The only experience many of the World Superbike riders will have of the 2.95 mile Valencia track will be the three day test in March in which Honda's Colin Edwards emerged fastest.
Edwards will be hoping that the test positions will be replicated after the American endured a nightmarish weekend at Misano in the previous round. Edwards' points lead has been trimmed to 38 points and his hopes of securing the £200,000 bonus awarded to any rider to be on pole foe six consecutive events has disappeared.
The man who single-handedly ruined Edwards weekend was Troy Corser. The Aprilia rider was sensational in Superpole and completely dominated both Misano races. He is now Edwards' closest threat in the championship and the Valencia track should suit the agile Aprilia. Corser was only seventh in the Valencia tests but the Italian squad have done much extensive development work and the bike now has the reliability to sustain the Australian's championship challenge.
Ducati will be relishing the trip to Spain after Juan Borja clocked the third fastest time in March, behind only Edwards and Carl Fogarty. The Spaniard will be infront of his passionate home fans and has previous Grand Prix experience of the track.
Fourth in the test day was Ben Bostrom who has had a major upturn in form since he swapped with Borja in the NCR Ducati team. The American rider was inspired at Misano, finally showing some of the limitless talent that won him the 1999 AMA Superbike Championship.
There may well be four Ducati 996's battling for glory this weekend for apart from Troy Bayliss who seems to be able to learn any track within the first hour of practice, Haruchika Aoki could also feature quite strongly. The Japanese rider raced GP's here last year and was mixing it with the works boys during the test in March. Aoki's R&D Bieffe team looked impressive at Misano after missing Hockenheim and Aoki recorded two points scoring finishes. Aoki needs a good result as thus far he has been over-shadowed by the three B's.
One has to feel sorry for Frankie Chili. Just as soon as he is handed a good shot at the title, he fractures his collarbone in an accident that wasn't his fault. Chili has vowed to race in Valencia but he will have to put in a gladiatorial performance if he is to score well.
Chili's injury could mean that Suzuki honours may be left to Katsuaki Fujiwara to uphold. Fujiwara's performance at Misano was nothing short of miraculous, showing more fight and determination than he has shown in the last 18 months. Finally the Japanese rider has been allowed to access his team-mates set-up data which allowed him to feel more comfortable on the bike. The results were there for all to see.
Kawasaki didn't show anything like race-winning form back in March and Akira Yanagawa could only manage 10th fastest time, but then again the team were hopelessly off the pace at Misano until Sunday afternoon. Once again Yanagawa is joined in the factory squad by Peter Goddard as Gregorio Lavilla is still sidelined with his broken pelvis. Kawaqsaki seem to be able to get their tyres to last that little bit better than everyone else and if the conditions are right then Akira could be a dark horse for victory.
The circuit itself is a typically modern design, ie : flat and featureless, and doesn't offer many spectacular turns. What it does have is a highly technical layout that requires the right balance and stability to if you wish to succeed