Having been used for motor racing of all forms since the end of World War Two, Silverstone will play host to the World Superbike Championship for the third time this weekend.

One of the best-attended and most eagerly anticipated events of the year, Silverstone is the first of two British rounds on the 2004 calendar. The Northamptonshire circuit offers a unique blend of fast and slow corners, but a high average speed shows that pace and power are two key features required for any aspirant race winner.

After the continual twists and turns of the previous Oschersleben SBK race, which delivered wins to Noriyuki Haga (Renegade Ducati) and Regis Laconi (Ducati Fila) the Silverstone event is one where slipstreaming and the prospect of multi-rider battles for the lead are a more than reasonable expectation.

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Last year (top pic) up to ten riders, both regulars and local wild-cards, were involved in the fight for the race lead at Silverstone, and while just two wild-cards - Craig Coxhell and James Ellison - will be joining the SBK regulars, similar scope exists for handlebar-to-handlebar combat.

With none of the current competitors having tasted Superbike victory champagne at the Northamptonshire venue before, the motivation to win is even stronger than usual. If the most recent trends come to the fore once again then the rider with the most wins this season, Laconi, will be in with the best chance of victory.

His team-mate in the Ducati Fila line up, James Toseland, nonetheless leads the world championship fight, by only a couple of points from Laconi. Toseland is the best chance of success for the local British crowd, and as such will be cheered all the way by his compatriots.

However, the PSG-1 998RS of Pierfrancesco Chili, fitted with a 999-spec engine, has also been a regular sight in the upper reaches of the grid and points table this season. Despite some notable DNFs, including one at Oschersleben, the 39-year-old is still in a firm third in the overall standings, and is expected to bring his usual mix of fan-support and fierce speed to the fray.

Meanwhile, it was success in the British Championships that stimulated the global ambitions of the Renegade Ducati Team, who now return to their point of origin with one local and one overseas rider in their line-up, riding Ducati 999RS twins.

British fans will need no re-introduction to Noriyuki Haga, as the Japanese rider has been a frequent visitor to their shores in SBK guise, and has won two races this season so far. His team-mate is no less well known, Leon Haslam not just being a fierce and rapidly developing Superbike talent in his own right but the son of local hero Ron Haslam.

Another contender is likely to be top four-cylinder competitor Chris Vermeulen. His mount, the mighty Honda CBR1000RR, has already secured podium finishes for the Australian and at a horsepower circuit like Silverstone, he will also be in good shape for a good weekend in front of his adopted British crowd.

The ever-more competitive Bertocchi Kawasaki team, plus the challenges of the MIR Suzuki and UnionBike Yamaha teams provide more flavour for the SBK mix, with the high-speed nature of Silverstone a benefit to all riders of multi-cylinder machines.

SBK stars don't come much bigger than those in the Malaysian backed, British based, Foggy Petronas Team, with factory pilots Troy Corser and Chris Walker each expected to receive significant support from the British Legions on raceday.

Corser, the 1996 World Champion, has taken a second place race finish this year; four-time British Championship runner-up Walker has also scored a podium finish of third at Valencia.

Walker, arguably the most popular British Superbike rider to enter SBK since team owner Carl Fogarty hung up his leathers in 2000, may not be able to count on any horsepower advantage over his opposition, but with the crowd behind him he will carry an extra impetus of a different kind.

Garry McCoy (Xerox Ducati Nortel Networks 999RS) is another privately entered rider to have scored a win this season, joining Laconi, Toseland, Haga and Chili in that plateau of success. Having a rollercoaster year so far McCoy will be looking for some consistently fast laps to improve his championship position into the top three.

The DFX Ducati Sterilgarda machine of Steve Martin has allowed the Aussie privateer to show his real prowess this year. Teamed up with Marco Borciani, Martin has endured some misfortune in race situations thus far, despite enjoying some podium success.

Meanwhile, after much discussion and consultation of the rules and regulations the World Supersport competitors will all be hoping for a less dramatic conclusion to the end of raceday at Silverstone.

Long time championship leader Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Yamaha Italia) leads the title charge but an entire phalanx of fast riders are capable of winning races. Karl Muggeridge (Ten Kate Honda) is one of the those riders hoping to be reinstated to the Oschersleben results after an exclusion, as is his team-mate Broc Parkes and Klaffi Honda rider Sebastien Charpentier.

For Suzuki, the impressive Alstare Suzuki team includes the 1999 World Champion Stephane Chambon, plus Japanese ace Katsuaki Fujiwara. Ducati's official team is represented by Lorenzo Lanzi, on the Breil 749R.