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Preview – Brands Hatch.

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.



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Race start of Brands Hatch 2002.

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