Acerbis UK Round –
Donington Park
seen by the tyres

For the sixth time running Donington Park is hosting the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship: again this year, the appointment will be for the month of May, specifically from the 27th to the 29th. This will be an important stage of the 2016 championship because the second half of the season will be starting on the British track in practice.

Donington Park was the first permanent motorcycle racing circuit in the UK. After the first race staged in 1931 on the narrow roads of Donington Hall Estate, Derbyshire motorcycle rider Fred Craner promoted the creation of a circuit closed to traffic.

The Donington Park racing circuit opened two years later, as a result of Craner's work, in 1933. It was converted during World War II and remained the property of the Ministry of Defence until 1955, when it was used as a military vehicle depot. Donington was in shambles and abandoned when in it was purchased in 1971 by local motorsport enthusiast and businessman Tom Wheatcroft. From this moment on, the name of the circuit will be tied to that of its owner: the first revamping started and Donington Park was entirely rebuilt and expanded in just six years.

A space was set up inside the mansion to display Wheatcroft's huge motor vehicle collection. Today it is world's largest and goes by the name of Donington Grand Prix Collection.

Nothing short of a miracle happened over a remarkably short time: from an abandoned estate, Donington became the preferred circuit for motorcycle racing and a location for rock festivals, special events and even weddings. In the meantime, it changed hands passing from the direct control of the Wheatcroft family to an outside company: in 2009, the company came under investigation for breach of contract. The difficult times and uncertainties was solved with the return of the Wheatcroft family the same year.
The second revamping of Donington Park included extensive modernisation and renovation works carried in the period from 2009 to 2010 to comply with new requirements and be able host international events on the circuit once again. Donington Park was approved to host international events after the second, heaven-sent intervention of the Wheatcroft family and since 2011 it has become the key location for the entire World Championship and a much-anticipated appointment for thousands of fans who flock to the circuit.

In its current configuration, the Donington Park circuit is 4023 metres long with 12 bends, of which seven to the right and five to the left. The radius of the bends goes from a minimum of 24 metres to a maximum of 333 metres; the circuit is clockwise and the rider in pole position starts on the left. The maximum gradient is 8% and the finish straight is 550 metres long.

In the best British tradition, the biggest variable for the racing weekend will be the weather: in spring it can quickly turn from warm and breezy to wet and cold. In the first case, the teams can choose a soft compound, while in the case of bad weather the use of tyres with a more protected compound is recommended to prevent cold tearing.
The Donington Park circuit is mixed, rather faster and with many changes of level. It features fast bends like the Melbourne Hairpin, which is tough on the brakes and on the gas putting the resilience of riders and tyres to the test. With regards to speed, the fastest acceleration is out of bend 8, known as the Coppice. A very interesting stretch is the one with two medium curves that split the straight opposite to the finish one: the Old Hairpin and the McLeans Corner are tight and fast at the same time. The bikes all travel in excess of 100 km/h here: riders brave enough to up their minimum speed at the apex and trace these two curves perfectly can gain vital tenths of a second that they can exploit elsewhere.

Average speeds at Donington Park are not much higher than on the other circuits: the average is about 160 km/h, with top speeds slightly in excess of 270 km/h. Given the dodgy British weather, the tyres will be called to work with low surface temperatures. They must be able to guarantee the necessary degree of flexibility for 55-degree leans and the usual lateral acceleration despite the cool conditions.

The front tyres will need to provide stability and are particularly stressed on the first part of the circuit where holding their shape is essential on the downhill curves. Different is the situation of the rear tyres which are called to tackle the sudden, powerful accelerations typical of Donington Park, like that out of the Coppice. At low temperatures, the tread compound could tear when opening the gas particularly if the tyre cannot reach the correct running temperatures.

In 2015, the Superbike podiums in Race-1 and Race-2 two were virtual copies on each other dominated by the Union Flag, with the wins of Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) ahead of Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies. In Supersport, Turkish rider Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) consolidated his leadership in the ranking by winning ahead of his direct competitor, Frenchman Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) at the end of 20 exciting laps. Third was local wild card Kyle Ryde (Pacedayz European Trackdays).

The Superstock 1000 FIM Cup podium was all Italian, with Lorenzo Savadori's Aprilia RSV4 RF (Nuova M2 Racing) cutting the finish line ahead of Roberto Tamburini (Team MotoxRacing) and Raffaele De Rosa (Althea Racing).

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