Round Eight – Donington
Sunday Race Results / Report
Until a couple rounds ago, the Motul FIM World Superbike Championship seemed to have taken a very clear direction with Álvaro Bautista winning the first 11 races, seemingly without any rivals able to make any trouble for him.
But from the Jerez round and then with the next round in Misano, the Spanish Ducati rider made a few mistakes, leaving his flank exposed, and four-time World Champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK / Kawasaki ZX-10RR) did not stand idly by.
After the fantastic double in Misano, winning both Race 1 and Race 2, at Donington Park, the Northern Irishman did the triple, winning all three races and taking the lead in the rider standings already on Saturday, then increasing his advantage to 24-points ahead of Bautista on Sunday.
For his part, the Spaniard was unable to be as incisive as he had in the early part of the season, and on English soil he had to settle for a meagre bounty – third place in Race 2.
The Donington weekend, at least in the premier class, was certainly an important one for all the Kawasaki riders who also took two second place finishes here with the skilled Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing / Kawasaki ZX-10RR), and two third place finishes with Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK / Kawasaki ZX-10RR).
If Kawasaki and Ducati seem to be the most incisive bikes in the World Championship for factory derivatives, in WorldSSP, it is a different story, because in this case, Yamaha is dominating, taking the top two positions on the podium, as well as fourth, thanks to the performances of Jules Cluzel (GMT94 Yamaha / Yamaha YZF R6), first across the line, and teammates Federico Caricasulo and Randy Krummenacher (Bardahl Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team / Yamaha YZF R6), second and fourth respectively. Yamaha also dominated in the FIM Supersport 300 World Championship race, won by Italian Kevin Sabatucci of Team Trasimeno Yamaha.
WorldSBK Tissot Superpole Race
The first race on Sunday lasted even less than the scheduled 10 laps, as it was red-flagged on the eighth lap due to an accident that involved no less than five riders.
At the start, pole man Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team / BMW S1000 RR) got off well, managing to stay ahead of Race 1 winner, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK / Kawasaki ZX-10RR), who had started from the second spot on the grid.Behind them was Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing / Kawasaki ZX-10RR) who succeeded in moving up from seventh to third.
However, the four-time World Champion Kawasaki rider was not giving up easily, and on the fifth lap he was able to overtake his former team-mate for the race lead. In the meantime, Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK / Kawasaki ZX-10RR) and Álvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati / Ducati Panigale V4 R) moved respectively into fourth and fifth place.
It seemed like the race would end in that order, but during the eighth lap, Peter Hickman (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team / BMW S1000 RR) had a technical problem on turn 11 and leaked oil, ending up in the gravel. Unfortunately, the same fate awaited Sandro Cortese, Leandro Mercado, Alessandro Delbianco and Ryūichi Kiyonari, slipping on the oil left on the track by the British rider.
Race direction was therefore forced to wave the red flag, which decreed the end of the race, but on the final lap to return to pit lane, Tom Sykes, who had been lying second in the race, also slipped on the oil left behind by Hickman, crashing out. Unable to get the bike to Parc Fermé, Tom Sykes lost his second place in a crushingly unfair blow to the private Turkish Puccetti Racing team rider.
This made it an all-green podium with Jonathan Rea, Toprak Razgatlioglu and Leon Haslam respectively on the first, second and third step.
Superbike Race Two
In this race, the Kawasaki riders were once again the undisputed protagonists, with Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK / Kawasaki ZX-10RR) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing / Kawasaki ZX-10RR) going back and forth for the lead throughout the race, which was then won by the Northern Irishman.
Razgatlioglu managed to overtake Rea for the lead twice, first on the third lap and then on the eighth, but on the twelfth lap he was forced to relinquish the position to the four-time World Champion who had a slightly faster pace than his.
In any case, the Turkish rider was able to give Rea a run for his money all the way to the chequered flag, finishing just three tenths of a second behind the Championship leader.
The other Kawasaki rider, Leon Haslam, seemed to have third place in the bag, but on the thirteenth lap, Álvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati / Ducati Panigale V4 R) was able to overtake him, thereby taking the only podium finish of what was a difficult weekend for the Ducati riders.
“It was incredible, a similar story to Misano with Toprak in Race 2. It was really difficult, he was so strong on the brakes, but my team gave me a great bike and physically this weekend I felt really good, so I was able to extract the best potential from my ZX-10RR. In free practices, I was a little bit unhappy about the setup, and we were quite far away, 0.9 s from the fastest lap time, but step by step we arrived and three race wins, and back in the lead of the championship I can’t quite believe it. We will keep working like we are doing and we go to Laguna next week, which is another good track for us, but I enjoyed the atmosphere here. There were a lot of people here at Donington and now let’s see what happens”.
“Yesterday with the wet conditions we didn’t go well. We tried a similar setup to Misano but I didn’t feel good on the bike and it was sliding a lot at the rear, so I was waiting for today because I was expecting a dry race and I felt really strong on those conditions. The Tissot Superpole Race was good but it wasn’t perfect. We focused on Race 2, which was more important for me. I did a good start, I followed Johnny and after I overtook him we had a small fight together but he was strong and fast. On the final two laps, I tried to attack him again but it was impossible. I am happy with another podium and now we see what will happen in the US”.
“Honestly, I had a really good feeling on 80% of the track but I was just struggling on that last part with the stop/start areas. I am happy with the pace because I was losing so much in the last two turns but and making it back in the rest of the track – and that was against the fastest guys. I did feel that if we could have sorted those last two corners out we would have been in that battle for those top two spots today. We have had a run of podiums and a fifth place finish recently so we are there or thereabouts. We closed the points gap on third and we will keep on pushing on.”
“Today it was important to finish the weekend with a podium, after yesterday’s crash. In the Superpole Race I tried to stay with the front group and pushed as hard as I could; unfortunately, my Panigale V4 R was moving around a lot and I had to make a big effort to ride it and keep it upright. In Race 2 I made a good start, and tried to stay in the front group despite the same problems I had in the Superpole Race. Here at Donington we were struggling a lot, but I’m quite happy to have achieved the best possible result. We’re analysing the data to try and improve the weak points of the bike and tackle the Laguna Seca race stronger than before.”
“It was a really tough day. After the Superpole race, I was optimistic that we could potentially have a decent long race. We made some changes and felt the bike was a bit better. The start and the first few laps were good and I got up to fifth place, then things got a bit more difficult. After a few more laps my pace faded, because I had pretty bad arm pump as well. Donington is a bit of a strange circuit that requires a lot of physical effort; today things were tougher especially with me fighting the bike as much as I am. Unfortunately, there’s not much to be happy about after a weekend like this one, but now I can’t wait to get to Laguna, which is a track I like a lot.”
“The issues in Superpole yesterday set us back a little bit today. We made some changes to the bike ahead of the Sprint Race and, while I didn’t feel quite as good as I was expecting, towards the end I was coming on strong in what was quite a tight group. With only seven laps because of the red flag it didn’t feel like much of a race to be honest. In Race 2 I knew it was going to be difficult to get away with the leading group starting from further back, but I felt I managed the race well. I was really strong at the end, but not quite close enough to challenge for the final podium, but there were plenty of positives we can take into the Laguna Seca race next week.”
Michael van der Mark
“We made a change to the bike after the Sprint Race and I think we maybe went a little bit in the wrong direction, as I was struggling for rear grip from the start and couldn’t use the new tyre like everyone else. I actually got a good start but then dropped back quite quickly and there wasn’t much I could do about it. I had good pace, but I’d have liked to have been able to push harder. We have to be happy with the points we’ve scored this weekend, given the injury, but as a racer I know that if I had the grip then I’d have been able to fight with Alex and the other guys. The wrist was much better than I was expecting this weekend, so now I can look forward to Laguna with some confidence.”
“This was not a good weekend for us. After Misano I expected to have a much better feeling, especially here at Donington where I’ve had good results in the past. So, we were expecting a positive weekend here, but it turned out very different. I never really had a good feeling and I struggled a lot from the start. Either the bike doesn’t like me, or my riding style doesn’t suit the bike, so it’s difficult. Yamaha and the team are working incredibly hard to help me find a solution and so am I, but we’re still looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.”
“Today was a day to forget, if I’m honest. It started in the Sprint Race when I was the first to arrive in the corner where the oil had been dropped. I had no chance and crashed so heavily that the bike was literally in two pieces. I have to say a big thank you to my team, who did an incredible job to basically build a new bike in just two hours. They were still working on it on the grid and, even one minute before the start of Race 2, we weren’t sure whether we were going to make the start. After all this drama I wasn’t as focused I normally am but, after two crashes, it was important for me to finish the race and pick up some points to round out the weekend. Now we must look forward to the next race in Laguna, where I hope we can end the first part of the season with some good results.”
“It certainly was an unlucky day. When we came over the hilltop into Melbourne Loop after the red flag, there was a parked car right at the edge of the tarmac, riders, bikes and marshals, so I looked up just to try and understand if someone was coming on track. Then I hit the oil, Jonathan nearly crashed and I unfortunately did. What happened unfortunately completely changed the dynamic of the day and of the long race. Starting from tenth, I struggled as I would have needed some clear air. So the performance was certainly compromised in today’s race today. It’s a shame because we definitely had the pace for the podium. Yes, I’m disappointed but with the form we have shown this weekend, we still have a lot of positives to take away.”
“I’m a bit disappointed to be outside the top ten, to be honest. I felt I had some pace to be inside the top ten. But I did not quite have the grip in the final race compared to what we had earlier in the day and yesterday. Maybe the track temperature went a bit up but because of what had happened in the Superpole Race, we did not have the time to make changes on the bike for race two basing on what we had learned in the first race. But it’s the way it goes. I’ve had a good weekend, I enjoyed myself and learned some stuff. The team has been fantastic, really thanks to Smiths Racing BMW for allowing me to compete here and to Dunlop UK for allowing me to drop their weekend to come here. I hope to get some opportunity like this again sometime in the future.”