Before we quickly gloss over the inevitable mention of the weather, it would be unfair not to mention the current reason for the increase in popcorn sales in the Superbike paddock. Jakub Smrz put his Effenbert-sponsored Ducati on provisional pole while his sponsor's future is uncertain. After a rather odd press release that seems to have been written while angry at one of their bikes braking down on the warm up lap at Monza, the Czech brewer refused to bring their hospitality suite to Donington. The Liberty Racing teams look set to continue racing for the remainder of the year, and may even be a bit embarrassed by their heated press release, but time will tell if it will be under the same sponsor's banner. The bikes at Donington sported the Effenbert livery and the garage was still decked in their colours, but no word yet on brolly dollies or other promotional activities.
With John Hopkins unable to race because of a broken foot, Peter Hickman was drafted in at the last minute, still wearing his BSB Kawasaki leathers. He was one of three new riders this week, and the only one not on a Kawasaki. Loris Baz jumps up from the Superstock 1000 Kawasaki to replace Joan Lascorz for this race and the following round at Miller Motorsports in the US. Gary Mason, another BSB rider, has been called in to replace David Salom. With British Superbike riders unable to wildcard in World Superbikes, due to the different spec of machinery used in the national series, BSB fans will have to settle for these replacements on unfamiliar machinery. British Supersport fans, however, will be pleased to see Glen Richards in a provisional front row position in spite of the fact his garage is a stretch of tarmac in the pit lane, outside the Crescent FIXI Suzuki garage, guarded by an orange-clad marshal and nervous-looking mechanics.
Rain flags were waved at the beginning of the qualifying session, and I felt three drops of rain at Mcleans around that time, but the track wasn't compromised, even if a few riders did make a quick dash back to the pits, including Maxime Berger who entered pit lane from the exit. A few light crashes, apart from a bad one in National Superstock 1000, the cold was noticed, even if the rain stayed away. This was the only difference the weather made today and hopefully that will be the last mention of it.
With Smrz at the sharp end and Sam Lowes leading the Supersport, it may look like business as usual, but Donington can always surprise and, Lowes in Supersport aside, the times are tight.