WSB Preview: Donington Park this weekend.
Donington Park is the next home for WSB with the worlds best production-based motorcycles descending on the Leicestershire circuit this weekend. Our own Tom Sykes is leading the WSB charge.
The poleman in Sepang by seven tenths, a winner in Malaysia and Buriram and a consistent podium finisher in 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 Chaz Davies doing the double at Aragón and Jonathan 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.
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 UK will most definitely be pencilled in as Sykes.
Championship leader Jonathan Rea arrives at the home track of the top three title contenders having extended his points lead once again as he pushes to retain his crown.
Despite not winning a Race in the last four 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.
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 – worth knowing with the iffy weather forecast. 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.
With a new timetable for #UKWorldSBK, Race 1 on Saturday will begin at 15:00 local time (GMT +1), before lights out for Race 2 24 hours later.
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