As the weather threatened to make things the wrong kind of interesting, the riders lined up for 23 laps around the historic British circuit.
Qualifying for the races at Donington Park had a favourite turn up with cracked ribs, a team rivalry coming to boil, a handful of fast wild cards on 600s and the home race for almost every man who has stood on the Superbike podium this year. The short track, a fast and sweeping vintage racetrack leading to a chicane followed by a brace of hairpins, was the site of the first ever World Superbike and, after missing a few years due to a failed improvement, it is once more the regular UK round.
Press releases from the teams and series organizers after qualifying at Donington Park:
Superpole One opened early in a typical English holiday weekend; overcast, cold and a little bit breezy.
Just as the untimed session looked like it was going to be a Kawasaki affair, Leon Haslam posted the fastest lap of the weekend after the flag came out. Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea held off Davide Giugliano and Alex Lowes, with Chaz Davies behind, all within half a second of Haslam's time.
Press releases from the series organizers and World Superbike and World Supersport teams after the first day of practice at Donington Park:
Free Practice 3 once again took place on the Friday and Tom Sykes was quickest in the last timed session before Superpole, with the top thirteen all within a second of his time. The ten quickest all qualify for Superpole Two, while Imre Toth and Gabor Rizmayer miss out on Superpole one as Santiago Barragan's FP2 time was quick enough to get him past the Toth bikes.
Qualifying this close on a track this quick should ensure an entertaining Superpole.
Once again, the top four were separated by a small amount, two tenths of a second in this case, only it was Tom Sykes that headed Davide Giugliano, Jonathan Rea and a surprisingly quick Ayrton Badovini. Chaz Davies and Leon Camier rounded out the fastest six, all under three tenths off Sykes's best time.
The session had an early red flag for Niccolo Canepa's Kawasaki dumping oil on the track, but the marshals dealt with it quickly and the session was restarted with very little delay. Leon Camier was quickest with a 1'29.314, with Tom Sykes, Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies all within sixty-three thousandths of a second of his time.
Press release previews from the WSBK teams and series organizers ahead of this weekend's World Superbike round at Donington Park:
It is ironic that now we are getting into the meat of the motorcycle racing season, there should be so little news to speak of. But perhaps it is a matter of perspective: there is plenty of real news to be found in motorcycle racing, but it is to be found and read where you would expect to find it, in the middle of every race weekend. That is especially true now that MotoGP and World Superbikes have returned to a more fan-friendly schedule, the two world championships alternating weekends again, with BSB, the CEV and MotoAmerica filling in any gaps when they appear.
Then again, at this stage of the season, all of the focus is on the coming races, rather than next year. It is too early for silly season, especially as all the factory rides are locked up for 2016, and even Jorge Lorenzo's option to leave early removed. There are plenty of attractive seats to be filled for 2016: the contracts of both Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders are up at the end of the year, Cal Crutchlow is on a one-year contract, Yonny Hernandez has a one-year deal at Pramac, and the seats at Forward and Aspar are all being filled by riders with one-year contracts. Speculation about those seats will only start in earnest around mid-season, once team managers have half a season's worth of results to start drawing conclusions, and see who might be available to make the move up from Moto2.
Press releases from the series organizer and the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after Sunday's races at Imola:
World Superbike race two would start with only twenty riders, Canepa not qualifying and Salom out with an injured wrist and elbow from his crash in race one. It would finish with far fewer.
An early 22ºC morning in Imola, with a 32ºC track and 21 bikes on the grid.