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A lap of the Donington Park circuit

A lap of the Donington Park circuit

A lap of the Donington Park circuit

In the present-day Donington track layout there are two distinct sections: the first is a fast, snaking section where the bike must be stable in the front to negotiate the fast downhill corners "Hollywood" and "Craner curves", which are taken at more than 200 km/h. This first section is all downhill and taken in fifth gear until the legendary "Old Hairpin" corner, where the braking is very delicate since it is the lowest point in the circuit and taken in third gear.

After this corner the rider moves through the "Schwantz curve" in fifth gear and on to the "McLean's Corner". This is followed by the "Coppice Corner", taken in third gear and where we often see riders sliding out of the exit of the corner, and then on to the longest straight on the circuit.

On this straight, speeds do not normally exceed 275 km/h because the straight is on the crest of a hill and when the bikes pass over it they literally take off causing a sudden boost in engine revs which momentarily stops the engine ignition.

At this point in the straight each rider has his own particular way of reducing the time lost: some riders change from fifth to sixth at the take off point; others change their line slightly on the crest so that the bike is leaning slightly and this stops the front wheel leaving the ground, although the accelerator must be closed a little and speed must be reduced at the end of the straight.

Directly after this straight comes the slowest section of the track with three corners taken at less than 70 Km/h followed by three straights taken in fourth and fifth gear. One of these corners is the famous "The Esses", a very slow chicane, and also the "Melbourne Hairpin", a hairpin taken at 60 Km/h and the slowest point of the track. With this amount of sharp braking the set up of the engine brake of the four-stroke bikes is crucial to allow for late braking when overtaking.

Ideally, at Donington, the riders would need two different chassis' geometries for the different sections of the track. One would provide stability with a low centre of gravity to allow for rapid changes of direction. The other would be shorter with a higher centre of gravity to allow the bike to turn quickly through the slower, tighter corners.

As usual, we must look for an adequate compromise that helps the bike through certain sections without losing too much time through the others. Donington is also a circuit with little grip which makes the set up work even more complicated. There is a saying that this lack of grip is due to the fuel deposited by the aeroplanes that take off and land at the nearby East Midlands airport. Some teams claim that on rainy days you can see the fuel forming a fine film on the track surface making it very slippery.

It is difficult to find an ideal setting for the gear ratios since all the gears are used. Since the gear ratios are very short and the lower gears must be used a lot, we find a problem with an excess of power delivery where the bikes do "wheelies". Just like the Le Mans Bugatti Circuit, at Donington the rider changes gear many times in one lap, on average 33 times per lap, or nearly 1000 during the race.

Donington is one of the circuits where there is a high degree of front tyre wear. The first section of the track is downhill, with seven hard braking points, and creates a lot of wear on the front during the race. Normally hard compounds are used in the rear, especially on the right side, mainly to counter the increased wear due to the fast acceleration and sliding when exiting the "Coppice Corner".


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