Take a trip down memory lane as we review the best UK moments since 2014
Donington Park, where it all began. The MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship’s first baby steps took place on a typically British, overcast April day at the legendary circuit a full 31 years ago. The list of great memories is near endless, so let’s whittle it down to the past five years – here are the five most stunning, calamitous, or simply timeless moments since 2014.
2014 – Welcome to Tom Territory
Some tracks are synonymous with a certain rider. That one venue where everything falls into place, no matter the bike, the mood or the weather. For Jonathan Rea and ‘Foggy’, that’s Assen; for Chaz Davies, MotorLand Aragon. Tom Sykes has Donington Park. 9 of his 34 WorldSBK wins were secured at his home round, all of them consecutively – and perhaps none of them exemplify his dominance more than this masterclass.
An uninspiring 7th grid slot was followed by a tough opening lap, Sykes slipping down to 11th. Then the fightback began. Lap 7, he was only up to 9th, 4.676 seconds off the lead. One lap later, he had somehow overtaken Davies, Haslam and Rea. Guintoli and Melandri followed in laps 12-13, Giugliano crashed a couple of laps later, and Lowes’ Suzuki proved no match in lap 17. One man, Loris Baz, and seven laps laid ahead. Sykes needed just three: the King of Donington was back on top of World Superbike.
2015 – A cathartic homecoming
How things changed in the next twelve months for Sykes. By the time the UK rolled back around on the calendar, his new teammate had built up 8 wins out of 10 races for the season; none of the remaining two were Sykes’. Luckily, Donington was up next, and the improbable underdog got his mojo back with a double, as if by magic.
Race 2 was particularly telling. While the battles raged on behind, Sykes’ gap at the front grew and grew, and then some more, until around ten seconds separated him and Rea at the chequered flag. A cathartic win and a message to onlookers: at Donington, you play by Tom Sykes’ rules.
2016 – Davies’ missed opportunity
No Ducati riders have won at Donington Park since 2011, but it could have been so different here. Chaz Davies and teammate Davide Giugliano bolted ahead of Donington maestro Sykes at the lights, and while the Italian rider held off the Kawasaki pair Davies saw the opportunity to break out a lead.
It never arrived. The Welshman hit the deck on lap 6, falling to 16th. After remounting and fighting back to 9th, another crash at turn 8 dealt a killer blow to his race. That win – or even a podium finish – would have halved Davies’ gap with Rea in the standings, ensured second place at the end of the season and perhaps even given the Ducati rider the opportunity to pile some pressure on the Northern Irishman in those last races of the year. But his fate was already drawn, on home turf of all places.
2017 – The streak is over!
He did the double in 2013, the double in 14, again in 15, then in 16, and then again... You get the drift. At this point we were all in agreement on a few things in life: water is wet, night follows day and Tom Sykes wins at Donington Park. No exceptions. Except when there was one, and suddenly a five-year streak had gone up in smoke.
Race 1 was – of course – won by the Yorkshireman by a cool 16 seconds, his ninth in a row in Leicestershire. Win number nine came with grid position number nine for Race 2, due to the reverse grid format – yet it was a man just one row behind who would blow up Sykes’ winning run. While the 2013 World Champion was held up by some of the slower riders, Jonathan Rea powered past into the lead by the start of lap 2. Sykes eventually moved into second and cut a four-second gap to just one, but it wasn’t to be: #66 had lost his Donington crown.
2018 – Dutch Delight
He may not go by the ‘Magic’ moniker anymore, but thanks to Michael van der Mark the 2018 UK Round was nothing short of spellbinding. Although both his and Alex Lowes performances on the Yamaha had improved in leaps and bounds from the year before, there was little on Saturday morning to indicate that Donington would host their great breakthrough, with all the signs pointing towards a KRT standoff.
How wrong that prediction turned out to be. Van der Mark slotted comfortably into third inside Lap 1 before pouncing ahead of the two dueling green machines between laps 12 and 15. The pressure crept as the remaining laps ticked by, but here would be no counterattacks, no hopes dashed: this was the real deal. And then he doubled down from ninth on the grid in Race 2.
Donington has been the home of many firsts – and 2019 will be no exception! Prepare to be entertained by the Prosecco DOC UK Round, available Live and OnDemand on WorldSBK VideoPass!