We photographed the Donington Park Restaurant on the WorldSBK weekend in early July 2019 – this time there will be significantly fewer spectators because the pandemic means that a maximum of 4,000 per day is allowed.

Some rider voices before the England round of WorldSBK

Before the fourth round of the World Championship in Donington Park, the starting position for the title fight is still completely open. Unfortunately, this also applies to the calendar, which in its current form is more like a desired program than a realistic planning. However, this was already the shortcoming in the first version by FIM and Dorna from the end of November 2020. While Phillip Island in Australia has since been completely removed from the WSBK calendar, with San Juan in Argentina and Mandalika on the island of Lombok in Indonesia, two very questionable candidates are still on the agenda. For the time being, teams and drivers will concentrate on the next round, which will mean a home game for many of you, when this time the WorldSBK will be the only World Cup category to compete on the beautifully situated track in the immediate vicinity of East Midlands Airport. Half of the top ten are British, plus Leon Haslam as a local hero (his father “Rocket Ron” had a racing school there until recently) and BMW privateer Eugene Laverty are two other popular drivers who call Donington their home race.

Our picture from the paddock show after the 1st Motul WorldSBK race 2019 in Donington, from left winner Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki ZX-10RR), Tom Sykes (P2, BMW S1000-RR), Leon Haslam (Kawasaki, P3) and Loris Baz (Ten Kate Yamaha R1) as fourth and best private rider. Due to a lack of offers in the WSBK, the Frenchman is driving the US championship in MotoAmerica on Ducati this season, but after a lot of bad luck is currently only in sixth intermediate place. With the second from the right, we start with the driver’s voices.

Leon Haslam (HRC Honda): We didn’t go to Donington last year, so it’s especially nice to go back now. It’s my home track, and so I’m obviously really looking forward to it, especially since we will have the support of some local fans. We did a test after the race weekend in Misano, and they never stop developing the Honda CBR-1000RR-R SP Fireblade in Japan. So we hope we can take off at Donington and fight for the results we know we can achieve.

Alvaro Bautista (HRC Honda):Donington is a very nice track, one of my favorites since I raced there in the 125 and 250 cc world championships. When I came back on the superbike two years ago, I found it more challenging due to the nature of the bike, but still very enjoyable. I especially like the mixed portion of the course. I’m also really excited to be back as I know there will be fans in the stands because there is so much love and support for the sport and for WorldSBK here in the UK. As far as the set-up goes, we don’t have any clues for this track, so we’re going to assume a basic set-up and try to improve from there. During the tests in Navarre, we tried a few electronic things that will likely help us this round. Let’s hope the weather is good and that we can work well all weekend, which is never a given in England. As a team, we are very keen to take steps forward and get closer to the top, so we look forward to Donington with optimism and determination to do well here.“

The attack by Toprak Razgatlioglu on leader Johnny Rea and behind them Haslam (all Kawasaki) and Bautista on the Ducati in Melbourne Hairpin photographed by us on July 7th, 2019, when due to an unfortunate planning by FIM and Dorna the German GP was taking place at the same time Sachsenring took place. This year, according to the current provisional plan, there were even six clashes of dates because the calendar was already very clumsy and unrealistic in the first version, almost as if there was no pandemic.

Tom Sykes (BMW): For me, the Navarre test was good for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the development of the new BMW M-1000RR should continue. We had a few points that we had to confirm, and we could do that. Then it was great to learn the track and collect some data there when we get back to the races in August. Now, of course, I’m looking forward to my home race in Donington. I’ve been very successful there in the past, and I really hope that we can find the set-up that will allow me to be more consistent and stronger on the race weekend. We need to work now to find those last little things to put ourselves in that position. The new BMW has taken a big step in terms of engine and braking performance and a lot of other things, so we just need to find the last piece of the puzzle to be able to use all of that. I’m looking forward to going there, and I keep my fingers crossed that we can have good UK weather. But we take what we get and try to get a strong result.

Michael van der Mark (BMW):It was good to have a test in Navarra, not only because we will be driving there later this year, but also because we had some problems at Misano and BMW was very quick to respond, so we had some new parts for the Navarra test. I was happy with the test. It was a step in the right direction, but of course you have to see if it works on another track. But luckily we have Donington this weekend. The track is fantastic, and I really love these old school courses. I’ve had some good results there in the past and I love the track and the history, and after we missed it last year it’s good to go back now. As far as the characteristics are concerned, the first part is the best for me, it is fast and flowing and a really exciting section of the route. The last part doesn’t really fit in, but you have perfect overtaking opportunities, which makes the track exciting in two ways.

Tom Sykes (BMW) 2019 ahead of Jonathan Rea, Toprak Razgatlioglu and Leon Haslam (all Kawasaki) – the Englishman leads the WSBK winners’ statistics in Donington, clearly ahead of the reigning world champion from Northern Ireland.

Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx): Donington Park is a wonderful stretch. That’s why I do it a lot, as it is really fast and fluent. I think it’s my favourite track, but the last time we drove there was in 2019. Of course, I’m excited too, because this weekend it will be the first time with the Yamaha R1 on this circuit. I remember Michael winning both races on this bike in 2018, so I want to fight for victory again this year, just like him. A lot can happen, and we will see what is possible over the race weekend. But my plan is to get back to the front and enjoy the races.

Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team):I’m really excited to go to Donington because we missed it last year. We had a great weekend there in 2019, and it’s a track that I really enjoy driving. From the past, it’s also a good track for the Ninja ZX-10RR, so I’m happy to have the new and improved model there. Our first home race in two years, and we will have quite a few fans on the track, which is nice, although it would have been good to have a full lap in England. Still, there will be an atmosphere with an audience, and I’m looking forward to it. I hope to deliver a really strong weekend and to start working on understanding Pirelli’s tire options from Friday morning. We will continue to refine our bike to be ready for the races. In the last Navarra test, we tried a few chassis options and have a great understanding of the bike’s working window. I think we really understand how to get the bike to spin better, and that should help us in some sections at Donington.

Jonathan Rea 2012 on Pata Honda for the Ten Kate factory team – this season he took his first win at Donington Park and only five years later did he win the second time on Kawasaki. His best weekend came in 2019 when he won all 3 races and took the championship lead after the first run when Alvaro Bautista fell in the rain on Saturday.

Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team): It’s great that we are returning to the UK round of WorldSBK after missing it last year because of the Covid-19 situation. There won’t be as many fans as we’d like due to the restrictions in place, but it will be great to race in front of the British fans again. Since my time at BSB (the British SBK championship), I’ve had an excellent and close relationship with the fans here. I also like the track, I’ve always enjoyed it and achieved some good results there. On top of that, the Kawasaki always ran pretty well there. This is my first time trying the Ninja ZX-10RR in Donington, and I am delighted. It’s a course that should fit our bike well. Kawasaki has won a lot of races there and my goal is to get back on the podium. We had solid second and third rounds of the championship, but maybe the higher temperatures and some track layouts didn’t suit the bike as well as some others. So the goal for this weekend is clear. Back on the podium, how we started the year in Aragon and enjoying the whole weekend in front of the home fans.

Start of the WorldSBK race in Donington 2014 – on the far right Rea (65, Honda) in front of Melandri (33, Aprilia), Giugliano (34, Ducati), Lowes (Suzuki, hidden behind Melandri), Guintoli (50, Aprilia) and Sykes (Kawasaki, 1). In the first run, Alex Lowes took third place, the second podium of the year.
The title page of the program booklet from 2014 with the reigning world champion Tom Sykes and the number one. For more about the earlier years of WorldSBK, see our ever-growing and richly illustrated history.

Stand in the WorldSBK world championships

>WSBK Donington Preview see separate report on this page.

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