Kawasaki ace Tom Sykes broke a World Superbike record as he stormed to his ninth successive victory at Donington Park in today’s (Saturday) opening World Superbike race of the weekend. There was home success too, as Derby riders Leon Haslam and Alex Lowes clinched podium finishes in a dramatic race.
Sykes started from pole position after setting a record lap time, but it was Ducati Brit Chaz Davies who held the early advantage, leading the opening stages until he fell off on lap seven. This promoted reigning champion Jonathan Rea and Sykes to fight it out at the front, but only after Sykes had forced his way past a resilient Haslam.
Rea led for the majority, but Sykes closed down a gap of over two seconds to be within a fraction of his team mate at the halfway point of the race. Sykes moved past at the Melbourne Hairpin but a mistake moments later promoted Rea back into the lead.
The duo remained in formation until there were six laps remaining, with Sykes replicating his move at the Melbourne Hairpin and making it stick this time, and then pulled out an unusually large gap at rapid pace, before Rea fell at high speed at the Old Hairpin with just three laps remaining.
The drama promoted Donington-supported Haslam into second on his wildcard appearance, while Lowes concluded an incredible recovery ride with third place at his home venue, his first rostrum of the year. Lowes had dropped down to last place after a shuffle at the first corner on the opening lap, but fought his way through the pack to claim the final podium spot on the last lap after Italian Marco Melandri went wide at the Melbourne Hairpin.
Before the race, thousands of people had descended onto the Wheatcroft Straight at Donington, to pay tribute to the late Nicky Hayden, who was due to race here this weekend but sadly passed away on Monday following a cycling accident in Italy. Fans held up American flags and Hayden memorabilia while observing a minute’s silence to commemorate the life of the American motorcycling legend.
Thousands of fans are expected to attend tomorrow’s (Sunday) main raceday, with another contest for World Superbikes to take place at 3pm, with further action from World Supersport, Superstock 1000, World Supersport 300, ADAC NEC Moto3 and National Superstock 600 and 1000.
The off track excitement will continue also, with the free of charge Paddock Show allowing fans to meet the riders and other key personalities, while fun zones on the infield will provide activities for all the family.
Donington Park Managing Director Christopher Tate commented: “We have enjoyed a fabulous start to our World Superbike event at Donington Park, with thousands of people having already visited us. As ever, Donington Park delivered a thrilling race for World Superbikes, and we encourage people to come along tomorrow for the main race day for more world class action.”