In the first wet race of the year, it was 14-year-old Juan Antonio Conesa Benito of Spain who came out on top, while British rider Fenton Harrison Seabright delighted his home fans, taking victory in Race 2 from pole position.
For many of the youngsters, Thursday’s track walk was their first-ever lap of the legendary British venue, with Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK rider Andrea Locatelli and his crew chief, two-time WorldSSP champion Andrew Pitt, stopping to speak to the bLU cRU riders, who were being guided around the 4.020 km circuit by official bLU cRU coach Lorenzo Alfonsi.
Also inside the paddock over the weekend was former MotoGP rider and creator of the American Racing Academy, John Hopkins, who was on hand to coach rising US star Kayla Yaakov.
On Friday morning, the riders, all aged 12-20, took their Yamaha R3 bikes onto the track for the Free Practice session. Grip levels were low but the 25 riders gained valuable experience, with Seabright going quickest of all, ahead of Slovakia’s Maxim Repák and Italy’s Giacomo Mora. Brazil’s Eduardo Agoston Burr and Spain’s Julian Giral ensured five nationalities were represented in the top five positions.
In the Superpole, a closely fought battle for pole position ensued, with Spain’s Iker Garcia Abella, winner of the opening Yamaha R3 bLU cRU European Cup race at Misano, Repák – also a winner last time out - and Seabright all trading fastest laps. In the end though, it was 19-year-old Seabright who came out on top, beating Repák’s time by 0.227s, with 16-year-old Brazilian, Humberto "Torquinio" Maier, third fastest, ahead of Conesa Benito and Spain’s Julian Giral, while Mora joined the two Spaniards on the second row.
Rain soaked the track for the first race of the weekend, with the conditions enough to catch out even the best riders in the paddock. On the sighting lap, championship leader Repák fell and was unable to take the start, giving the opportunity for other riders to close the points gap he had built at Misano.
Seabright led into Turn 1, but lost it on the exit and fell out of the running. That left Maier to take the lead, with the 16-year-old building a large advantage over the rest of the field. However, with two laps to go, Maier also fell out of the race and Conesa Bentio assumed the lead, taking victory to become the third different winner. Spain’s Iker Garcia Abella came out on top of the battle for second, ahead of Italy’s Edoardo Colombi.
“Very happy with the race, to get the win at this circuit is very special,” Conesa Benito said. “The rain made it difficult, I got overtaken by riders at the start but I was able to make some passes and keep a good pace. With two laps to go I started to catch the leader and I saw he crashed, which allowed me to take the lead and the victory. It was a great race, I was very happy with this.”
Race 2 was run under more manageable dry conditions, with seven riders battling for the lead in the opening stages. Repák’s bad luck continued when he fell out while challenging at the front, seeing him leave Donington with no points, while Conesa Benito, Greece’s Ioannis Peristeras, Giral, and Seabright all took it in turns at the helm of the field. In the end, it was Essex-based Seabright who took victory after a last corner overtake, with Giral second and Garcia Abella scoring another podium in third.
“It felt amazing to win to be honest, Race 1 was a bit of a silly mistake on my own, so a good way to recover from that,” Seabright said. “We reset the mind to concentrate on Race 2, I knew I just had to stay in the top three, which I managed to do. In this championship, it’s all about being in the right place on the last lap and I set it up perfectly. I know the last corner was a bit tight, but you got to do what you got to do, and I’m so happy to get my first win. I’m sure my mum will be proud of me for this one.”
Those results mean Garcia Abella now leads the riders’ championship after the British round, ahead of Seabright and Conesa Benito, with the series set to resume at the TT Circuit Assen on 23-24 July.
“It was a very difficult day, there was a lot of rain in the first race,” Garcia Abella said. “I just focused on scoring as many points for the championship and was pleased with the performance. In the dry second race, there was a lot of riders in the front group and it was quite difficult to make an overtake because off-line was very slippery. I’m very happy with this round and I hope that in Assen I can achieve another two podiums.”