Carlos Checa won his second straight pole of the World Superbike season Saturday at Donington Park, setting a new circuit record in the process (1:28.099), and he will be joined by Leon Haslam, Tom Sykes, and Jakub Smrz on the front row. The testing last week at Aragon must have done wonders for the factory Kawasaki team as Sykes posted his fastest lap on a race tire, not a qualifier. Dropping back during qualifying, early weekend frontrunners Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri qualified only sixth and ninth, respectively. Melandri’s teammate Eugene Laverty crashed in Superpole 1, destroying his Yamaha, but continued on a backup bike to qualify thirteenth.
The saga of rehabilitating Chris Vermeulen’s knee continues this weekend at the second round of the World Superbike season. The Australian will participate in the practice and qualifying sessions beginning Friday at Donington Park, but he may sit out the races on Sunday.
This news comes after Vermeulen missed the season opener and winter testing at Phillip Island because his knee has not recovered as quickly as planned, and it was hoped that skipping his home race would allow Vermeulen time to recover enough to race the rest of this season, but it seems the Australian and his factory Kawasaki team are taking this weekend one session at a time.
The former MotoGP rider spent some time testing at Motorland Aragon in Spain last week (where compatriot James Toseland fractured his wrist, forcing him to sit out this WSBK weekend) and just yesterday spent some more time on the seat riding around Cadwell Park. After this most recent outing, Vermeulen tweeted, “was great to get back on the bike but still work to do on my knee to be race fit.”
James Toseland will miss at least the next two World Superbike rounds after crashing during private testing on Friday at Motorland Aragon. The former WSBK champion crashed on Friday in a highside at Turn 10, landing heavily on his head and right wrist. Initially Spanish doctors gave Toseland the go-ahead to race this coming weekend at Donington Park, after examining hi,m and finding only a small fracture in the wrist.
“But when I got back to the hotel, the pain in my right wrist was unbelievable and, considering that I had a race coming up in a week’s time, I sent the scan on to a specialist I know in Manchester,” said Toseland. “They took a new X-ray from a different position in Manchester and found that I had badly displaced bones in my wrist. At that point, things were getting critical as there was no blood flow in the wrist, meaning that the bone could die if I wasn’t operated on immediately.”
Despite newly announced title sponsor Samsung, British Superbike squad Crescent Racing will not enter John Hopkins as a wildcard entry for the Donington Park round of World Superbike racing as previously expected. Instead, both the American rider and his new teammate, reigning BST Champion Jon Kirkham, will be entered for the British WSBK round at Silverstone later in the season.
Originally, the team had announced that Hopkins would race at Donington, but with a rider new to the team testing today at Cartagena, it seems as though Crescent Suzuki has decided to wait to join the WSBK fray. They will continue their testing March 8th at Guadix, Spain in advance of the BSB opener at Brands Hatch on April 25th.
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.
World Superbike riders have begun establishing a safety commission to have a stronger voice in providing safer conditions for racers in the series. Though other top-tier racing series have long had a body specifically to promote the safety of riders and drivers, it seems that the timing of the race at Donington Park this season has moved the riders to join forces. They met first during the official test in Portimao a month ago and met again this week during the testing at Phillip Island.
Truly official now, John Hopkins has signed-on with the Crescent Suzuki British Superbike team for the 2011 season. Hopper’s first duty on the BSB team will be to test at the upcoming sessions at the Spanish tracks of Cartagena and Guadix. Crescent Suzuki also says that Hopkins will ride as a wildcard entry at the World Superbike round at Donington Park in March, which precedes the season BSB opener at Brands Hatch in April.
“I am really looking forward to BSB and working with Crescent again, it will obviously be a different crew but I know they are a great group of guys and that will be a good foundation to start the season. It is going to be a huge challenge for me, I know there are new tracks to learn, but I am not too concerned,” said Hopkins
Good news for British motorcycle racing fans, as Donington Park has secured a spot on the 2011 World Superbike calendar. But the real good news for the Brits is that WSBK will come to both Donington and Silverstone next year, giving the sometimes rainy island a double-helping of production-based international motorcycle racing.
The announcement signals the rescue of the British track from what seemed like certain death, after planned renovations fell through and the track was unable to secure a Formula 1 bid, leaving the Donington Park leasees without a dime to spend, and without a track circuit to run (construction had begun to make the track conform to Formula 1 standards).
You may remember that we reported earlier in July that Jorge “Aspar” Martinez was closing-in on realizing his dream of racing in the MotoGP series. Well, that day is finally upon us now. While at Donington Park this past weekend, Aspar announced that a deal with Ducati had indeed been reached.
The Spanish team principle will run a satellite Ducati team with a solitary bike, however a rider has yet to be determined. Alvaro Bautista, the most logical choice to pilot Aspar’s Ducati, has said that within the next few weeks he will make a decisions as to whether he will join MotoGP. Should he decide to move up to the premiere class, you can bet that he will land on the Spanish team.
MotoGP was in Donington Park this weekend for the British GP, and what will be the MotoGP Championship’s last stop at the Midlands track for the foreseeable future. Donington proved that not only would this be a finale GP, but also a memorable one. Weather forecasts for the day proved to be accurate with drizzles occurring during racing. Teams gambled on tires, and early ride reports indicated that the British track was very slippery when wet (shocking, we know). The end result was crashes, cold tires, and a podium line-up we’re guessing no one expected. Bangers and mash anyone?