The news that Noriyuki Haga will not be attending this weekend's season finale at Brands Hatch has come as a blow to organisers and fans alike but fear not for there are plenty of other reasons to visit Kent this weekend.

Continuous rain may have large areas of South East England looking like one big paddling pool but there will be nowhere hotter than Brands Hatch on Sunday afternoon as the World Superbike season draws to a close.

Only on Thursday was Noriyuki Haga and his Yamaha team informed that their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against Haga's 45 point deduction and three week ban had been rejected and thus the Japanese rider will not be present this weekend.

Related Articles

Haga's absence means that Colin Edwards can finally celebrate his first World title as no other rider can catch him in the last two races of the season. However it is unlikely that Edwards will be allowed to let his hair down, as there are still many other contenders for victory this weekend.

With the riders Championship sorted out, the main burning issue is the destination of the Manufacturers title, currently led by Ducati although Honda can still snatch victory away from the Italian firm to give the Castrol sponsored team a clean sweep in 2000.

Edwards and Aaron Slight, who was informed this week that he will not be riding the VTR-1000 next year, need to score well in both races as Ducati have a 23 point lead at the top of the standings with only 50 points left to be won. Their task will be made even tougher with the arrival of Neil Hodgson on the INS Ducati and the English rider will add another weapon to Ducati's already numerically superior arsenal.

Newly crowned British Superbike Champion Hodgson and his INS GSE team will want to fire a final warning shot to the WSBK regulars before embarking on a full WSBK campaign next year. Hodgson has already won two races this year including a memorable triumph at Brands Hatch back in August where he totally decimated the field on his way to a convincing win.

Hodgson is not the only wildcard who poses a threat this weekend and Chris Walker, the man who lost the BSB Championship with less than four laps to go in the season finals at Donington Park last weekend, will be desperate to make up for his disappointment with a strong performance.

Walker and his National Tyres Suzuki team are another combination who are hoping to step up to the World stage next year and Chris has been a match for Hodgson throughout this season. The two English riders have been largely responsible for the growth of the BSB this year and, along with the two Red Bull Ducati's of James Haydon and John Reynolds, there are four potential British victors this weekend.

The fifth wildcard is one Anthony Gobert who has been deputising for the injured Steve Hislop on the Virgin Mobile Yamaha ever since the former's horrific crash at Paddock Hill Bend at the start of the first WSBK race in August. Gobert initially struggled with the bike but a superb wet weather performance in the wet around the Brands Hatch Indy circuit last month has marked him out as a definite contender.

The competitiveness of the wildcards add to the pressure that the series regulars must overcome as they strive to make as much ground as possible in the Championship and the man most concerned with their threat is Aprilia's Troy Corser.

Corser spoke out after Hodgson's wins at Donington Park in May and Brands Hatch in August and called for wildcards to be banned from this weekend's event as they posed too much of a distraction to the Championship contenders. With the Championship now out of reach, Corser can take second overall from the absent Haga although the Australian will have to improve on his August showing, which yielded just one sixth place.

The battle for fourth overall will also be decided this weekend with Pier Francesco Chili, Akira Yanagawa and Troy Bayliss separated by just eleven points and all three have the potential to win either race. Chili's injured shoulder is still a factor although it is much healed after a month break and the Suzuki was very competitive at the Kent track earlier this year.

Yanagawa put his name on Colin Edwards' Christmas Card list when he took fourth position from Haga in race two at Oschersleben, thus handing the American the title on a provisional basis. Yanagawa and the Kawasaki team are coming good at the end of the year and the Japanese rider could very well score his first win of the year on Sunday.

Just being in the fight for fourth overall is a Championship victory for Troy Bayliss, who has only entered nine of the twelve rounds so far. The Australian Ducati rider has been the revelation of the season and his past exploits in the British Superbike Championship has endeare3d him greatly to the British fans. A win in race one at Brands in August displayed his talent for all to see and with the ever-competitive Ducati 996 underneath him, he cannot be counted out.

Others who could threaten include Ben Bostrom, Gregorio Lavilla and Juan Borja. Bostrom struggled on his first visit to the Kent track back in August but the Californian learns quickly and the NCR Ducati will be nearer the front this weekend. Lavilla has done his future WSBK aspirations no harm at all with a number of strong performances since his return from injury while Borja is one of the fastest riders in the field when he is not busy falling off.

Once again the field is spread wide open and any one of at least ten riders are capable of victory as the World Superbike season signs off after another memorable year.