News 24 Jun 2009

WSBK: In form Honda stars ready for home round at Donington

Honda Racing: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three full

Both the World Superbike and World Supersport Championships arrive at Donington Park for round nine only a few days after a thrilling raceday at Misano World Circuit. With so much still to play for in each class there is expected to be no let-up in the intensity of race action all through the field, with much of a 14 round season still to be completed.

For many of the main players Donington will be their only chance to run in front of their local crowd in 2009, as there is no Brands Hatch or Silverstone WSB round this year.

Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) is aware that Donington could not have come along at a better time, as he has just taken his first WSB race win, at Misano, putting himself into a clear fourth place in the championship. His team very recently swapped suspension suppliers, and practice at Donington should offer more chances to find an optimal base setting before the races on Sunday.

Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) had a less happy Misano meeting than Rea, but is still involved in a close battle for fifth in the championship, after securing three podium finishes so far. It is almost a literal home race for Leon, as he lives very close by, and his father still operates the Honda Ron Haslam Race School at Donington.

Just to continue the home-race aspect of this round, John Hopkins (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) is American born, but to British parents. He is expected to be back to a higher level of fitness at Donington than Misano, where he was forced to miss out on the action on Saturday and Sunday when his hip, fractured at Assen in late April, started to swell up.

Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR) arrives at Donington determined to claw back points in the Supersport class, having lost five more to his championship rival Cal Crutchlow at Misano, but only after a remarkable fight for the win between the current top riders in this class in 2009. Laverty is only 14 points behind, and each rider now has three race wins to his credit.

This race is also the home round for most of the members of the Parkalgar Honda team, which is Portuguese owned but operated from a logistical base the UK, providing machines for Laverty and Miguel Praia (Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR). The latter had his best career result at Misano, as he recovers from a painful fall in the American round last month.

Behind Laverty in the Supersport class Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) has now dropped a little further from championship contention, having no-scored for the first time in 2009 last time out. At Donington he hopes to return to the type of form that has given him two wins in 2009 already, at Phillip Island and the USA.

Only two points separate Anthony West (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR600RR) in fifth from 2008 champion Andrew Pitt (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) in sixth, as each of those riders aims for his first win in 2009.

Ryuichi Kiyonari (Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) returns to the scene of one of his three 2008 season WSB race victories this weekend, ready to add to his tally of two podium finishes so far. Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) is now eighth in the championship fight, 11 points ahead of Kiyonari.

A top ten finish in one race at Misano was a good reward for Matthieu Lagrive (Honda Althea CBR1000RR) in his first Superbike rode for his existing team. Mark Aitchison (Althea Honda CBR600RR) and Flavio Gentile (Althea Honda CBR600RR) return to the fray in the Althea squad, with Aitchison looking for his second podium of 2009 and Gentile simply seeking more points, after finishing 12th in his debut ride last weekend.

Gianluca Vizziello (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR600RR) is currently 18th in Supersport while Vittorio Iannuzzo (Squadra Corse Italia Honda CBR1000RR) has yet to score in Superbike.

After the Donington round there is only one race during the whole of July and August, at Brno, between 24 and 26 July. There is, however, an official SBK test at Imola on 15 and 16 July, for Supersport and Superbike classes. The championship run-in starts at the Nürburgring from 4 to 6 September.


Jonathan Rea: “I think the changes we’ve made, and the development with the CBR1000RR that we’ve followed for the last few races, were each demonstrated quite well in Misano. Of course, it felt amazing to get that first win under my belt and I think it all bodes well for the remainder of the season. To be honest, I’ve never set the world on fire at Donington but it was the same at Misano before I went there last week. We need to keep making progress, and to have a good Friday and Saturday to set us up for the race on Sunday.
I hope it’s a good one because the British fans will only get to see one World Superbike meeting this year.”

Leon Haslam: “I know Donington well and I was running second there last year as a wild card before being taken out, so we know our pace is good there. The last four rounds have been tough for me because they have been held on some circuits that I have never been to before, and that just added to us not having been on top of a few issues as well. I’ve had three no finishes in those four rounds. There should be a big crowd at Donington and it will be their only chance to see us at a British race this year as well.”

Ryuichi Kiyonari: “I hope for the same kind of results as last year at Donington, but I don’t mind if the weather is wet or dry – as long as I can go faster. I think we made the wrong tyre choice in Misano and Sunday seems to be the day when we have problems. In the last two races, we have had good pace on Friday and Saturday but then have problems or bad luck on Sunday. I will try the new suspension on Friday and compare the data to see the best way to go for me. But this weekend, I know we have to work even harder for a good result on all three days.”

Carlos Checa: “Donington is not my favourite circuit, I must admit, but we will try our very best to make it enjoyable! We made some good improvements at the weekend in Misano and, Johnny showed with his win in the second race that the package is getting very strong now. Every part of the circuit at Donington is very important – not just the fast part, or the slower part – the whole lap, including the up and down parts, needs to be just perfect. The weather is very important I believe so I hope it stays dry.”

John Hopkins: “We couldn’t race in Misano simply because my leg was so swollen. But now I have started to break the scar tissue inside the leg I will keep cycling and working it and hopefully we’ll be a lot stronger going into Donington, and make the full weekend there. That was the ultimate goal anyway, make the full return at Donington.”

Matthieu Lagrive: “I’m looking forward to racing at Donington Park. I always like to race there.
After my first two Superbike races in Misano, I can say that I really like the Superbike category
– even if it’s a very difficult one to compete in. For Donington I don’t expect anything spectacular, but I’ll be aiming for Superpole and looking to score points in both races.”

WSS Rider Comments

Eugene Laverty: “Cal and I had another great race at Misano last time out and it was no disgrace to finish second in a race like that. We are improving our bikes race-on-race and getting the most out of them. Cal and I raced against each other like this in 2006 in the British Supersport Championship. We brought the level up midway through the season and nobody was able to touch us halfway through the year, and it is looking like it’s going to be the case again this year. I am looking forward to Donington Park next weekend; I’d like to win at home for the team.”

Kenan Sofuoglu: “I was very disappointed with the result from Misano. Qualifying was difficult and it was not good having to test new suspension in the wet and dry conditions that we had there. I still have third place in the championship but we have to win more races now and I think the recent development of the bike can help us do that, as we showed with the win in America. With the new suspension we have a chance to push for more wins and that’s what we’ll be trying very hard for at Donington.”

Andrew Pitt: “Misano was what it was. We had to take a gamble on set-up going into the race because we had new suspension parts but practice and qualifying was a mixture of wet and dry. It just showed that it’s difficult when you’re testing during a race weekend. I got a good start in the race but had to push to stay in front because there’s no point in running around for fifth or sixth place any more. We’ve got to go for wins and that’s what we’ll be doing again this weekend.”

Anthony West: “I like Donington a lot and have done pretty well there. I just have to see how the bike performs. I think for the first part of the track it should be good, but the other part I am a little worried with the package we have at the moment. I hope we can do well, and hope we can make some changes so I can be happier with my racing and get some better results.”

Mark Aitchison: “This weekend in Donington I really want to fix a few of the problems we experienced during our last race in Misano. At the moment our bike is working really well and if we can understand how to make our tyres work a little better we will have a good chance to challenge for top positions. My team and I are always looking on how to improve our performance and this is very crucial as it can help us to create more opportunities during the race. I really like Donington, I am determined to do well and can’t wait to get started on Friday with free practice.”

Miguel Praia: “We knew that we could have a top ten at Misano but I had a bad start in the first part of the race and that stopped me getting a better result. Now I will go to Donington, which is a good track for me, and it’s also the home of the team organisation. I scored a podium in British Supersport there last year and now we know we can compete I want more than the top 10.”

Gianluca Vizziello: “I am looking forward to the next round in Donington. We have definitely taken a step forward at Misano last weekend, but I want to make another step and finish within the top ten. We still have to work on the issues we have with the front of our machine, and are looking for some more power. I am confident we can further develop our bikes in the qualifying sessions, and aim to set some good results this weekend.”

Flavio Gentile: “After my race in Misano I understood that I have the possibility to take some good results in this championship and I don’t want to lose this opportunity. Donington looks like a very nice track. I have been practicing on the circuit by way of the Playstation. I want to enjoy myself and take this opportunity to do my best.”