After two rounds of varying weather conditions, the World Superbike championship re-assembles at Donington Park this weekend (11-13 May) for round five of the 2012 series.
Honda World Superbike Team riders Jonathan Rea and Hiroshi Aoyama will be hoping for more settled weather than was served up at Monza in Italy last weekend when changing wet-dry conditions caused the cancellation of race one and a shortening of race two, with half-points awarded on the result.
Rea’s sixth place finish at Monza left the 25-year-old fifth overall in the championship table, 27.5 points from series leader Max Biaggi. However, recent improvements in the braking stability of his Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade, have given Rea increased confidence for the visit to Donington Park.
After celebrating 25 seasons of SBK last weekend, it’s fitting that the series returns to Donington Park a week later – the venue of the very first World Superbike race in 1988. SBK came back to the 4.023km circuit in central England in 2011 after an absence of two years, when Rea took sixth and fifth place finishes in the two races.
Aoyama won the 2009 250cc Grand Prix at Donington Park on his way to that year’s world title. In conditions not dissimilar to last weekend’s at Monza, that race started wet, but the Donington Park circuit quickly dried and Aoyama still took the victory by almost six seconds on full wet tyres.
I’m really looking forward to getting back to Donington, especially with the bike as we have it now. The guys have been properly thinking outside the box recently and we’ve got it working really well on corner entry so that it’s good and stable under braking. That’s been a problem at Donington in the past, especially in the stop-start section at the end of the lap, so I can’t wait to try out the CBR there on Friday morning. I just hope the weather is a little more consistent this time – not just for the riders, but for all the passionate British fans and my friends and family who’ll be coming along 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 in-roads.
The last three rounds 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.
2012 World Superbike championship, round five
Donington Park, UK – weekend schedule (local times)
Friday 11 May
11.45-12.30 Free practice
15.30-16.15 Qualifying 1
Saturday 12 May
09.45-10.30 Qualifying 2
12.30-13.15 Free practice
15.00-15.14 Superpole 1
15.21-15.33 Superpole 2
15.40-15.50 Superpole 3
Sunday 13 May
12.00 Race 1 (23 laps 92.529km)
15.30 Race 2 (23 laps 92.529km)