North West champ Donald won’t duck
With his sallow complexion and lack of an obvious suntan, Cameron Donald is not like your average Australian. In fact he looks more like someone from Magherafelt rather than Melbourne.
But don't be fooled for Donald is very much the typical attacking Aussie who doesn't like giving away the game. He will be one of the favourites for the Superbike and Supersport classes at the North West 200 like last time which almost saw him to the top of the podium.
The final chicane at Juniper Hill was his undoing and as a result he had zero rather than a hero at the end of the meeting.
Twelve months ago Cameron lost out in the Superstock race when both he and his team mate Bruce Anstey tripped over each other allowing Alastair Seeley to steal in and lift the top prize.
Then in the main race of the day Steve Platter squeezed through a gap to again leave Donald stranded. "I may have been a bit too cautious in the final Superbike race and I was recalling that monumental crash at Juniper Hill in 2007 which ended my North West 200 and TT," said Donald.
"In saying that, Platter and Michael Rutter ran me straight onto the grass on the last lap and I think I was lucky to stay on. I ran into Rutter just to stay upright!"
Donald has been working on that stretch of road at Juniper and studying the circuit. "Maybe I will not get mugged this time," he said.
The 30 year old Aussie, who is an extreme sports fan, would be forgiven for loathing that particular stretch of tarmac which also ended his 2007 North West effort prematurely.
Donald's relationship with the North West has been turbulent. He started solidly enough when he made his debit on a Superbike in 2005. But Donald was about to experience the making or breaking of his bones with the circuit.
"I made a rookie mistake with the wrong tyre choice in 2006 on the Tuesday night practice and fell off the 600 at Church Corner. As you know I fractured both my heels but unknown to the team the bike had developed an oil leak and I went down again at the Corona Chicane on the Thursday night."
This double disaster didn't dampen his enthusiasm and with two 4th places in the Superbike events in 2006 Donald began to move to a place where the air is rarefied.
"We expected a lot in 2007 and after problems qualifying I had to start the Superbike races from the back of the grid," said Donald. "In hindsight I should have realised I had no chance of winning but I was keen to do well. I think I got up as high as 5th before tripping the kerb at Juniper Hill."
Donald received a compound fracture of his collarbone as well as a couple of broken ribs but he learned a valuable lesson "if you don't make mistakes you don't learn," he said.
Now with the appropriately named Relentless Suzuki Team, Donald has a great chance of being on the podium this time in the spot everyone looks for — right at the very top.
Last year he just missed out when he was 2nd in the final Superbike race to Steve Platter and before then he had to settle for a 3rd place in the Superstock behind Seeley.
"I want to end up as I did at the TT" he said. "I want to be top of the heap and I feel I can do this."
Donald has come a long way in Ulster and Irish racing since those days when he was at the tail end of the field. There were many at that time who said he was a rider of the future.
He’s certain to be the first Australian to win a major prize here.