After three seasons of competition on the full length Grand Prix circuit of Silverstone the Corona Extra World Superbike Championship will be held on the 3.561km International circuit this coming weekend, to allow great spectator enjoyment by increasing the number of laps of each feature race to 28.
The new layout changes the nature of the circuit substantially, with the previous fast sections replaced by the more technical elements, with great emphasis on cornering ability.
Only America has a greater record of producing World Superbike Championship winning riders than the UK, with three riders in total - Carl Fogarty, Neil Hodgson and James Toseland - having secured the coveted crown for Britain. This success has made Britain a nation of stalwart SBK supporters, with extensive crowds attending not just the Silverstone but also the Brands Hatch meetings that take place each year. Fogarty is rightly a legend in the sport, having won a record four titles and 59 race wins. Following on from his success Neil Hodgson, in 2003, and James Toseland, in 2004, earned their championship honours.
With a 2005 record of six race wins and two third places from eight race starts 1996 World Champion Tory Corser has made an almost immaculate early push in the championship this season. Also armed with the new-for-2005 GSX-R1000K5 his Alstare Suzuki team-mate Yukio Kagayama has been his closest rival, scoring a race win in the second leg at Qatar, but nonetheless is now some 52 points adrift of Corser. As a former British Superbike competitor, Kagayama has experience of the current Silverstone layout, which may give him an early advantage over at least some of his opposition.
After some difficult early moments in the season Winston Ten Kate Honda rider Chris Vermeulen overcame a first leg retirement to win the second race of the day at the recent Monza round, taking his four-cylinder machine to its first win of the year. The only non-Suzuki rider to have taken a win thus far, Vermeulen is another rider with previous British Championship experience of the shorter Silverstone layout. The second Aussie in the Ten Kate team, Karl Muggeridge, also largely broke his run of bad luck at Monza, almost scooping a podium after being fastest in regulation qualifying, held prior to Superpole.
After some dreadful misfortunes at the start of the season, the number one plate holder, James Toseland, approaches the first of two home rounds this season very much on the up. His third and fifth place race finishes at Monza were a return to the form which made him champion in 2004. His Xerox Ducati team-mate, this year as last, is Regis Laconi who has had his share of bad luck as well, missing both Valencia races through injury. He has now secured a respectable three podiums - in a year when the twin cylinder Ducatis have found the four-cylinder Japanese machines a tougher proposition than last year. Lorenzo Lanzi, back from injury, and Fonsi Nieto will also be fighting it out at Silverstone aboard their SC Caracchi Ducati's.
PSG-1 Kawasaki's Chris Walker is one of the most popular British riders ever to leave his home shores in search of global glory in World Superbike. The Nottinghamshire rider has already earned a podium this season, no mean feat given the prowess of the Suzukis so far, and in Mauro Sanchini Chris has an experienced team-mate to help with the sometimes fickle job of setting-up the big Kawasaki four. Other classy 2005 Kawasaki entries come from Giovanni Bussei and Ivan Clementi, in the Bertocchi squad.
Yamaha Italia's Andrew Pitt finds himself top Yamaha rider on show this year so far, sitting fifth overall after a tumultuous start to the season, with many of his front-running rides fading as the end of the races approach. He is by no means alone in being equipped with a Yamaha this season, with the R1 also proving to be the most popular machine in the privateer ranks. Crowd favourite Noriyuki Haga on the second Yamaha Italia machine finds himself behind Yamaha France's multiple GP winner Norick Abe in the points standings at present, but will be out to redress that balance this weekend.
After some encouraging qualifying sessions and Superpole performances the Foggy Petronas FP-1 riders, Steve Martin and Garry McCoy, have had dreadful luck in races, with crashes and technical problems ruling them out on numerous occasions. Martin is the only Petronas point scorer at present, but racing close to the team's Burton-on-Trent race headquarters, the team will be hoping for a turnaround at Silverstone.