Donington Park hosts dramatic new chapter in 2022 WorldSBK title race
The historic home of WorldSBK and unequivocally home to some of the championship’s greatest sporting moments, more excitement awaits this weekend
Back to where it all began, where one cold Sunday in 1988 the championship was born. The 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship has arrived at Donington Park for the fifth round of the season and the Prosecco DOC UK round. The 35th season of World Superbike action is proving to be one of the best yet and with a three-way fight for the title, other stars are aiming to have their say in a shocking round and surprises. Could this be one of the key turning points in 2022, or will we see the usual suspects keep banging on each other?
TITANIC TRIO: is this where Bautista is caught?
12 podiums from 12 races in 2022 and leading the Championship by 36 points, Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) has taken a more measured approach in 2022 compared to 2019 and it seems to be working. The Spaniard has won six races and is the only rider in the Championship to have finished on the podium in every race he has completed. However, Donington Park has been far from a happy hunting ground for Ducati in recent years; no wins since 2011 and the Ducati Panigale V4 R only had a third place thanks to Bautista in Race 2 of 2019. No top two since 2016, will Bautista change all that? His team-mate Michael Ruben Rinaldi passed a test at Misano during the break and will look to back up his findings and return to the podium, while Ducati will chase their 1000th WorldSBK podium; they currently have 998.
Chasing down Bautista and heading home to rule the roost, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) will be keen to continue his success at Donington Park. Just one win last year and a hat-trick in 2019, Rea is in incredible form at Donington Park. He’s testing for the Suzuka 8 Hours race during the gap from Misano and hopes he can hit the ground running on a circuit he crashed on in Race 2 of 2021, relinquishing the championship lead . This time he drives him out of Bautista on a circuit where Rea certainly seems to have the upper hand. On the other side of the garage, Alex Lowes hopes to dazzle at home after a podium in Race 1 in 2021; Kawasaki as a manufacturer are one place away from the WorldSBK 500 podium – will they make it?
Looking to build on a first win from the last round at Misano, Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) hopes Donington Park will be the happy hunting ground of years past. Along with San Juan, Donington Park is one of only two circuits where Razgatlioglu has stood on the podium at least once a year. In 2018, he climbed on a first podium while in 2019 he fought for victory in Race 2 with Jonathan Rea. However, the Turk’s first lap in Race 1 in 2021 will go down as one of WorldSBK’s finest moments as he took two wins and the championship lead. Do you have more success waiting for you? His team-mate Andrea Locatelli will aim to consolidate his top five with a strong run this weekend, where he posted a best of ninth in the Superpole Race.
HONDA AND BMW: did the Donington Park tests put them in contention?
In what has been a very solid opening of the four rounds of the Championship, a challenge awaits Iker Lecuona (Team HRC). The Spanish rookie has never raced at Donington Park and only completed one track day at the circuit before the round. One of two riders to finish each race – the other being fellow countryman Bautista – Lecuona is nine points behind Locatelli in the battle for fourth place. Honda only have one round of experience with their current bike at Donington Park, with a best fourth with Leon Haslam in the Superpole Race last year, but they hope a pre-round test at Misano can give them a thumbs up for the UK. Hoping to be in good shape, Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) will have to get an idea of the staggered layout of the circuit during the round.
Likewise on a track day at Donington Park between rounds, the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK team and Scott Redding. One of the highlights of Redding’s career came on the British circuit, when in 2008 he became the youngest ever 125cc World Championship Grand Prix winner, aged just 15. Since then, BSB wins but no WorldSBK podiums have come to the circuit, with a best of fourth in Race 2 last year. Illia Mykhalchyk (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) will once again replace double Donington Park winner Michael van der Mark who is still recovering from his injury; he has already scored points in WorldSSP and STK1000 at Donington Park.
INDEPENDENT BATTLE: Bassani continues to shine as wild cards aim to surprise
The battle for Independents is led by Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing), who returns to Donington Park, a historically tricky circuit for him, despite being the best Ducati in Race 1 last year. Eighth overall and just seven points behind Alex Lowes, he is 23 points ahead of Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW), who is aiming to return to the top six on a circuit he knows well for having fought for the victory in 2014. 11 points behind Baz is Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team), who returns to the circuit where he took his last podium 12 months ago, when he was second in the Race 2. Philipp Oettl (Team Goeleven) will race at Donington Park for the first time, while Eugene Laverty (Bonovo Action BMW) has a podium to his name on the track; both round out the top five in the independent rankings.
Roberto Tamburini (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) is next in 15th place overall, the Italian narrowly ahead of San Marino rider Luca Bernardi (BARNI Spark Racing Team), who has been making strides forward lately. Lucas Mahi Motor Sport-Yamaha), like Mahias, will be hoping to be fit after being ruled out in Italy, while MIE Racing Honda Team duo Leandro Mercado and Hafizh Syahrin are aiming to score points. Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) is another rider hoping to be fit, while local hero Leon Haslam returns with TPR Team Pedercini Racing Kawasaki. Two wild cards to watch: the long-awaited debut of Tarran Mackenzie (McAMS Yamaha) and the return of Peter Hickman (FHO Racing) in a BMW M1000RR.