and which we have shown at the last rounds. In the standings, we are not too far away from the top guys so we will do our best to try to be on the podium again at Donington.
For Leon it will certainly be a special race. He will not only have the usual full support from the team but also from all the fans. Marco likes Donington as well. He used to live nearby and celebrated his first victory in the Superbike World Championship there. We expect that both our riders will have good races there and are sure that we can perform well. We just hope that the weather will be stable and that we will not experience another lottery that prevents us from collecting all the points that are possible for us.”
For the Donington round, Pirelli will provide the Superbike riders with three solutions for the front and four for the rear. For the front there will be SC1 and SC2 compounds available, including the P1280 which was found to be an excellent tyre during the tests held on the Monday after the Imola round. For the rear, on the other hand, in addition to the harder SC2 compound solution, Pirelli will have three tyres in an SC1 compound, including the R302 that was tested at Imola, developed to combat cold tearing and wear. The Donington circuit has some downhill curves where the rear clearly has less load. Precisely for this reason Pirelli will bring the new SC1 compound tyre for the front, capable of providing better grip and all of these solutions, developed from the SC1, provide better cold performance compared to the standard SC1.
The “Donington Park Circuit” is located close to the town of Castle Donington in the English county of Leicestershire. The nearest large city, Nottingham, is about 25 kilometres away. The circuit was opened in 1931 and was the first permanent racetrack in England. During its 80-year existence, the iconic circuit has been the subject of numerous modifications, the most recent of which came in 2010 when the operators submitted a bid to host a Formula One race. For financial reasons, however, the construction work could not be completed as planned and the British Grand Prix remained at Silverstone. Donington is a permanent fixture on the Superbike World Championship calendar: the series has been coming to the iconic circuit in the heart of England since its debut season in 1988.
Most riders really enjoy the circuit at Donington. The layout predominantly requires a flowing riding style, but a number of stop-and-go passages provide a technically demanding combination of very fast and very slow sections. Some points require harder braking than almost any other circuit in the Superbike World Championship. The fast sectors include the “Craner Curves”, which are named after the former motorcycle rider and founder of the circuit, Fred Craner. The bike must be stable in this fast left-hander. Among the slow passages is the “Melbourne Hairpin”, a tight chicane taken in first gear, and the left-hander “Goddards”. One unpredictable factor in Donington is the weather: it can just as easily be cold and wet as it can nice and mild there in May.
Donington is a very special circuit for BMW Motorrad factory rider Marco Melandri (ITA): he celebrated his maiden victory in the Superbike World Championship here in 2011. His team-mate Leon Haslam is a local boy in the truest sense of the word. The Brit was born close to the track and still lives nearby today. As his father Ron Haslam ran a racing driver school in Donington for many years, Leon has completed countless laps of the circuit, including on production bikes.
– HRC Preview
Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team) will be chasing his second win of the Superbike World Championship season this coming weekend at Donington, which will be the first of two home rounds the British rider will face on his CBR1000RR.
Rea’s race win at Assen in round three came during a weekend of very changeable weather conditions and with the most recent round at Monza also proving to be heavily disturbed by rain the whole paddock will be hoping for a dry weekend. They may not get their wish but wet or dry Rea and his team fully expect to be contenders from the start.
Jonathan has never taken a win or podium at Donington but recent improvements to his technical package have encouraged him that his Honda will handle the challenge of Donington well, particularly the slower parts at the Melbourne Loop.
For 2012 SBK rookie Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda World Superbike Team) Donington is a known quantity, if not on his current machine. He took one of his nine career 250cc Grands Prix victories at Donington as recently as 2009. He hopes that this track knowledge will help him get his settings dialled in early, to make the business of qualifying for Superpole for the first time relatively straightforward.
In the championship fight itself, after half points were awarded for the only race finish of the day at the previous Monza round, Rea is on 70 points, in overall fifth place and only 27.5 points off the lead. Aoyama is 13th, with a total of 24.5 points.
In the 2012 FIM Supersport World Championship the battle for the title is absolutely wide open after the first four rounds of a 13-round season have been completed, particularly for Sam Lowes (Bogdanka PTR Honda) and Monza race winner Jules Cluzel (PTR Honda). The British rider and French rider, who both operate from within the same PTR team structure (even if they are they are not technically team mates) had a great fight for the win at a wet Monza. Each expects to continue their friendly hostilities at the sharp end into the forthcoming British round.
Lowes is yet to win a race at this level although he has eight podium finishes from the 2011 and 2012 seasons so far. He could think of no better place than his home race to notch up his first race win and will try to peg back current championship leader Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki). Sofuoglu has 61 points, Lowes 51, Fabien Foret (Kawasaki) has 49 and Cluzel now has 48, making for a spread of only 13 points across the top four.
Broc Parkes (Ten Kate Racing Products Honda) is out to recover ground after falling, restarting and then eventually no scoring at Monza. For him Donington is an ideal place to begin his fight to climb up the table from his current sixth place. He knows he can go well there and feels his bike is a rounded package which is capable of taking on the slightly schizophrenic Donington, which features many flowing and undulating sections, then dead-stop hairpins and a slow chicane.
Ronan Quarmby (PTR Honda) is currently ninth in the rankings, all ready to go again at Donington despite a fall in the wet at Monza. His right thumb injury should cause him no trouble on raceday, which may once more prove to be wet. If it is, it will be the third meeting in succession where weather has played a part on raceday.
Andrea Antonelli and Roberto Tamburini (Team Lorini Honda) are 11th and 12th respectively after their second home round of the year was completed at Monza. Tamburini has had the best finish in a single race inside the Lorini set-up, fourth at Imola in April. New Lorini rider Raffaele De Rosa, who started the season in the Superbike World Championship, is 23rd after finishing
tenth at Monza.
After some bad early season luck Imre Toth (Racing Team Toth Honda) came back with a bang in fourth place at Monza, only losing out on a podium place in the last couple of laps. Toth is now just inside the top 15. His team-mate Balazs Nemeth (Racing Team Toth Honda) dropped recently to 19th overall, after three no scores in four rounds.
After his last-minute debut at Monza, Kieran Clarke (Bogdanka Racing Honda) will join fellow WSS points scorers Mathew Scholtz (Bogdanka PTR Honda) and Martin Jessopp (Riders PTR Honda) at Donington, with this being a home round for Clarke and Jessop, and one of the favourite venues of Scholtz.
There will be no Supersport race at the next SBK round after Donington, Miller Motorsports Park in the USA, on Monday 28 May. The WSS championship will reconvene at Misano Adriatico, with raceday on Sunday June 10.
Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team): “I’m looking forward to getting back to a home race and looking forward to seeing how the bike works round Donington. We have quite a different setting from what we have raced there before. Our main point of focus at Donington last time was the last sector and entering the corners, but now we have addressed that and the bike works well in that kind of area. We are quite optimistic. We will see what happens and I really enjoy the circuit. I have never had a podium in SBK at Donington so that is something to try and work on this weekend. This track has never been too kind to me but we will give it some this weekend. After Monza last weekend, the championship has opened up a bit so we need to build on the win at Assen with some more podiums so we can make some more inroads.”
Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda World Superbike Team): “The last three weekends have been difficult with either new tracks for me to learn, or changing conditions, or both! We have found some positives and the short race at Monza was a bit better. It has been some years since I raced at Donington Park and I mostly remember cold, wet weather and drinking a lot of coffee at the cafeteria near turn one. I think it was called Redgate Lodge but I hear that has gone as part of the restructure. I also hear the track is mostly the same as before, which is like two circuits in one. The first part is like flying an aeroplane, going up and down and banking left and right – it’s a lot of fun. The second part is a chicane and two corners when you nearly have to stop the bike. But I have some good memories of riding there, so I want to start the weekend with no drama and try to move forward.”
Sam Lowes (Bogdanka PTR Honda): “Donington is a track that I love; I have always liked it. Whatever the weather I will be pushing for my first win and our championship position now is good. I am just going to let things happen there. I have had three poles in a row and I know if it is dry there then we can be fast and enjoy it. I want to win really badly and I think maybe that is showing through a little bit. But if we keep knuckling down we should be somewhere near, so I should just chill out a bit.”
Jules Cluzel (PTR Honda): “Donington is another track where we could have some rain and Donington in the rain is really hard, because it is easy to make a mistake. But I want to race there and I look forward, after our good result at Monza, to making sure we take something away with us. In the rain Donington is a very difficult circuit but in the dry I really like the track layout. Sam is a really good rider so we should have a good fight there too.”
Broc Parkes (Ten Kate Racing Products Honda): “I just want to go out now taking it race-by-race and see what happens. Just ride like I normally ride. Our aim is to get on the podium in England and see if we can get some points back on our championship rivals. The Honda should work well there, it has done well in the past and I could see the CNR600RR worked well there last year, when I raced against a few Honda riders. I think our combination should be good at Donington.”
Ronan Quarmby (PTR Honda): “I hurt my right hand a bit at Monza, sprained or dislocated my thumb I think, but I will OK for Donington. After Monza I was happy that my team manager was impressed that I had improved from Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Although I fell in the wet I feel a lot more confident than I did in the wet at Assen, so no matter what the weather does this weekend I will be on it. I am sure we will get a good result at Donington.”
Andrea Antonelli (Team Lorini Honda): “Donington is quite a difficult track and it has two parts, one fast and flowing and the other with hard braking areas and very tight corners. I prefer the faster parts. If we find a good set-up I want to make a fast race and I hope to take a finish inside the top five or six places. It is possible if things go well for us.”
Imre Toth (Racing Team Toth Honda): “We may have the same weather as we had at Monza in Donington, but I hope we can have a dry weekend. After a good Monza race we will try to collect more points and an even better result. Our goal is to continue in the top ten at every race meeting. I feel we have started to prove that our real position is towards the front of the field.”
Martin Jessopp (Riders PTR Honda): “A point at Monza is something to build on for Donington. It won’t be easy there just because it is a home race, it may be harder than coming to a new track, because I have only really raced Superbike around there for the past four years. There will be a lot of support there so that cheers me on a bit. Donington is one I am really looking forward to.”
– Althea Ducati
With round 4 of the World Superbike championship having come to a close just two days ago, the Althea Racing team heads straight to the UK, and Donington, where riders Carlos Checa and Davide Giugliano look forward to participating in two full races, after the strange circumstances of Monza.
Suffice to say that the wet weather conditioned race day proceedings at the Autodromo Nazionale in Monza. Race 1 was started, stopped, and then cancelled due to heavy rainfall while race 2 took place after a delayed start, although riders only completed eight of the planned sixteen laps. Althea’s Checa closed in seventh position, followed across the line by team-mate Giugliano in eighth place; all riders took half points for their efforts.
At last season’s Donington round on the other hand, Carlos scored his best Superbike result at that track thus far, with a third place finish in race 1 and a win in race 2, where he crossed the line 3.3 seconds ahead of Melandri, second. Davide has not had any recent experience of the Donington track as in recent years the Superstock 1000 category has not raced there. He last raced here in 2008, in the Superstock 1000 category, reaching the podium in third position.
After four rounds of the 2012 championship, Carlos has already accumulated three wins and a third place finish, earning himself second position in the rider’s classification with 95.5 points right behind Biaggi, who holds 97.5. Giugliano is still tenth with 41 points. Ducati leads the manufacturer’s championship with 140.5 points to Aprilia’s 108.
Carlos Checa: “After the strange situation at Monza, we are hoping for a more ‘normal’ race weekend at Donington, and two full-length races! Last year went really well for me at the English track, after some less positive results in earlier years, and so I hope that this season’s Donington round will be my best yet. Competition will be tough, with several strong British riders fighting to win at home, but I too am ready for battle!”
Davide Giugliano: “I like the track, or at least I remember that I liked it back in 2008, the last time I raced there! It will be interesting to go back and see how it is in 2012. In the Stock I reached the podium but I know it won’t be easy this weekend, especially with the whole British contingent. I feel confident anyway, and we hope to at least have more stable weather conditions in order to be able to race in a regular fashion.”
– Effenbert Liberty Ducati
The Liberty Racing Team would like to communicate that its own riders: Sylvain Guintoli, Jakub Smrž and Maxime Berger supported by their technical staff, will regularly take part to the Europe GP, 5th round of the Superbike World Championship, that will be held at Donington Park this weekend.