Donington Park has passed the final FIM safety checks, and been fully approved to host the second round of the World Superbike Championship at the end of this month, the first time the circuit has held a major event since 2009. The inspection occurred while much of the racing press watched the season-opening races at Phillip Island, though Donington has been part of the official WSBK calendar since late last year.
The fame British track has been embroiled in a bit of drama over the past two years, having been taken over by Simon Gillett and partners, who hoped Donington would take the place of Silverstone as the British Grand Prix on the Formula1 calendar. When Gillett’s company fell apart, as did the F1 venture, Donington was left with its extensive redevelopment only partially completed. Kevin Wheatcroft stepped in as chairman to restore the shambles his father’s circuit had been left in, and worked to gain Britain its second WSBK race of the season, with the traditional round held at Silverstone in July.
When the FIM released its provisional 2011 calendar in November, the European Grand Prix in March had no location. Soon thereafter, Donington was awarded the event on the condition that the renovations were completed and safety standards met. Though the final work is not quite complete, the FIM pronounced the circuit in compliance and prepared to hold the event March 25th-27th.
“We’re now working round the clock to have facilities ready in time for SBK and fans will see many positive changes,” said Wheatcroft. “Although inevitably because of the earlier [weather-related] delays some planned improvements will not be complete in time.” Some of the improvements include better fan access and facilities, more infield access and camping, as well as improved paddock areas and hospitality.
Interestingly, WSBK riders have begun forming a riders safety commission, at least in part due to their concerns over the timing of the event at Donington Park. The riders have worried over the weather in Britain, speaking out against a race in early spring at both meetings of their newly formed commission. The FIM’s approval of Donington for the race in less than one month seemingly brushes aside their concerns, especially as weather at Phillip Island is often just as bad.