Ducati’s Donington Disaster: a Great British struggle for the Bologna Bullets

Monday, 5 July 2021 10:24 GMT

From the ultimate highs at home in Italy to dejected lows in the English countryside…

The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is as unpredictable as ever, with different riders fighting for victory each round. The unpredictability aspect of things couldn’t be clearer than Ducati, who took wins at the Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli” during round three with Michael Ruben Rinaldi ( Racing – Ducati), yet couldn’t achieve a podium at Donington Park and only achieved a best result of fourth and three top ten finishes in the factory team.

It wasn’t the dream homecoming for Scott Redding ( Racing – Ducati), who is now without a podium in his last seven races in World Superbike. The British star crashed out of Race 1 on Saturday from a top ten placing, whilst he gambled on wet tyres for the Tissot Superpole Race, despite the track drying out enough for the intermediate compound. It was only in the final race of the weekend where Redding felt comfortable, as he came through for fourth, narrowly missing out on a podium to fellow countryman Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) after a final lap charge.

“Frustrated… hard weekend… not going forward”

Reviewing his difficulties and talking about the challenges of Donington Park, Redding said: “The Superpole Race was a bit of a disaster, completely my fault as I chose the wrong tyres. If you choose the wrong tyres then there’s nothing you can do; you win some, you lose some. For the second race, it was the first time I felt like I had feeling with my bike at Donington Park. I suffered all weekend with engine braking but we improved that a bit on Sunday morning but that was the first time I had a bit of feeling. I was just frustrated that it’d been such a hard weekend for me, not going forward.”

One of the biggest challenges is the Ducati Panigale V4 R’s small operating window from circuit to circuit, something Redding commented on: “I don’t think it is a strong circuit for Ducati when you see the other guys struggling. The setting at Estoril didn’t work for Misano and the setting for both didn’t work at Donington Park. It’s kind of luck of the draw to be honest, as to whether in FP1 the bike is going to work. Last year, the bike was quite rider friendly whereas this year it seems to be that when it works it is great, and when it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work at all.”

“I hope that we can find a way to resolve our problems”

On the other side of the garage, Michael Ruben Rinaldi’s Misano high was met immediately with a Donington Park low, as he struggled in the changeable weather conditions before taking an eighth place in the final race of the weekend. Two wins at Misano followed by just 16 points scored across the weekend in the UK, it’s not the form Rinaldi will be happy with, but there was progress and understanding in Race 2.

“I’m a little bit upset about the weekend because I have two strange races, Saturday Race 1 and the Tissot Superpole Race on Sunday,” began a downbeat Rinaldi, fifth in the Championship standings. “The weather was very strange, with half wet, half dry conditions on track and I’m not that good in those conditions. Race 2 was the first race in normal conditions, but I’m not really happy about the result. However, this race brought us a lot of data and I understand many, many things during the race, and I hope that we can find a way to resolve our problems because it is clear from the data that we are missing some grip on the exit of the corner. If we can fix that, I think we can fight every race for the podium.”

Independents struggles

Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) took the positives of his seventh-place finish but insisted that Ducati consistency remained an issue: “It’s been a tough weekend, there’s no doubt about it; it has been mixed bag weather wise and also in terms of results. It’s difficult to be happy with P7 but to be honest, I’m really happy with it. After the injury, I didn’t feel great on Friday or Saturday, and I was in a lot of pain. I had a good Race 2 and although I was a little bit behind the ball in terms of strength, to be chasing down Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark, after being beaten up in the first laps, I’m happy.

“There’s a few areas where we suffer and I think from the outside, it can all seem quite rosy at times, but inside – not just this year but in previous years – it’s quite difficult to maintain that consistency of race wins. History is kind of repeating itself; look at this weekend with Rinaldi and Redding, it’s definitely something that needs to be addressed and it needs more consistency bringing to it. We’ll have our moments again, but we definitely need to pull things together and figure out why there’s these inconsistencies.”

At Barni Racing Team, rookie Tito Rabat’s struggled once again, saying: “At the end, I don’t have a lot to say. It’s been a difficult start to the season, but the important thing is to continue trying to work and to stay calm. The season so far has been very bad; I expected a lot more. There are not a lot of words to say in the end. The biggest problem is not one big problem, it’s small things that all together, we can improve.”

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