Donington Park was a circuit born with a reputation for being challenging on both rider and machine, a reputation that only gained further strength with the 1987 extension - carried out to allow Donington to form part of the GP calendar.

It's this 'modern' extension that has added to the complexity of the circuit layout, which can be separated into two contrasting components.

The first, from the start finish line to the right-hander called Coppice Corner, is a flowing sequence of medium to high-speed corners that drop down Craner Curves into the Old Hairpin before climbing back out on the approach to Coppice.

In an extreme contrast the circuit is completed with a sequence of stop-and-go switchback and hairpins between Fogarty Esses and Goddard Corner.

This one feature alone makes setting up a motorcycle chassis difficult, as a fast lap will come down to a compromise in all-round set-up. Add to that the lack of grip, which some say is due to the jet fuel residue left by the nearby East Midlands airport, and the best result will be achieved by the rider who can make the most of the situation.

The main aim is to find a chassis that offers a good pitching balance during braking and acceleration - to increase the much needed grip levels. However too much and you lose stability under brakes in the second half of the lap; not enough and the bike will be difficult to turn through the faster sweeping opening sequence of turns.

The catch is that the first half of the circuit lends itself to a fast lap-time, while a good set-up for the second half - the stop-and-go addition - is where many riders can make an easy pass.

What also needs to be taken into consideration is that the undulating layout of the first part of the circuit pushes the front of the bike a great deal, while the second half is pretty much 'highside' territory.

With this in mind softer spring rates front and rear will be used, with the fine-tuning left to the spring preload. This approach will improve drive and front-end feedback, although it will come at the expense of a little braking stability into the two hairpins.

As for the YZR-M1's in-line four-cylinder engine, its linear character will prove ideal for the slick layout. Still it will be tuned to offer a strong midrange and a progressive and predictable delivery. Confidence to use that power on a slippery surface infested with changing cambers is the key to success here.

 

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