ROUND FIVE OF THE BENNETTS BRITISH SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP HITS DONINGTON PARK THIS WEEKEND AND THE LIST OF POTENTIAL WINNERS IS LONGER THAN EVER!
IT’S RAAAAACCCCCEEEEEEEEE WEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!!*
It’s exactly that and not only that, but it’ll be also race week next week, too! We’re heading for four race weeks in the next five as the Bennetts British Superbike Championship enters a crucial stage of the season with rounds at Donington Park, Cadwell Park, Snetterton, and Silverstone. If you’re going to say Ciao to the Doctor at MotoGP, that’s another weekend, and if you’re going to Oliver’s Mount for the Gold Cup, that’s another one before we go to Oulton Park for BSB then in late September… wow, it’ll soon be Christmas at this rate!
Donington Park (three n's, not four...) National circuit is a real hark back to the days of yore when men were men and the wildlife were worried. Grainy youtube videos of the ‘World of Sport Superbike Challenge’ and the fabled Transatlantic Trophy, show the likes of Rob McElnea, Roger Marshall, Randy Mamola, Kenny Roberts, and Barry Sheene racing their factory exotica/nail around the same circuit we see today. For very obvious reasons trackside safety has improved, no photographers in the tv shot getting almost on the inside kerb for that MCN money shot but also no Redgate Lodge for the post-race party (is that even a thing anymore?!) not to mention the removal of the iconic Dunlop Bridge!
One thing that does remain the same, albeit a little further back than previously, is the final chicane. Since the reintroduction of the National layout, the final chicane has seen most of the action across a race weekend, both on entry and exit. Last on the brakes is all very well, and rubbing is racing, but the race to be first on the throttle at the opposite end of it comes with an ejection warning… There are only three left turns on the National layout, Craner, Schwantz (Starkey’s in old money), and the exit of the chicane. Schwantz to the chicane is a long time for the rear tyre to cool and coupled with arguably the biggest wrench on the throttle around the lap and a bit of added camber, a bruised ego and a bent bike is the least a rider will come away with if their excitable right hand overrules their patience…
After his hat-trick of wins last time out at Thruxton, McAMS Yamaha man Jason O’Halloran will be keen to get stuck in again this weekend to add more podium credits to his already impressive tally while nearest challenger, Vision Track Ducati’s Christian Iddon, will be looking to shrug off his first DNF in 33 races – that’s one each for the season for the championship pair. One rider the pair will be more than wary of this weekend is the other McAMS rider, Tarran Mackenzie. The young Scottish Englishman will see Donington as a chance to close the gap on the leaders as the series arrives at one of his strongest tracks. Mackenzie’s win around the GP layout last October was Yamaha’s first in Leicestershire since 2009, and as one of only two riders to score in every race so far this season, a battle royale between the Yamaha pair is definitely on the cards.
Iddon’s team-mate, Josh Brookes, is still enduring a rotten season. After visiting two of his most successful tracks in recent rounds, the reigning champion is still yet to get anywhere close to standing on the podium this season. It’s now 12 races since he last got to spray the bubbly, his most barren podium streak ever. As we asked last time, what is going on with the double champion? Is it the bike or is it something else? Maybe that fast crash in testing at Silverstone has had a bigger effect than we first thought. Maybe a bike swap with Iddon is in order at a test day, just swap the fairings and transponder, nobody would notice, and it might answer a few questions for rider and team…
As for the rest of the grid, Ryan Vickers and Brad Ray posted encouraging results at Thruxton with the former returning his best-ever BSB weekend and the latter creeping ever-closer to the podium and as the RICH Energy OMG Racing man returns to his happy hunting ground from 2018, Brad Ray will have nothing but the podium in his sights. It probably also helps that the OMG team hold the lap record around the National layout courtesy of Hector Barbera last season, a real plus for both Ray and local boy, Kyle Ryde, who also has very fond memories of the place.
Speaking of BMW, FHO Racing’s Xavi Fores is no stranger to success at Donington Park, he stuck his Honda Fireblade on the podium three times in 2019 on a race weekend where Tommy Bridewell also took two podiums, but neither rider could prevent a Scott Redding treble. Peter Hickman will be looking to take top honours for BMW as the mini manufacturer battle is currently dominated by Danny Buchan. As the only manufacturer not to have won at the circuit in recent years, Kiyo doing the double in 2014 was the last time, a trip to the top step for the German marque will be a shot in the arm for all concerned.
Honda Racing’s Glenn Irwin finally put his early-season difficulties to bed with a podium in the final race at Thruxton. The Northern Irishman is slowly making his way towards the showdown places as his brother Andrew, double race-winner around the circuit in 2020, returned his most successful weekend so far aboard the SYNETIQ BMW with Danny Buchan continuing his points consistency on the other side of the garage down in Hampshire. Buildbase Suzuki podium man from Thruxton, Danny Kent, will be determined to prove his worth again as he returns to a circuit he knows well and one that the Suzuki favours as does recently-wed team-mate, Gino Rea. BMW hold the lap record, but Honda traditionally goes well around Donington Park as do the Suzuki's; the factory teams of Yamaha and Ducati go well everywhere, as they should, and the Kawasaki's will be in the mix, too.
Who will be crowned 'King of Donington'? We've absolutely no idea... What we do know is that it’s going to be a humdinger of a weekend across all classes and with slightly better weather forecast than last October when Autumnwatch witnessed Otter’s pockets that were less wet than the riders on circuit, that has to be another bonus!
Coverage is back on British Eurosport 2 this weekend now the limpets have finished and, of course, the BSB Superpicks app as well as https://www.tsl-timing.com/event/213204
Keep fighting, Brad
*©Noddy Holder 2021