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Motorcycle Track Guide: Donington Park

Learn the flow of Donington Park from a man who has a podium there at GP level, Niall Mackenzie

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Submitted by Niall Mackenzie on Wed, 06/07/2011 - 11:30

Motorcycle Track Guide: Donington Park

Donington Park may have lost MotoGP but believe me this is still one of the safest and most challenging circuits in the world. Four-time 500cc World Champion Eddie Lawson may have moaned that the Melbourne Loop section was like a ‘parking lot’ but seven-time champ Valentino Rossi rates Donny as one of his favourite circuits, so he wins this particular argument. Personally, I have always loved the place and no one can argue with the close and exciting races it has given us over the years. The proposed new layout is on hold for now but money is still being spent on refreshing one of the best motor racing circuits in the world.

I could write pages on favourite races I’ve either watched or been involved in at Donington but Rossi lapping three seconds faster than anyone in the rain while wearing a dark visor has to be the most impressive of his Derbyshire victories. While not quite in Rossi’s league my Donington success story started back in 1983 with a Yamaha Pro Am world Cup victory that led to my first professional contract. Through the eighties and nineties I managed a fair few 250cc, 350cc and Superbike victories before retiring there in the autumn of 2000. I had a bitter sweet victory beating my great mate Whitham to take my first BSB title in '96 however my best moments have to leading the 500cc British GP on the Marlboro Yamaha in 1989 and then climbing onto the podium behind Cadalora and Rainey after the 1993 race.  

With little time to rest between corners Donington Park is one of the most physically demanding circuits. Added to this it will test your brakes and suspension to the limit. There is no feeling like getting Craner Curves just right, however there is also no feeling like getting it wrong. Most top racers have joined the infamous ‘Craner Club’ which involves losing the front while flicking left at 100mph then sliding for 300 metres across the grass on your bum. Interestingly most riders (including me) only do this once. The blind right of Coppice is another amazing corner that takes time to perfect but is better than sex when you finally pull it off. (aye, pun intended)

Late entries and apexes for Redgate, Old Hairpin, Melbourne and Goddards are important at Donington as is using all the track on most corner entries and exits. Make Craner, Schwantz and Coppice one long corner as opposed to several and a ‘firmish’ suspension set up front and rear is also advisable. If you ride this one aggressively you’ll most likely hit a wall when it comes to lap times so it is better to relax and let it flow.

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