All eyes turned to Tom Sykes as we headed into race one of the British World Superbike championship.
Sykes started on pole, but it was surprisingly Chaz Davies who got the hole shot to lead Sykes and Jonathan Rea into the first lap.
Alex Lowes was pushed right to the back of the grid after getting caught up in a minor incident coming out of the first corner, but he constantly built up his pace and picked his way through the pack.
Wildcard Leon Haslam qualified in 8th, but by the first lap he has barged his way into 4th and looked set to continue pushing through. At the end of lap 2, Davies was +.2 on Sykes, even after running wide at the Melbourne Loop. Closing in on Sykes was his team mate Jonathan Rea, and it didn’t take Rea long to make the move on Sykes and begin stalking down Davies. As Sykes begun to settle into 3rd he made a huge mistake and ran wide, letting Haslam through.
By only lap 3, Davies had a half second lead on Rea, and Sykes had managed to get back through on Haslam at the Melbourne Loop, somewhere he has looked so incredibly strong all weekend. By lap 5, Haslam was drastically dropping off the back of Sykes and it looked as if he’d have to settle.
The real shock of the race came just three laps later, when Davies went down from the lead, leaving Rea with a 2 second lead on Sykes. Davies managed to re-join in 14th, but things weren’t looking great for the Welshman. On that very same lap came a huge moment for Rea where he lost .4 of a second on Sykes, allowing him to close up the gap.
Marco Melandri looked as if he was struggling to get past the IODA Racing Aprilia of Leandro Mercado, but he eventually managed it 11 laps in, and it looked like it should be plain sailing from there for the Italian.
The top two KRT’s looked as though they had a battle on their hands – on lap 14 Sykes managed to pass Rea for the first time in the race, but Rea moved swiftly back in on him to take the lead. On lap 17, the KRT’s had a massive 10 second gap on Haslam who was running in 3rd. By lap 18, Sykes had come through on Rea once more but this time managed to make it stick. By the end of the lap, Sykes had picked up a massive 1.5 second lead, which had increased to almost five and a half seconds with only three laps to go. As it looked as if Rea would have to settle for 2nd, he suffered a massive highside and went sliding down into the gravel, bringing his winning chances to an abrupt end.
Quite honestly, the most shocking scene we’ve seen today was seeing Alex Lowes crossing the line in third. We had seen him slowly creeping up the times, but Melandri looked as if he was sitting pretty in third. Coming out of the loop was where we saw Melandri run off onto the grass, allowing Lowes past to take the final podium spot.
But when all was said and done, Tom Sykes took his 9th consecutive victory at Donington Park, keeping his title of ‘King of Donington’, and ending the race with an impressive 16 and a half second lead.
Tomorrow we will see Marco Melandri heading up the front row, from Michael van der Mark and Leon Camier.
But really, today was all about Nicky Hayden, and tomorrow’s race will be too. The amount of teams, fans and media that turned up on the grid to take part in the one minute silence showed just how much people respected him. Unfortunately, the Honda of Stefan Bradl was forced to retire, but it was very clear to see that Nicky was still racing on in everyone’s hearts.
World Superbike race one results (top 10):
- Tom Sykes, Kawasaki Racing Team – 33:56.457
- Leon Haslam, Kawasaki Puccetti Racing + 16.500
- Alex Lowes, Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team + 19.170
- Marco Melandri, Aruba.it Racing Ducati + 19.699
- Michael van der Mark, Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team + 21.454
- Leon Camier, MV Agusta Reparto Corse + 23.376
- Leandro Mercado, IODARacing + 24.979
- Chaz Davies, Aruba.it Racing Ducati + 26.988
- Jordi Torres, Althea BMW Racing + 34.910
- Xavi Fores, BARNI Racing Team + 35.178
Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team – 3 laps
Stefan Bradl, Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team – 7 laps
Riccardo Russo, Guandalini Racing – 7 laps
Jake Dixon, Royal Air Force Reg. & Res. Kawasaki – 9 laps