25 June 2009
Preview - Donington Park
We may have lost Brands Hatch in controversial circumstances, but Donington Park – which hasn't been immune to its fair share of headlines in recent months – remains to host Britain's one and only World Superbike Championship round of 2009.
The long awaited chance for fans to cheer on the slightly reduced number of four full-time British riders (not to mention the three home-grown wild-cards also competing), there is little denying that there is a great chance for a Union Jack to be flying above the podium come Sunday.
Indeed, while Ben Spies, Noriyuki Haga – and occasionally Michel Fabrizio – have monopolised victories so far this season, a maiden win for Jonathan Rea just a week ago at Misano gives renewed hope that he, among others, will be vying for victory around the Derbyshire circuit.
For Rea, the return to Donington Park couldn't come at a better time, the Northern Irishman riding a crest of a wave following a difficult start to his rookie season. Having built up some momentum before breaking his podium duck at Kyalami, Rea and the rapidly improving Ten Kate Honda team have been on the cusp of the Yamaha-Ducati lock-out recently and the latest round should see them progress further.
Beyond this being Rea's home event, Ten Kate Honda have good memories of the circuit from last year when Ryuichi Kiyonari delivered them a fifth win of the season. Their last win until Rea, hopes for victory will be high again, although he faces tough competition from a number of corners.
Indeed, Leon Haslam has been itching to get back on the podium since he last did so at Assen, but a combination of new circuits to learn, technical glitches and his own errors (Kyalami, Miller) have just pushed him back slightly to sixth in the standings. Still, he was almost a podium winner at Donington Park last year as a BSB wild-card and the Stiggy Honda rider has come on leaps and bounds since then…
While Haslam missed out, it was Tom Sykes who instead grabbed all the headlines at Donington Park twelve months ago after very nearly triumphing against Troy Bayliss. In the end, a misinterpreted flag prevented him from doing so, but it didn't matter as his performance was enough to convince Yamaha that he was deserving of a spot at WSBK level. While his form has been consistent, rather than scintillating, so far this season the advantage of prior circuit knowledge should be the impetus Sykes needs to get closer to team-mate Ben Spies.
Shane Byrne, Britain's fourth full-time WSBK representative, meanwhile, returns to familiar ground on a high having stepped onto the podium at Misano. Rain assisted or not, Byrne was on good form throughout the weekend to shine for Sterilgarda Ducati and given his success at Donington Park last year during the BSB, there is no reason to suggest he won't be up there again.
With Haga expecting to find himself up against a British threat this year, a further three riders hailing from these Isles will also be looking to replicate the form of Sykes from last season in the form of Leon Camier, James Ellison and Simon Andrews.
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