28 March 2007
Preview – Donington Park.
Round three of the 13-round World Superbike championship takes place at the birthplace of World Superbike racing itself - Donington Park in Great Britain. The 4km circuit, located in the heart of England, was the venue for the first ever World Superbike race weekend, in the corresponding month of April 1988.
In what is now SBK's 20th year, it is only fitting that Donington returns to the World Superbike calendar per se, having been a much-missed venue since the last SBK meeting there in 2001. On that day two legendary SBK names, Pierfrancesco Chili and Neil Hodgson each won races, and way back in 1988, current Ducati Xerox team manager Davide Tardozzi and former GP champion Marco Lucchinelli won a leg each.
James Toseland with his Hannspree Ten Kate Honda returns to what will be the first of three home races this season in the position of championship leader, having scored two wins and two second places thus far. He and his team-mate Roberto Rolfo missed the recent official SBK tests but Toseland will still be going for front row qualifying slots to allow him to lead the pack on the early run down the awesome Craner Curves section of the Donington circuit.
The only other riders to have won races thus far are even more experienced in terms of recent race outings at Donington, with Qatar race winner Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra's, Max Biaggi second in the rankings and 16 points down on Toseland, while Phillip Island race winner Troy Bayliss aboard his Ducati Xerox machine is overall third, some 26 points from the lead. Biaggi's team-mate Yukio Kagayama is an experienced rider at Donington, having been a BSB regular for two seasons, but for Bayliss' team-mate Lorenzo Lanzi this weekend is a new challenge on a World Superbike machine, although he has raced at Donington before in 2001, on a 250.
Noriyuki Haga riding for Yamaha Motor Italia has not got off to the best start he could have imagined in 2007, but at Donington he has proved to be a winner in the past, and a double winner for Yamaha to boot, in 1998. His team-mate Troy Corser has also scored a double win at Donington, in 1996, when he rode for Ducati. Haga is fourth so far, with Corser fifth. Other Yamaha riders to look out for at Donington include Donington rookie Shinichi Nakatomi for Team YZF Yamaha.
The sinuous and flowing nature of Donington's layout is an eagerly anticipated venue for the top Kawasaki pairing, Fonsi Nieto and Regis Laconi on the PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse machines. Each rider has great experience of the Donington track and feel that it could be a good venue for their fast but sometimes fickle machines.
Serial WSB race winner when a factory rider Ruben Xaus now riding for Sterilgarda Ducati is currently the top-placed privateer, even if he is on a year-old factory 999 F06 machine. He is closely followed in the current points standings by Max Neukirchner on the Suzuki Germany. Like Xaus, the German rider has yet to finish outside the top ten thus far, and yet Neukirchner is 'only' equipped with a 2006-spec privateer GSX-R.
Despite being told his ride was lost due to sponsorship issues, Steve Martin will now line up beside his regular team-mate Michel Fabrizio aboard the DFX Corse Honda CBR1000RR until at least the Monza race. The DFX team's mixture of youth and experience will be a welcome pairing at Donington.
The Alto Evolution Honda riders, Karl Muggeridge and Josh Brookes, could not have more different points of view of Donington going into this weekend. Former UK resident Muggeridge is going back to a venue he knows well from his British Supersport days, while Brookes will see the circuit for the first time shortly before he attacks the curves and heavy braking sections for real in first practice. Once more Giovanni Bussei will team-up with Xaus for this race weekend, on a second Sterilgarda Berik Ducati.
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