Five classics from Donington Park, with wildcard goosebumps, last corner drama and first wins
The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship storms into the United Kingdom for the return to Donington Park, which hosts the fastest production-based Championship in the world. Whilst magic is on the horizon, Donington Park’s laced with some of the most magical moments in WorldSBK history, so we’ve put our top five Donington duels into a list as we build up to the round.
Switching over from MotoGP™ to WorldSBK for the 2011 season, Marco Melandri was keen to make his mark in the Championship and after a first podium in the opening round of the year at Phillip Island, he was keen for victory in the UK. Starting ninth, down on row three, after a Superpole contretemps with ex-GP sparring partner Max Biaggi, Melandri carved his way through the field, took the lead from Jakub Smrz with two laps to go and took a career-first WorldSBK win.
Race 1 of 2012 at Donington Park was electric, with BMW taking a first win with Marco Melandri, with teammate Leon Haslam backing up the effort in second. It looked like happening again in Race 2, but both BMWs ran slightly wide at the final corner on the final lap, allowing Honda’s Rea to scurry up the inside, colliding with Haslam, who was speared into Melandri, leaving both BMWs on the deck. A dramatic win for Rea, huge commiserations for BMW, a grandstand finish for the fans.
FINAL LAP DRAMA!⁰— WorldSBK (@WorldSBK) June 27, 2021
The last corner of Race 2 in 2012 saw a massive moment as @jonathanrea barged his way to victory, colliding with Leon Haslam in the process, who then crashed with @MarcoMelandri33! ⁰
UNBELIEVABLE SCENES! #GBRWorldSBK pic.twitter.com/WYti4FycMA
2018 was a scintillating year of WorldSBK racing at Donington Park, as Michael van der Mark took a heroic first race win in Race 1, whilst he did the unthinkable and doubled up on Sunday. A fine showing saw him tackle Kawasaki duo Jonathan Rea and Donington Park specialist Tom Sykes, but even the home heroes were no match for a valiant van der Mark. Meanwhile, Toprak Razgatlioglu was also on a mission and in a thrilling last lap, beat Jonathan Rea to take second and a first podium.
After their final lap showdown 12 months previous, Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu were once again going head-to-head for Donington Park supremacy, this time for victory. Having exchanged places in the opening half of the race, Rea took control in the second half, although he still had to resist Toprak’s onslaught, with the Turkish rider digging deep in the closing stages. Despite his best efforts, Razgatlioglu had to settle for second, as Rea clinched a vital win at home.
Of the countless goosebump moments in WorldSBK throughout the years, one stands out from Donington Park in Race 2, 2000. Going into the last lap, Pierfrancesco Chili led wildcard Neil Hodgson by a 0.996s, and it looked like he had it in the bag. However, a determined Hodgson kept closing in before Chili had a massive moment coming through Coppice, allowing the British wildcard to pass at the Foggy Esses as a capacity Donington Park crowd erupted in euphoria at the history being made. What’s more, fellow wildcard Chris Walker was able to get through for second, meaning it was Hodgson and Walker who took a wildcard 1-2 and a British 1-2, the first ever British 1-2 in history.
WorldSBK.Archive/Wildcards/Goosebump.moments/DoningtonPark/Race 2,2000— WorldSBK (@WorldSBK) June 25, 2021
"The crowd will go bananas"
Sometimes, you just can’t script what is in front of you! What a way to win your first race, @NeilHodgson100! #GBRWorldSBK pic.twitter.com/7Q8JeOqVe7
Honourable mentions: the history is endless
Of course, with it being the top five, we can’t put every Donington Park classic in, but there’s plenty that simply can’t be forgotten. 1988’s Race 1 is a reminder of the Championship’s roots as WorldSBK started way back then, whilst Noriyuki Haga’s stunning win in Race 2 1998 was also a fairytale like no other. Carl Fogarty’s last British win came at Donington Park’s Race 1 in 1999, whilst 2001 saw Chili take his revenge on Hodgson in Race 2 from the year before. 2007’s final lap showdown between Max Biaggi and Haga was a stunning spectacle, as was Tom Sykes’ head-to-head battle in Race 1 2014 with Loris Baz.
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