The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is shaping up to be a vintage year, as we roll into the Great British countryside for round four of the season at Donington Park. With sporting fever in the air across the whole world as summer kicks in, WorldSBK returns to its birthplace of Donington Park, where it all started back on a cold April Sunday in 1988. 31 years later and the Championship is red hot, with home-hero Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) leading an in-form Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with BRIXX WorldSBK) by 20 points, but that could all change in what is set to be, as ever, an unpredictable UK Round.
CLOSING IN: Razgatlioglu to take on Rea at home
The man in the best form coming into the Prosecco DOC UK Round is Toprak Razgatlioglu, having taken his first 2021 victory last time out, the latest in a string of six consecutive podiums that have consisted of four second places, one third and now a victory. He also returns to a happy hunting ground at Donington Park, where he achieved a career-first WorldSBK podium by beating Jonathan Rea in 2018 on the final lap of Race 2. In 2019, they also went head-to-head in the closing stages; is another duel on the cards? Teammate Andrea Locatelli makes his racing debut at Donington Park this weekend and will hope for a solid weekend after visiting the track two weeks ago.
Aiming to bounce back and strike with victory on home soil, Jonathan Rea took all three races at Donington Park in 2019. Whilst the last three races at the track may well have been good to the reigning six-time World Champion, the last three races of recent times were more of a challenge. Three third places at Misano left Rea wanting more, but when this is a ‘bad’ day at the office, you know his monumental consistency is strong. He aims to be back on the top step at Donington Park for a sixth time, whilst teammate Alex Lowes hasn’t ridden Donington Park on a Kawasaki.
RESURGENCE AND REVELATIONS: Ducati and BMW’s aims
After a difficult Misano where he couldn’t crack the front-running pace, Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) needs a resurgence at Donington Park, the circuit where he took a first ever World Championship win at back in 2008’s 125cc World Championship GP. Three fourth places at Misano leaves Redding 45 points back in the title race, whilst on the other side of the garage, Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was in sensational form at Misano, with two wins and a second, something he hopes will act as a key change in 2021 after a difficult first two rounds. Two 12th places in 2019 for Rinaldi at Donington Park, something he should improve on this weekend.
There’s one rider who is a Donington Park specialist: Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) is synonymous with the British circuit, having gone unbeaten there from 2013 to 2017’s Race 1, and enjoying 14 podiums from 17 races, an incredible run at the track. Four top eight finishes from the last five races in 2021, Sykes could be in podium contention this weekend and as usual, there’ll be some in the paddock that’ll be shifting money on him for pole. On the other side of the garage, Michael van der Mark returns to the circuit where he won his first race at in 2018, whilst both riders are fresh from the Navarra test, although Dutchman van der Mark did suffer a crash.
CONQUERING THE HONDA: will they deliver at Donington Park?
Aiming to make further steps in their quest to close the gap to the top five, Team HRC riders Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam head to a venue they know well, particularly Leon Haslam, who was practically brought up at Donington Park. For Bautista, he was on the podium at the track in 2019, whilst also taking three podiums across 125cc and 250cc GP racing, of which he was a winner in the former. Having had his best result of the year in Race 1 at Misano, Bautista hopes he can challenge at the sharp end in the UK. For teammate Haslam, priceless experience at Donington Park should mean that he is a more prominent feature at the front than in recent rounds.
THE INDEPENDENT BATTLE RAGES
In the Independents, it was a good salvage job at Misano following his penalties for Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team), who is the top Independent rider in the Championship as he gets ready for a first taste of Donington Park. British rider Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) aims to bounce back in the UK, after a hat-trick of DNFs at Misano. Davies was last on the rostrum at the circuit back in 2017’s Race 2 in third. Hot property after a stunning Misano where he took a hat-trick of top seven finishes, Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) hopes to solidify his top ten status, whilst Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) has ambitions of converting his Superpole pace into race results.
After a testing crash that left him with a micro-fractured finger at Navarra, Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) will get a first taste of British tracks, whilst Tito Rabat (Barni Racing Team) will return to a circuit which he knows from the start of his World Championship career, in the hope of a strong showing. BMW duo Eugene Laverty (RC Squadra Corse) and Jonas Folger (Bonovo MGM Racing) aim for a strong Donington Park after an underwhelming Misano, whilst Isaac Viñales (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) and Christophe Ponsson (Alstare Yamaha) look to build on their points tally. Still after their first points of 2021, Loris Cresson (OUTDO TPR Team Pedercini Racing) will hope the British venue delivers positive vibes, whilst he will be joined by Luke Mossey for Donington Park, as the British rider returns to the grid in place of Samuele Cavalieri, who has split with the team.