Preview – Brands Hatch.

The scale and excitement of recent World Superbike events at Brands Hatch has propelled the entire weekend to the status of a must-see on the British sporting calendar.

Since the first Brands Hatch SBK races in the early nineties, the close proximity to the tens of millions ringing the London Metropolis and the superb natural viewing offered by the historic circuit have made Brands one of the most eagerly awaited audience participation events imaginable, with weekend crowds often over 120,000 and an atmosphere somewhere between a football game and an open air music festival.

However, cyclists of a different kind were first to compete at what is now one of the world's classic racing venues, when in 1926 a bunch of local cyclists used the natural bowl of grassland for their time trials.

In 1947 the first ever televised motorcycle racing – a grass track event – was transmitted from Brands, notching another topic to its long and glorious list of unique features. After constant updates and recent safety changes, Brands would be unrecognisable to the previous generations of racers, but the essential atmosphere and soul of remains firmly intact.

The previous WSBK event at Laguna Seca (middle pic) was hardly the most successful ever for the traditional class leading Ducati Fila team, but nonetheless the two-rider attack of Briton James Toseland and Frenchman Regis Laconi still heads off the increasingly close challenge of their nearest neighbours in the points table.

Some outstandingly aggressive and committed riding at Laguna from Toseland saw him re-take the championship lead from his team-mate, but their almost season-long lead was trimmed back once more, making Brands one of the most unpredictable weekends of the year. Toseland has a total of 201 points, Laconi 198.

One of the biggest threats to the factory Ducati riders looks like coming from Chris Vermeulen and the Ten Kate Honda team. The Australian's brand new CBR1000RR seems to have benefited from the blanket 1000cc rule and spec Pirelli tyres – propelling him to just 14 points off the lead.

The ever more impressive Vermeulen has also won the last three races in a row, and is now tipped to be in the championship fight all the way to the end at Magny Cours in October.

Meanwhile, Ducati 999RS customers have also found the Superbike playing field more level than ever this season, allowing the exciting Noriyuki Haga to run his Renegade Ducati at the front. Haga is well versed in racing at Brands but recent track revisions may make for a short period of acclimatisation for the mercurial Japanese rider.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Race action at Brands 2003.
Start, WSBK Race 1 Laguna Seca, 2004
Chambon leads into turn one at Brands.

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