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Sykes the man to beat at Donington Park

Whilst riders will be working to find the best set-up around Donington Park, a shadow will be cast over the Pata UK round as Nicky Hayden (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) continues to fight in hospital following a training incident last week. The American rider is in the forefront of everyone’s thoughts, as the WorldSBK paddock sends support and best wishes to Hayden and his family.

Set in the rural hills of Leicestershire, Donington Park is the host for the sixth round of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship and there’s one man with a target on his back, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team). The historic circuit hosted the very first World Superbike race in 1988 and is a circuit which holds a special place in the hearts of many. Split into two halves, from fast and flowing to stop-and-go, the style of the circuit lends itself to many manufacturers meaning fans are treated to strong racing throughout the field. But with Sykes heading to Donington unbeaten since 2013, it will be hard to stop the Yorkshireman in front of his home fans.

Bouncing back from an illness which has plagued Sykes since the third round of the season, the British rider has only been off the podium three times so far in 2017 and his pace is one which is hard to challenge. Sykes and Donington Park seem to go hand in hand, and it’s a winning combination; taking pole position four times in the last five years and winning every race since 2013. However the 31 year old is yet to take a race win in 2017, and he will face stiff competition from his Kawasaki team-mate.

Looking to be the man to stop Sykes’ UK run is reigning world champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team), who will also be hoping to impress in front of his home fans. Beating Sykes around Donington would be a huge boost for Rea and for his championship charge overall. Holding the race lap record around the 4.023km circuit and last taking the victory in 2012, Rea is yet to win around Donington Park on a Kawasaki. In a season which has seen him win seven out of 10 races it will be difficult to rule out Rea to bring the fight, especially with the backing of his home crowd.

Coming off the back of a stunning weekend around the historic Imola circuit and what was an important round for Ducati, Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) looks ahead to Donington; an important race as his home fans descend in support for the Welsh rider. Not a circuit which lends itself to Davies and his riding style, he has had a tough time at Donington in the past – his best result in WorldSBK being a double podium finish in 2015 with two third positions, whilst he took a second in WorldSSP.

Hailing just a stones throw away from Donington Park, Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) has a vast amount of experience around the circuit. The 26 year old will certainly be looking to secure his first podium of 2017, and with the support of his home crowd there may be a lot to cheer about from the blue box. Taking a podium finish for Suzuki in 2014, Lowes was forced to sit out of the British Round last season with injury which means he will come out even more determined than ever. Himself and his team feel they are just one step away from getting the YZF-R1 on the podium, and Donington would be the perfect setting.

Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) comes off the back of a tough weekend at Imola, but it was also a round in which he started to make some strong steps, fighting up towards the front. Starting his career out in the British championship’s means Camier is another rider with a lot of experience in Leicestershire, with his last podium appearance being in 2011 with Aprilia.

Following a big crash on Saturday at Imola which Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) was able to walk away from unscathed; the Irishman seems to have made progress with the Italian machine. Following a tough start to the season, himself and his British based team are keen to try out their updates at their homecoming around Donington Park. Taking his last podium at the Leicestershire circuit in 2013, Laverty has struggled around the circuit but can he put the past behind him?

Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team) heads to Donington Park with a best result of seventh around the track and still recovering from an illness which sidelined him on Saturday around Imola. The Spanish rider will be looking to make the step into the top five as he tackles his S 1000 RR around the fast and flowing circuit. Lone Honda rider Stefan Bradl (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) will face a tough weekend both with his bike set-up and with his team-mate Hayden in mind. Continuing to understand the Fireblade CBR1000RR SP2, and heading to a circuit where the German rider has a tough record around, Donington Park will be a round Bradl will need the support of the loyal British fans.