Also joining the ranks this weekend is Peter Hickman, who gets a surprise call up to replace John Hopkins on the FIXI Crescent Suzuki (FIXI must prefix Crescent now, apparently…), while Gary Mason is set to ride the Pedercini Kawasaki left vacant by the injured David Salom.
In all, we have a healthy grid of 23 riders for this weekend's action (at the moment) – four more than 2011...
It's ironic that less than a week after the World Superbike Championship endured possibly its most contentious day in history – which in turn was timed imperfectly with its 25th Anniversary celebrations -, we arrive in Donington Park for the fifth round of the 2012 season, an event that's had its share of controversies in the past!
Us Brits can make an Olympic sport out of talking about the weather, so it was a shame there weren't more of us on hand at Monza last weekend. Indeed, the weather was the only topic of conversation in Italy last week after Superbike racing was severely hampered by the rain, the lightening and even the dry spells in between.
Of course, we all know the wholly unsatisfying outcome of race day, but with less than a week between Monza and the next round at Donington Park the rumblings are ongoing. In short, when the heavens opened in the sky, so did the floodgates on the ground…
Speculation, accusations and frustrations across the board appear to have pitted factions against one another, with some riders and teams satisfied with Race Direction, others less so – in particular those working for Effenbert Liberty -, while everyone seems to have an issue with Pirelli, who in turn are refusing to back down.
As such, Donington Park is almost like the awkward morning after as everyone reconvenes in the harsh light of day to carry on as normal… but can such a thing happen?
Who'd have thought spectating off the circuit could be just as compelling?!
Following its very welcome return to the World Superbike calendar in 2011, Donington Park is upon us once again, this time in the more palatable month of May.
Though recent rainy days would hardly have you believe that summer is in fact around the corner, few will deny that a WSBK weekend at Donington Park wouldn't be Donington Park without a brisk breeze, heavy clouds and a spare umbrella.
It's almost amusing then that Donington Park comes just as WSBK organisers would like nothing more than a normal, uninterrupted race weekend following the mayhem of Monza less than a week ago. You can almost feel the trepidation in the air as one eye looks skywards wondering if more weather-induced chaos is around the corner…
Naturally, predicting the weather is like predicting the lottery, so I will whisper this very quietly: The weather forecast looks good this weekend… Not a heatwave, not really sunny… but no rain.
Call me Michael Fish… Oh, wait…