First British round of 2007 a reminder of year one
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 (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 (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) 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 Max Biaggi (Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra) second in the rankings and 16 points down on Toseland, while Phillip Island race winner Troy Bayliss (Ducati Xerox) 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 (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 (Yamaha Motor Italia) 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 (Team YZF Yamaha).
The sinuous and flowing nature of Donington's layout is an eagerly anticipated venue for the top Kawasaki pairing, Fonsi Nieto (PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse) and Regis Laconi (PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse). 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 (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 (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 (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.
SUPERSPORT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP- SOFUOGLU LEADS
Qatar WSS race winner Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) has been the consistent man at the vanguard of the championship so far, but he holds a slender seven point advantage over 2002 champion, GIL Kawasaki rider Fabien Foret, who scored the most recent WSS race win at Phillip Island.
In third place overall Katsuaki Fujiwara (Althea Honda) has been right back to form after an injury-blighted 2006 season, and he is third in the table. A cosmopolitan WSS grid has Kevin Curtain (Yamaha SSP Racing) currently fourth, despite some bad luck in early races, but two strong and consistent rides on less than full-powered machinery have not stopped Pere Riba (GIL Kawasaki) from scoring fifth place so far.
2005 and 2006 champion Sebastien Charpentier (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) languishes ninth overall, after a fall and an off-podium finish at Phillip Island. Curtain's team-mate Broc Parkes scored a strong podium in Phillip Island, but he still sits behind the fast Danish rider, Robbin Harms (Stiggy Motorsports Honda). Gianluca Nannelli (Team Caracchi Ducati SC 749R) may find the flowing nature of Donington the key to his potential success, despite a retirement from the most recent race.
20th YEAR CELEBRATIONS CONTINUE
With World Superbike celebrating its 20th straight season this year, there will be parades from former SBK superstars on Saturday and Sunday at Donington, plus a press conference on Saturday after the Superpole press conferences.. All the former riders present will have a chance to re-live their glory days, many of which took place in front of appreciative Donington Park crowds.
HECTIC SPRING SCHEDULE INCLUDES VALENCIA AND ASSEN
The return to points-scoring duty at Donington is but the first of three races for all SBK categories in April. After Donington, Valencia beckons on 15 April, with Assen moving forward in the calendar from its usual September slot this year, to 29th April.
SBK Press Office