2018 Donington Park WorldSBK Notes: What We Saw At Donington

Round 6 of the 2018 Superbike World Championship saw Michael van der Mark make history and Toprak Razgatlıoglu claim a first career podium. It was the shot in the arm the series needed, and after great racing across all four classes there is a renewed optimism within the paddock.

Double Dutch

Michael van der Mark made history by becoming the first ever Dutchman to win a WorldSBK race and the Yamaha rider followed it up by doing the double. It was a stunning weekend from the 25 year old and both race victories were emphatic. On Saturday he beat Jonathan Rea in a straight fight and on Sunday he rode a calm and collected race to claim a further 25 points and move into third in the standings. The 2014 WorldSSP champion has been one of the coming men of WorldSBK in recent years, but to get over the line with such style for a first victory was hugely impressive.

Turkish Delight

The talent of Toprak Razgatlıoglu has never been in doubt and on Sunday he showed exactly why by standing on the rostrum. Turkey may have lost their racing hero when Kenan Sofuoglu retired, but they didn't need to wait long for a replacement. Razgatlıoglu was superb in chasing down Alex Lowes and Jonathan Rea in the final quarter of the race and when he made moves he made them stick. It was a smart performance from a talented rider to watch out for in the second half of the season.

What's gone wrong at Ducati?

There were few answers forthcoming from Ducati after an incredibly disappointing weekend. Michael Ruben Rinaldi didn't even make the start of Race 2 and Xavi Fores and Marco Melandri probably wished they hadn't made the start either. Chaz Davies was the leading Red Rider but struggled through to an eighth and a fifth place finish. Having missed out on dry running on Friday Davies was on the back foot throughout the weekend, but there was clearly an inherent issue for Ducati. The most likely reason is their gear ratio, fixed for the season, didn't suit Donington Park. They will need to bounce back in Brno after three trying rounds.

What price a wildcard?

Ana Carrasco dominated the Supersport 300 field once again and claimed the third victory of a suddenly blossoming career. The Spaniard has hit the headlines by hitting the front in the class but now needs to prove that she has improved since joining the WorldSBK paddock. Carrasco was a disappointing Moto3 rider that came to Supersport 300 as one of the few riders against whom others could be judged. Last year the likes of Marc Garcia were able to beat her and move on to other series but now team managers need to assess her again so they can judge the rest of the field. With Carrasco having won two races this year she now needs to prove her speed for the good of the class.

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Why must Ana Carrasco prove her speed for the good of the class? I don't see you saying the same thing about disappointing Moto2 rider Sandro Cortese,  disappointing Moto2 rider Randy Krumenacher, disappointing 125cc rider Lorenzo Savadori, disappointing Moto2 and WSBK rider Keenan Sofogulu... I could keep going with many, many more names of riders who were disappointing in GP but have flourished in the World Supers paddock. Some people are better at one type of racing, others are better at another and there is no shame in that.


Here, I fixed it.

Birth of a new class leader

Ana Carrasco dominated the Supersport 300 field once again and claimed the third victory of a suddenly blossoming career. The Spaniard has hit the headlines by hitting the front in the class. The first woman rider on the World stage, she is thriving not despite but in conjunction with the large target on her back. Carrasco, having spent time in the Moto3 paddock, came to Supersport 300 as one of the few riders against whom others could find measure of their skills. This year few are able to beat her in this very competitive production based lightweight sportbike class. Ana has consistently beaten riders that had what was seen as better machinery (the R3 had generally been regarded as the weapon of choice).

This segment of the motorcycle market is fast growing and important to manufacturers, especially in the booming markets of Asia. Women of every age, color, nationality and social strata may assess again the World of motorbike racing as a place of belonging without the umbrella. Team managers have the mark they need to assess again the rest of the field...with Carrasco having won two races this year she has proven her speed for the good of the class, and the whole sport. It is now a matter of how long until Kawasaki decides to wildcard her in WSS on the 600cc machinery. No one will be questioning if she has the balls for it, they needn't. She has trancended mundane expectations in the lightweight production Supersport class and doesn't look nearly finished.

(Similar question to is Dani Pedrosa big enough to ride a MotoGP bike?)

Does Superbike have a rule preventing riding in multiple classes at the same event?  If so, the logical place for a wildcard in 2017 would be Qatar (despite the travel expense of taking an extra bike and team there).  Or would a wildcard in something such as BSB Superstock 600 make more sense?

Your article above is a bit confusing. You say Ana Carrasco needs to prove he speed but it's not clear how she should do this. Your tweet on this subject is more clear. She needs a Wildcard in Moto3 to prove her speed.

On the other hand, if I was Ana, I might prefer if Grunwald or Deroue got the Wildcard. It's probable that the level in Moto3 is quite a bit higher than SSP300. Let them get their noses bloodied there and Ana can focus on the World Championship she is fighting for!

The point which Steve made so very well is that Ana Carrasco struggled in Moto3, but has reinvented herself in WorldSSP300. The question is, how that has happened. There are three possible explanations: 

  1. the level of competition is relatively low in WorldSSP300, so Carrasco looks good, as do other former Moto3 riders such as Scott Deroue
  2. Carrasco has matured and made the changes she needed, grasped the challenge and become a much better rider
  3. Carrasco was always a good rider, but the importance of the team in Moto3 was too great, and it is only now, on a bike with a lot fewer setup possibilities, that we are able to assess her talent

A wildcard in Moto3 might answer a few questions, but there is still room for doubt. My own feeling is that she has radically improved as a rider, and would be much more competitive in the right team and on the right bike in Moto3. But as WorldSSP300 is such a new class, it is hard to be sure.

both Gresini and EG 0.0 might consider it, since Martin and Canet are most likely going to Moto2 next year, and because of her gender Carassco would bring sponsorship and publicity (hate to mention NA$CAR, but here in The Colonies, Danica Patrick made a career of being a middlling talent with top sponsorship and media attention solely because she was female).

Did you mean that to read the way it did?  Seems incredibly harsh. For me she is doing a sterling job.  She was half decent in moto3 as well but not consistent. Was that Ana or the team she rode for (or combination).  Whatever was the case then she's pretty damn consistant now. Of the 4 races she has not been more than 0.6 seconds from the win. Fully deserves bigger and better chances, but needs to be with the right team and not some half assed team that couldn't set up a shopping trolley.  This is what DS junior team are doing for her, and her team mate, because they are both pretty much on pace all the time.

Badly worded on my part! I've been flat out with getting everything turned around from Donington and heading to the TT so it was a bit of a rush job on this piece.

I do however think that it's hard not to ask the question about where Ana stacks up. It's great that she's winning races in SSP300 but she was also expected to do this. As one of the most experienced riders in the 300 class last year she was always going to be a yardstick with which to judge other  riders (as was Derue). In the Moto3 class I don't think that anyone would claim that Ana showed anything to move the needle (two or three races in 2013 being the exception) and as a result her stock was rightfully very low when she moved to the SBK paddock.

I'm the first to appauld her riding this year and think she has done a fantastic job to rebuild her reputation but there's always going to be a doubt about her speed until we see her racing at a higher level again. What I should have written (and did on twitter as mentioned above) is it would be great to see her ride again in Moto3 so we can judge her progression. She's a better rider now because she's got confidence in her ability again. The six inches between your ears are the most important on a race track and if she's happy and confident she could be a lot better in Moto3 than what she showed previously.

The crux of my point is that in the eyes of a team manager in another series they don't know how good a 2018 Carrasco is compared to a 2015 Carrasco. That's why it's important for the SSP300 class for Ana to be able to prove her speed. Obviously it's all pie in the sky at the moment but a Moto3 wildcard would be a great opportunity to prove her progress. Irongut mentioned Cortese and Kenan but they have both been world champions in established classes. The problem with the 300 class is that there are so many unknowns in it. Whether it is bikes or riders there are a lot of question marks over the field. We saw that the Yamaha was the fastest bike last year, the KTM in the opening rounds this year and now the Kawasaki. With no other established riders it's very difficult to gauge the level of the competition that Ana is racing against. 

Hopefully this kind of clears up what I was trying to say and thanks for the comments. I'll keep it in mind in future to make sure that I've given enough of an explanation!

Thanks Steve. You aren't being judged by just one paragraph, I like your work. Funny how a partial thought can end up saying something we didn't actually think.

She may be a production bike racer. I sent her a message in English steering her here to join in the discussion. Curious where she intends to go. And hope she is enjoying this now.