Donington Park is ready to host the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship forr the twenty-fourth year running: The Heart of British Motorsport will in fact be staging the only round in the United Kingdom, scheduled to take place between 27th and 29th May, opening the second half of the season.
The Donington Park complex is situated in the heart of East Midlands, within a natural amphitheatre which grants spectators excellent views of the exploits undertaken by the bikes. What better occasion than this to get in touch with nature, often facing the challenges set by the uncertain weather to discover the cities, the customs and habits of the area around Donington Park? The harsh hills that outline the profile of the county where Donington Park is situated, namely Derbyshire, are the ideal place to set off astride one's motorbike, perhaps following the tracks of the most popular hero in the United Kingdom, Robin Hood. Indeed, because his adventures were set in this area, in the legendary green oasis of Sherwood.
This part of the United Kingdom looks like it has just been taken out of a 19th Century novel: the stretches of greenery and forests settled along the slopes are dotted here and there with historic manors and picturesque villages, like the town that gave the county its name: Derby.
Nestled on the banks of the river Derwent, Derby is situated just a few kilometres from Donington circuit and it offers some particularities which make it especially enjoyable to visit by bike.
Simply take a few minutes with the engine switched off outside Derby Cathedral to listen, enthralled, to the vivid melodies originating from the row of bells, which are among the oldest and most famous in the world. The extroverted personality of the town can also be seen in its numerous "records", which the inhabitants brag about proudly: being the world capital of ale (high fermentation beer), being the city of festivals, owing to the dozens of music and art initiatives available throughout the year to accommodate the tastes of adults and children alike. Last but not least, Derby is also the birth town of Harry M. Stevens, the inventor of the famous hot dog!
After the festivals, next stop.... the caves. The second destination is the city of caves, i.e. Nottingham, the capital of the namesake county, famous for its deep and mysterious caverns carved out of sandstone and whose name is linked closely to the legend of Robin Hood.
One of the most interesting venues tied to the English hero is St. Mary’s Church, the oldest Mediaeval church in the area, which is mentioned first in the first ballads, those which describe how the champion of justice was captured and then escaped, a generous patriot who gave to the poor. The Castle too, of Anglo-Saxon foundation and rebuilt in the late 18th Century, was stage to Robin Hood's adventures: indeed, as legend would have it, it was the home of the legendary Sheriff of Nottingham, his arch enemy.
If you follow the river Derwent from Nottingham amid the many hills, you will reach Matlock Bath, the access gate to the Peak District National Park and also the meeting point for thousands of motorcyclists who pick this area to ride along the sheer cliff-tops and the narrow streets down in the valley. Over the years, Matlock has been transformed into a flashy location with a British soul that vaguely recalls a seaside resort, which just happens to have ended up at the foot of the most popular national park in Europe.
The Peak District National Park offers some of the most beautiful and breathtaking landscapes in the United Kingdom: riding in the midst of all this greenery offers motorcyclists the chance to discover ancient villages hidden in the countryside, dominated in the South by the deep chalky valleys of White Peak, which contrast in the North with the high sandstone heathland of Dark Peak.
The swollen hills are also home to Buxton, a small delightful town where the past seems to have come to a standstill: situated in the heart of the Peak District, Buxton is famous all over the world for its spring water and for its Regency-style buildings. Here's it's worth stopping off a while to admire peacefully the architectural and natural wonders of the local area, such as the Pavilion Gardens, with its domed pavilions that take the motorcyclist back in time to the early 20th Century.
You will be soothed by the roar of the engines as your climb the slopes to Stoke-on-Trent, a true gem with a Victorian soul, brimming with parks where past, present and future all focus on the art of ceramics. Stoke-on-Trent is in fact the world capital of this fine art: more than three centuries ago, the hand-crafted production of the first ceramic articles began here, and this was made possible thanks to the extensive availability of coal and clay. The dozens of factories which are still in business today export all over the world: there are numerous museums and foundations which have been established to guard the secrets of this manual art, and with a bit of luck, you might even get the opportunity to see a master potter at work.
If you drive by Stafford on the road back to Donington Park, you'll reach one of the most curious and particular memorable places in the United Kingdom, namely the National Memorial Arboretum: this compound of monuments is a living tribute to the sacrifice of comrades and volunteers who fell for their country, brought back to life in the more than 30,000 trees which have been planted across an extensive stretch of land, whose appearance has been plied and transformed over the course of the last twenty years.
The first race to be held in the Castle Donington area dates back to 1931, but it was only in 1933 that the project for the construction of a permanent race track took shape, thanks to the decisive contribution given by the then star of British motorcycling, Fred Craner. Used as a depot for military vehicles during WWII and then abandoned, it was purchased by a businessman from Derbyshire, Tom Wheatcroft and rebuilt in just six years. It is currently considered to be one of the most significant tracks in the country, together with the one in Silverstone.
After averting the danger of the facility being closed between 2009 and 2010 and following the extensive refurbishment work, the track has permanently rejoined the Superbike World Championship since 2011. That year, the winner of race-1 was the rider from Ravenna Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike Team) ahead of Jakub Smrz and Carlos Checa. Indeed, the latter won the second leg with more than three seconds' lead on Melandri and Leon Camier (Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team). In Supersports, the victory went to Luca Scassa (Yamaha ParkinGO Team) ahead of his team-mate Chaz Davies – who went on to become world champion at the end of the season – and of the Brit Gino Rea (Step Racing Team).