Donington is particularly special in World Superbike history, as it hosted the very first race event in 1988.
The legendary Donington Park circuit will play host to the sixth round of the eni FIM Superbike World Championship this weekend. The English venue is located in the East Midlands, 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Derby and 30 kilometres (19 miles) from Leicester. It was inaugurated in 1931 and became a permanent racing circuit two years later.
Donington is particularly special in World Superbike history, as it hosted the very first race event in 1988. Home rider Roger Burnett picked up his first and what proved to be only pole position before Italians Davide Tardozzi and Marco Lucchinelli triumphed in the two heats, with Lucchinelli coming out the overall winner. This would prove to be the only round split into two heats, with the two-race format known today coming in for the following event.
The main contenders
Heading to England in 2015, four British riders head up the World Championship, but only two of them have ever won at Donington. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) is the second most successful rider at the track after only Carl Fogarty, having done the double for the last two years. Sykes also impressed in 2008, finished second in race one as a wildcard rider while Troy Bayliss celebrated victory.
Without doubt, KRT's Jonathan Rea is the British rider generating headlines this season. Perhaps his best Donington memory is that of 2012, when he won the second race after the BMWs of Leon Haslam and Marco Melandri came together at the last corner. Haslam will certainly be hoping to avoid such drama this weekend; he heads to Donington off the back of three ‘bogey circuits’ for him in Aragon, Assen and Imola, with his second race in Italy having featured one of the biggest crashes of his racing career. The Aprilia rider is now attempting to put the title attack back on track in front of his many fans, friends and family members at Donington.
Elsewhere, Jordi Torres (Aprilia Racing Team - Red Devils) has become the first Spanish rider to collect a World Superbike podium trophy since Carlos Checa. However, he has another new track to learn. On the other hand, Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati Superbike Team) will be praying for race finishes and a strong haul of points following two very costly race retirements – both because of matters beyond the rider’s control – last time out. The Welshman's team-mate Davide Giugliano took the paddock by storm two weekends ago, dramatically clinching pole position before picking up a Race 1 rostrum finish; all the more impressive considering this was his first round back since his pre-season testing crash.
The UK Round could be a telling one for the respective Pata Honda World Superbike Team and Voltcom Crescent Suzuki; both are still looking for the consistent rate of success they yearned at the start of the campaign. For the Suzuki outfit, based in Dorset, the learning curve has increased in size since the introduction of a new electronics package from the Aragón Round onwards. Last year, Alex Lowes finished on the podium at Donington.
Randy de Puniet last raced in Donington Park in 2009, when he clinched the second of his two career MotoGP podium finishes, taking third behind current MotoGP front-runner Andrea Dovizioso and two-time WorldSBK Champion Colin Edwards on a very wet day.
At Honda, memories of the longest ever run of consecutive points finishes are but a distant memory for reigning World Champion Sylvain Guintoli, who at Imola registered a second non-finish of 2015, while Michael van der Mark also had a difficult weekend following the heroics of Assen when the Dutchman clinched top three finishes in both of his home races.
Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) is another rider with a Donington Park podium to his name, having finished on the rostrum racing alongside Max Biaggi at Aprilia in 2011. The Kent rider had made his World Superbike debut at the circuit two years earlier, as a wildcard with the Airwaves Yamaha Team with which he won the 2009 British Superbike crown.
Expected to return to action is Nico Terol, who was replaced at Althea Racing by Michel Fabrizio for Imola. Terol had been injured in the previous gathering at Assen and now hopes to be back in action at a circuit he knows from his Grand Prix racing days. Others are looking to back up a strong Imola performance as Leandro Mercado (Barni Racing Ducati), Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia) and Roman Ramos (Team Go Eleven) strive for success.
2015 eni FIM Superbike World Championship (5 of 13 rounds completed)
1 - Jonathan Rea Kawasaki Racing Team - 240
2 - Leon Haslam Aprilia Racing Team - Red Devils - 153
3 - Tom Sykes Kawasaki Racing Team - 128
4 - Chaz Davies Aruba.it Racing - Ducati Superbike Team - 123
5 - Jordi Torres Aprilia Racing Team - Red Devils - 99