Matteo Baiocco - Rapido Sport Racing

Matteo Baiocco – Rapido Sport Racing

Both the Ducati TriOptions 848 Challenge and the National Superstock 1000 Championship were on the bill for this weekend’s European round of the World Superbike Championship at Donington Park.

Matteo Baiocco, who rides an 1199 Panigale R for the team in the main British Superbike class, was standing in for Lee Johnston this weekend while he recovers from injuries sustained at the Thruxton round of the BSB. It was an impressive debut for Baiocco on the Superstock bike, and he got up to speed very quickly in Saturday’s qualifying session – his first in dry conditions. He ended the session only 0.9 seconds from pole position which put him in 12th on the grid. Further down the order, fellow Ducati rider Robbie Brown – who races under the DMC Racing banner – was struggling to find set-up, and put the bike 27th in qualifying on a capacity grid of no less than 40 bikes.

Robbie Brown - DMC Racing

Robbie Brown – DMC Racing

Race day conditions were perfect at the iconic Leicestershire circuit, and both riders got off the line very well. Baiocco moved forward to 11th by the end of lap one, while Brown jumped an impressive five places to 22nd. The 24 year old, who was 2012 champion in the Ducati 848 Challenge, battled for a top 20 finish for much of the race, and was 21st going into the final lap. Brown’s excellent race craft paid dividends in the dying moments, however, and he managed to jump two places to cross the line 19th.

Further ahead on the track Baiocco was improving with every lap on the bike, and found himself in a race-long battle that stretched from sixth all the way back to 10th position. As the race went on, he picked off the riders ahead of him one by one, and was up to seventh by the end of lap nine as he set an impressive personal best lap time, just 0.4 seconds off the overall best. While the riders around him faded, the Panigale R got stronger and stronger, and Matteo snatched sixth place on the final lap to take a best result of 2013 for the Rapido Sport Racing team.

After the race, Matteo Baiocco said, “I’m happy, especially because we’d had just one dry session on the bike yesterday. Starting from the fourth row was not easy, many of the riders were very aggressive in the first few laps and it was a short race. If we’d had a second race like we do in BSB then I’m sure we could have been fighting for the podium. I’m really happy for the team, the guys are great and everyone is working hard – I’m sure we’re going to keep getting better. Let’s hope we can finish as high at BSB later in the season – my lap times were getting better at the end of the race, so the signs are good.”

It was another superb weekend for Jonathan Railton in the Ducati TriOptions 848 Challenge. After taking a double victory on his class debut at Brands Hatch back in April, he once again threw down the gauntlet for the chasing pack, setting a time 1.6 seconds quicker than anyone in qualifying. The 22 year-old then made it four wins in as many races with two convincing victories at Donington Park in front of the packed World Superbike crowds.

Behind Railton, it looked like Mike Edwards, Marty Nutt and the returning Dennis Hobbs were the best of the rest, but a huge crash at Craner Curves for Edwards in qualifying damaged his bike extensively and he was unable to compete in either race. It was the first time the seasoned campaigner has crashed at Craner in over 30 years of competitive racing, but as 2003 World Superbike champion Neil Hodgson commented after the race, “There are two types of riders around Donington. Those who have crashed going down Craner, and those who will crash going down Craner!”

This was the first race weekend of the year for Dennis Hobbs as he returns from serious injuries sustained in 2012, and his pace right out of the box suggests that he will be one of the front-runners for the remainder of the season.

The National Superstock 1000 championship will resume at the next round of the British Superbikes at Knockhill, and for the first time Tristan Palmer will be riding the Panigale while Lee Johnston recovers from injury. The 848 Challenge riders have until the Snetterton BSB round to regroup before their battle recommences.

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