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GP Week : Issue 16
NOTORIOUSLY slippery and cursed with reliably unpredictable weather, Donington Park claimed many victims on a sodden second day of practice and qualifying – and punished its local hero James Toseland (from nearby Nottingham) as badly as anybody. British hopes were high for the nation’s first rider in the MotoGP class for some years, and the double World Superbike Champion was in similar mood, at the first track of the season that he knows intimately. Instead, struggling to improve a dismal 16th qualifying position at the end of the hour-long session, Toseland fell twice within the course of a single lap. Both were painful high-side crashes, and he was lucky to be able to limp away – especially since he had banged his knee in the morning also. Toseland was confidently aiming at a top six when it all went wrong. “Everything was going in the right direction, but unfortunately I tried a few things that didn't work. We were running out of time and under pressure to get a lap in right at the end. I got on the throttle too early out of the last corner and high- sided. I got back on but it had damaged the rear brake. I was going through Schwantz Curve and I think it engaged the brake and decided to chuck me off again. I think somebody was telling me they didn’t want me to do the lap,” he said. The rain saw a positive crash- fest in the 125 morning session, with 23 crashes in 45 minutes. Only one rider was injured: Pol Espargaro suffered a broken collarbone. A 250-class crash was in turn terrifying and entertaining. Alex Debon fell at the notorious Craner Curves, but his bike stayed wheels down and carried on. It ran straight back across the track, almost hitting another rider, then tootled off across the gravel before the back wheel slid out gently and it laid down almost unharmed before hitting the barrier. The slippery surface has long been a puzzle at the track, adjacent to East Midlands Airport, and deposits from jet fuel have been blamed in the past. The new circuit owners vigorously denied this, after commissioning an investigation following discussions with the FIM earlier in the year. Specialist firm Ringway had ruled out fuel deposits, rather blaming increased stress on the surface in braking areas. Parts of the track had been treated with a high-pressure cleaning system Trackjet, and riders reported these sections were better. “Some sections are still very very slippery,” said Stoner after practice, while Rossi agreed. “We asked at the Safety Commission for the whole track to be treated for next year,” he said. Mixed weather provides Donington Crashfest M oto GP news >> 13