Entitled the European Round, Brands Hatch could be well be renamed the World Round, such is the scale and importance of the second British based race of the season.

Brands has hosted the biggest World Superbike races ever - and with well over 100,000 spectators cramming into the event on race day each year it boasts a bigger British crowd than even F1 (Silverstone), MotoGP (Donington) or Champ Cars (Brands Hatch).

Brands, first used as a cycle track around the base of the natural amphitheatre which forms the basis for the short 'Indy Circuit', has grown in stature to become one of the classic venues of all time.

The modern breed of riders share the enthusiasm for the Brands layout that their predecessors did, but this season there is another twist in the tale. The Dingle Dell Section, out in the woodland area of he track, has been remodelled to make the approach safer, and the modifciations have met with the approval of all those who have raced in the British Superbike Championship round, held at the end of June.

The attractions of Brands for the British race fans this season are many and various, with the biggest draw arguably the 2000 British Superbike Champion, Neil Hodgson. Now riding for the factory Duycati outfit, Hodgson is leading the championship by a mammoth 122 points and this weekend is sure to see a celebration of British success by his legions of loyal fans.

However, his rivals, especially team-mate Ruben Xaus, can take heart from their own recent upward swings in form. Fellow Brit James Toseland may have been the first to stop Hodgson's winning streak (at Oschersleben) but Xaus has taken his place at the top of the podium three times so far - and it is this trio which the current table, with the points battle between Xaus in second and Toseland in third a new and welcome dynamic.

The only rider other than the top three to win this year is class veteran, and fans' favourite, Pierfrancesco Chili. His win last time out at Laguna has been the highlight of an up and down season for the 39-year-old, one of the most popular ever to stand on top of an SBK podium.

Chili's privateer success is a fillip for French NCR Ducati rider Regis Laconi, who has come close to a win on a few occasions in 2003, but has to go back to his factory Aprilia career in 2001 to remember his one and only SBK success.

With four-cylinder machines of 1000cc allowed into the championship this season, Gregorio Lavilla has been a constant force for the Alstare Suzuki team, taking his GSX-R1000 to five podium finishes.

A win has been just out of reach but Lavilla will be buoyed by the fact that John Reynolds (a former WSBK race winner at Brands Hatch and wild-card this year) has already scored a race win on the full Brands circuit, during the British Superbike round in June.

Meanwhile, the local Brands Hatch crowd doubtless be bellowing support for Toseland's HM Plant team-mate Chris Walker, another rider who has scored podiums but not quite a race win yet.

At Brands, the scene of many heroics for the popular rider in his previous British Superbike career, Walker will be a threat, especially after leaving what could have been difficult Laguna Seca meeting with a third place to his credit.

In overall sixth at present, Walker heads up Chili and top Pirelli-supported entrant Steve Martin. Martin is finding himself under increasing pressure from his DFX Ducati team-mate Marco Borciani, while another top Ducati privateer, Lucio Pedercini rounds out the top ten after eight meetings of the 12-round/24 race series.

Possibly the most interesting technical entry is that of the Foggy Petronas FP-1 three-cylinder. A 900c machine by regulation, the high tech triple has had good and bad results since joining the series at Valencia in round one, with a front row qualifying for 1996 Champion Troy Corser being the biggest highlight.

Still developing apace, the FP-1 is moving in the correct direction, but for Corser and second rider James Haydon, the pace of progress has not allowed them to challenge for podiums.

For team owner Carl Fogarty, a legend amongst the Brands fans, this weekend will be the most important of the year and he's eager to please.

Meanwhile, wild-card riders, always an additional factor at the British rounds, will once again pack the Brands grid, and if their impact at Silverstone in May is anything to go by, there will be several candidates for podium success or better come Sunday afternoon.

Michael Rutter (Renegade Ducati), Leon Haslam (Renegade Ducati), John Reynolds (Rizla Suzuki), Yukio Kagayama (Rizla Suzuki), Shane Byrne (Monstermob Ducati) and Dean Ellison (Firepower Ducati) make an impressive list, with domintaing BSB points leader Byrne eager to impress potential future employers.

In the World Supersport Championship all the riders will be returning to the fray after a long summer lay off (the Supersport series skipped the Laguna event) and thus the series enters round eight of its 11 round duration at Brands this weekend.

Ten Kate's Chris Vermeulen has been in sparkling form for most of the year, scoring four wins, but ending his most recent race at Misano with a fall. Still suffering from a dislocated right thumb, Vermeulen is the clear championship leader.

The Supersport series features a particular abundance of talent and fast machinery this season, and the top three positions in the championship are filled by machines from three different manufacturers: Alstare Suzuki's Katsuaki Fujiwara lies second, wth former GP ace Jurgen van den Goorbergh third pn a Belgarda Yamaha.

However, a host of possible race winners make up the bulk of a field with no fewer than 19 full works machines at Brands, plus two wild-cards - Jamie Robinson and rising star Tom Sykes.

As well as Vermeulen, Fujiwara, Christian Kellner and current number one plate holder Fabien Foret have also scored race wins in 2003, the lastof them a somewhat unlikely success by Foret at Misano, on the new Kawasaki, which is yet to reach full engine development.