World Superbikes at Donington, May 2017

2017 Superbike World Championship British Round

Donington Park plays host to the 2017 Superbike World Championship British Round this weekend, with three Britons leading the table before the weekend, including Jonathan Rea who has taken seven of the ten wins so far this season.  Could he take his third successive title?  The weekend is more emotional than most, coming just a few days after the tragic and untimely death of Nicky Hayden, the former MotoGP champion who was competing in the Superbike World Championship this year.  Nicky’s passing was marked with on and off track events.

 

The weekend got off to a very hot and sunny start on Friday, but Saturday saw the occasional shower, and strong winds that meant, for example, some of the bouncy castles for the younger fans were packed away in case they were caught by the wind.  Qualifying got under way, and championship leader Rea – who has led the championship since the start of the 2015 season – started second on the grid.  Rea fought team mate and pole sitter Tom Sykes for the lead, and other than the inclusion of Leon Haslam for the British round, it seemed that Sykes and Rea might again be battling for the win.  However, a dramatic tyre burst for Rea saw him out of the race with three laps to go.  It happened right in front of me, and it was very dramatic, with sparks flying.  In fact, it was so dramatic that I had no thoughts of pressing my camera into use and instead focused on what was happening on the track and hoping that Rea was not injured.  It seemed that what was hurt most was his opportunity to extend his lead in the championship as he walked away.

Jonny Rea after his crash at Donington Park, May 2017

 

Sykes took the win from Haslam, with Alex Lowes in third.  Chaz Davies, who is third in the championship, finished eighth.  The result keeps Rea at the top of the table, but with a much reduced lead.  

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The conditions for Sunday may have been predicted to have been broadly similar to Saturday, but although the rain stayed away and it was a little hotter, it was certainly much less windy, making it a more pleasant spectator experience, and the crowds were even larger than on the day before. The race got underway, and very soon it was Rea in the lead being chased by Sykes. Although Rea has led the championship for 27 months, no one in the series has beaten Sykes at Donington since before the London 2012 Olympics, an incredible nine race unbeaten run. Rea’s lead over Sykes was 4 seconds, then 3.6s, then 3.2, and as the laps went by, the gap closed, apparent not just from the timing screens but visible on the track. However, this was to be the race that ended Sykes fantastic run of form at the Leicestershire circuit and it was Rea who took the chequered flag, with Chaz Davies in third. Rea stopped near me with his team and with an Ulster flag bearing the initials “JR”.

Rea now takes a 55 point lead to Misano in the middle of June which marks the mid way point in the season.

Jonathan Rea celebrates after winning at Donington Park, May 2017

World Superbikes, 27th May 2017

World Superbikes, 28th May 2017

 

The Superbikes are, as normal, supported by various other series.  Here are a few photos from the World Supersport 300 series who were also racing.

 

World Supersport 300, 27th May 2017