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An onboard lap of Donington Park

An onboard lap of Donington Park

An onboard lap of Donington Park

Donington, somewhat like the previous circuit at Sachsenring, is a track of two halves. One section is slow and less interesting for the riders and spectators alike, whilst the other is faster and more flowing.

Machine set-up is also therefore something of a compromise, with strong front fork springs and sharp steering the ideal solutions for hard braking and swift flick-in at the chicane and last two hairpins, while the rest of the undulating fast and medium corners require suppleness from the front suspension and a high degree of stability mid corner, and a firmer set-up on the rear to help with corner exit traction.

Horsepower is less of a factor at Donington than most circuits this year, but clean engine response and exact gearing choices are essential to handle such a variety of corners, as the track runs downhill from the start to the Old Hairpin, then back uphill to the flat section behind the pits.

The track layout is the type that provokes either love or hate, such is its individuality. The prevalent off-camber nature of Donington is usually one of the main factors at play during the Grand Prix, with a large tendency for the front tyre to push, making the right, left, right flick down the Craner Curve section something of a high tension rollercoaster ride. A dramatic viewing experience, Donington sits inside an amphitheatre style setting, with the spectator bankings ringing around the outside.

"For a good lap at Donington the most important part is definitely the first section - out of the first turn, getting a good drive down Craner and so on," explains British Superbike Champion Shane ‘Shakey' Byrne, currently contesting his rookie MotoGP season.

"Donington is all about getting the whole thing right, it's not like you can ride one corner at 90 per cent and the next at 100 per cent to make up the difference on the first one, it's important to have a real good flow.

"It's a weird place because it's real flowing, then you come into the last section where you stop, accelerate, stop, accelerate, stop, accelerate. The worst part of the track for me is the Fogarty chicane where the last band of tarmac drops away from you, so it's negative camber.

"You ride over that hard on the gas, so the tyre slips away and you get into a big slide and the bump in the middle of the last corner isn't much fun either.

"When I've got the bike working good my favourite part is the bit coming out of the Old Hairpin up to McLeans. But if your bike's not working so good it's a nightmare piece of track, because you bounce all over the pace and can't keep the thing on line.

"For passing, I'd say that Redgate's always good, plus going into the Old Hairpin, if you're strong down through Craner, and into Foggy's and the last two corners.

"Tyres aren't the biggest deal there - it's usually medium compound. I'm really impressed with the help Michelin has been giving us this year. Their tyres are obviously the best in MotoGP and I'm really happy with what they give us - the tyres have great grip, traction and endurance, which is everything you want from a tyre, really."

Tags:
MotoGP, 2004, CINZANO BRITISH GRAND PRIX

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