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.
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.