The British Grand Prix gets underway at Donington Park tomorrow but whatever happens in the ninth round of the MotoGP world championship the first winners of the weekend's action are Riders for Health, who celebrated a host of successful money-raising activities on the traditional Day of Champions on Thursday.

The MotoGP charity, who strive to provide transport network solutions for medical relief in third world Africa, benefited from a special dinner in London last night, attended by HRH Princess Anne The Princess Royal (lower pic) and a host of representatives from the Grand Prix paddock, which raised ?25,000.

The gates of the paddock itself opened today for Day of Champions, with thousands of fans flooding in to meet their MotoGP idols and take part in a variety of activities and auctions.

A handful of visitors even got the chance to live out their Grand Prix dream, completing several laps of the Donington Park circuit on board the two-seat Ducati Desmosedici ridden by Randy Mamola, whilst others took part in a quiz, scooter races and circuit ride-in, as well as being entertained by a classic bike show, stunt riders and a world record attempt for the fastest top speed on a mini-bike.

Whilst the auction was set to continue long into the evening and exact proceeds will not be known until the morning, charity organisers are expecting a total of over ?100,000 to be handed over for unique signed memorabilia from all of the MotoGP riders, who were on hand to make personal presentations to the successful bidders.

After dealing with the photograph and autograph requests of the thousands fans mulling around the paddock, the riders were able to take refuge in their motorhomes as they planned another important weekend of action on the track.

For MotoGP world championship leader Valentino Rossi, who brought Leicester Square in London to a standstill on Wednesday when over 3,000 people turned out to welcome him to the capital, the Donington Park circuit has traditionally been a happy hunting ground, with victories in the 125cc, 250cc and MotoGP categories including his maiden premier-class win in 2000.

However, his relationship with the historic track was tainted last year (middle pic) when he was penalised ten seconds for overtaking under a yellow flag, a penalty that effectively relegated him to third place.

Victory was handed to Max Biaggi, who now trails Rossi in the championship by just one point after his first win of the season at Sachsenring last week, and Rossi admitted he would like nothing better reaffirm his leadership at a race the Italian sees as his second 'home' Grand Prix of the year.

"I have had some problems over the last couple of races and I would like to put things right here," said Rossi. "I have a house in London and the reception from the fans there yesterday was fantastic.

"I know I have a big following here so it will be nice to put on a good show like last year, but this time with the maximum points," he added. "It will be important because the championship is close - it could even go down to the last race in Valencia."

Biaggi also has a score to settle, having revealed today that Rossi has not yet handed over his winner's trophy from last year.

"He still hasn't swapped it yet," explained Biaggi. "This time I want the trophy for first place. Things have gone well for me in recent weeks and it would be good to go for a holiday after this with a good result. I hear they have resurfaced the track so we will have to see what the grip is like tomorrow morning and take it from there."

One rider who wasn't available to meet the crowds today was Kenny Roberts, whose car broke down on the motorway travelling to the circuit. The former World Champion will be expecting more reliability from his Suzuki this weekend after consecutive front row starts and top ten finishes from the last two races.

Randy De Puniet denied claims that 125cc World Champion Dani Pedrosa's increasing points cushion at the top of the 250cc class, which now stands at 25 over the Frenchman after his dominant win at the Sachsenring last Sunday, was due to a weight advantage, expressing his admiration for the young rookie.

"Obviously Dani is very light and that could help him in acceleration, but as far as I am concerned he is a great rider and that is why he is leading the championship," commented De Puniet. "I don't care how much he weighs - I see him as a rival whom I must beat, and that is what I'll be aiming to do this weekend."

Andrea Dovizioso is already being touted as a potential team-mate for Pedrosa in the 250cc class next season as the rumour mill begins to turn, but the Italian teenager must first concentrate his efforts on following his Honda colleague's footsteps in the 125cc class, which he leads by seven points from Roberto Locatelli. Hector Barber?, who won the race here last year, lies just a further two points behind the Italian.