24 May 2004
Preview – Oschersleben.
The fifth round of the World Superbike championship gets underway on 28 May at the multipurpose motorsports park of Oschersleben, situated some 35km west of Magdeburg.
Nestling within the heartland of German motorcycle sport, Oschersleben was in the vanguard of the 1990s revolution in circuit design, it's magnificently appointed facilities deliberately created in a stadium-style layout.
Thanks to the raised spectator grandstands Oschersleben affords excellent viewing facilities for the enthusiastic German crowd, a fact which makes Oschersleben one of the more popular European based races for foreign visitors from East and West of the German border.
After the incredibly high speeds of Monza, where some teams' speed sensors clocked into the 200mph plus band - and 300kmph top speeds were commonplace - Oschersleben could not be a more different challenge.
With seven left and seven right hand corners in a short 3.667km lap distance, the riders have no chance for respite from their rhythmic trinity of braking, cornering and accelerating. The corners at Oschersleben are also peculiar in that many feature tightening exits, a factor which challenges each rider's self discipline to not run in towards the apex too fast.
As technical as they come, Oschersleben is a tough stop for the World Superbike Express, and one that particularly rewards a good grasp of machine set-up and tyre choice.
Of the competing powers at Oschersleben in 2004, only one has taken a win on a previous visit, James Toseland, who secured a race two victory last year when riding for the privateer HM Plant Ducati team. As a full member of the official factory Ducati Fila squad this year, Toseland currently lies second in the championship, only three points from the lead.
However, having taken the lead in the championship for the first time at the preceding Monza event, four-time 2004 race winner Regis Laconi enters the Oschersleben race in a better position than he could ever have expected after two no-scores in round one at Valencia.
A further DNF would follow at Phillip Island, but Laconi now leads team-mate James Toseland by a mere three points. Given Toseland's pedigree at Oschersleben, and that Laconi has never previously finished on the Oschers podium, a close fight between the Fila pair is expected.
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