Aprilia’s Sylvain Guintoli (50) leads the Superbike championship while Eugene Laverty (58) sits a close second as the teammates prepare for battle at Donington Park.
The 2013 eni FIM Superbike World Championship heads to England for Round 5 at Donington Park and Aprilia’s Sylvain Guintoli remains the man to beat. The French rider has led outright since Round 2 where he broke the tie for the championship lead with teammate, Eugene Laverty, though he’s only notched one race win so far this season in Race 1 at Phillip Island. Laverty, on the other hand, has taken three race wins but was hampered by a dismal showing at Aragon where he failed to take any points. Donington serves as a home race, of sorts, for both riders since it’s the closest Laverty comes to his native Irish soil during the series (though Silverstone is pretty close too) and is only 30 minutes away from Guintoli’s current residence.
Despite the proximity to home, neither rider has very fond memories at the English circuit. Guintoli suffered one of the worst injuries of his career at the track in 2009 when he broke his leg and Laverty has finished outside the top-10 the past two years thanks to either mechanical issues or crashes.
“Donington has never been kind to me in the past so I’ll be hoping that changes this weekend,” said Laverty. “We’ve had a great run of form lately and I want to continue our podium streak. Donington couldn’t be more different to the previous circuit of Monza and we’ll need to work to control the power of the RSV4. Seven riders on five different makes of machinery could win this weekend so it’s going to be a tough fight.”
As with any race in the UK, weather will be a critical factor. Current forecasts call for alternating rain and clear conditions, though Sunday is projected to be dry with some cloud cover.
Local hero Tom Sykes of Kawasaki Racing will likely be strong regardless of the weather, as his four race wins in 2012 were earned under varying degrees of wet or drying track conditions. Sykes fared well at Donington during the previous season too, where he took third in both races. He currently sits third in the championship and has already notched a top-step in a dry Race 1 at Assen. The British rider has been strong through the opening rounds of the current season, finishing all but one race in fifth-place or better, the one outlier being Race 1 at Aragon when he pulled out due to mechanical issues.
Sykes’ teammate, Loris Baz, made his Superbike debut at Donington in 2012, filling in for the injured Joan Lascorz. He went 16-8 in the event, earning his first premier-class points. This year Baz has finished all by one race inside the top-10 and has been on the podium once, placing third in Race 2 at Assen. He sits sixth in overall points.
BMW Motorrad GoldBet’s Marco Melandri provided the German marque with its first ever WorldSBK premier-class win in 2012 at Donington and was fighting for the top-step in Race 2 until the infamous incident with his then teammate, Leon Haslam, and Honda’s Jonathan Rea. Late in the second race Haslam and Melandri were contending for the first and second spots on the podium when Rea made a move to pass and bumped Haslam, who then hit Melandri, sending both riders to the ground. In 2011 Melandri scored his first career Superbike win in Race 1 at the British circuit, followed by a second-place finish in Race 2.
Leon Haslam hopes to make his return to racing at Donington
Park, just over three weeks since breaking his leg.
Haslam is now teamed with Rea on the Pata Honda squad and is looking to stage a return to racing at Donington following a massive injury in the lead-up to Round 3 at Assen. Haslam broke his leg in the incident and soon after underwent surgery to have a pin inserted into his tibia.
“It’s just over three weeks since I broke my leg at Assen and, while that might not seem very long, it feels like ages to me,” said Haslam. “Since the operation to pin the leg, I’ve been doing everything I can to get it ready to get back on the bike. I’ve got to pass a medical of course, and then see how it feels on the bike, but at the moment I’m aiming to ride.”
Melandri’s teammate this year, Chaz Davies, is currently fifth in the championship and marks his best showing so far this year in Round 2 where he swept both races at Aragon. The British rider is excited to compete in front of his home crowd and will look to post better results than in 2012, where he finished 12-7.
FIXI Crescent Suzuki also considers Donington a home race, as FIXI is based in London, the team’s headquarters are in southern England and Leon Camier hails from the UK. Camier has been working to recover from knee surgery over the past two rounds but has been training hard to regain fitness and feels ready to contend at nearly 100%. His teammate, Jules Cluzel, lost a fingernail on his little finger in an incident at Monza, which continues to pain him somewhat while wearing gloves, but the French rider is ready to apply the experience he gained in Supersport at the British circuit, where he took pole position and finished third in 2012, on his new mount.
At Donington, Team SBK Ducati Alstare’s Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini will be looking to turn the 2013 season around, which has already been full of set-backs and disappointments for both riders. Checa missed the entire contest at Monza to address an osseous edema on the humerus of his left shoulder. Badovini has only broken the top-10 once so far in 2013, in Race 2 at Monza where he placed ninth, and has been hard at work to regain fitness following an injury-plagued start to the season. The two riders will be joined by current Superstock 1000 points leader, Niccolo Canepa, who will ride as a wildcard entry.
Team Effenbert Liberty Racing have announced that they will no longer compete in the Superbike World Championship. According to information provided by World Superbike, sponsors have decided to explore other channels to promote the brand. There’s no indication yet of whether Australian rider Mark Aitchison will find another ride, though he is not listed on the provisional entry list for Donington.
Stay tuned to Motorcycle USA for full coverage of World Superbike action at Donington Park.