Toseland in control for his latest home event
The legendary status of London's closest racetrack in the collective memories of the SBK world is quite simply unsurpassed.
The natural restrictions which make Brands Hatch one of the more difficult venues in which the
teams have to work are also what make it one of the most entertaining and rewarding short circuits imaginable. By and large nature has dictated the shape and layout of the 4.197km Brands long circuit, and, as is often the case, nature has proved the best designer of all.
From the impossibly challenging Paddock Hill Bend to the high-speed turns of Hawthorn's; from the uphill/downhill Druids Hairpin to the main straight - which is not in fact straight at all - Brands Hatch is a natural amphitheatre to the deities of the internal combustion engine. Other tracks, such as Assen and Monza, have had longer Motorsport lives, but for SBK racing Brands Hatch is its own true place of devotion.
This is, in large part, thanks to the endless enthusiasm for SBK racing shown by the British spectators, and the close proximity of Brands to Britain's most populous city.
James Toseland (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) has already won a race on British soil this year, at Donington Park, but after a race two technical breakdown there, and a subsequent near-washout at Silverstone, he is more than keen to extend his impressive championship lead with an even greater haul of victories than the six he currently has. After a pivotal Brno race two weeks ago, where Toseland scored a win and a second place, the 2004 champion enjoys a 43-point lead over his nearest challenger, once more the enigmatically brilliant Max Biaggi (Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra).
Biaggi also scored a second place and then a win at Brno, but at Brands Hatch, he faces the toughest challenge of his 'rookie' year. He has never even seen the place before, and Brands holds many pitfalls to trap the unwary newcomer, from its frequent on-and-off camber corners to its blind approaches to the bumps and surface changes below the canopy of trees that line the furthest reaches of the circuit. On Biaggi's side, however, is the fact that he demonstrates the most methodical approach to qualifying and racing imaginable, making it a bold pundit who would write him off before the qualifying results are all in.
In the most recent round Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia) was the class act in qualifying and Superpole, but his raceday performances did not quite match up. He is, nonetheless, only two points from Biaggi, 45 from Toseland, even if he does have 2001 and 2006 champion Troy Bayliss (Ducati Xerox) a mere 11 points behind him in the current standings.
Both Haga and Bayliss have won races at Brands, but in terms of recent success, Haga is the man to beat, having scored four wins in the last six races.
Including Brands there are some 200 points up for any rider who can win all eight remaining races, so despite Toseland's impressive lead, there is still everything to gain, not only for the top four riders, but the top four manufacturers they represent - Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Ducati.
Troy Corser (Yamaha Motor Italia) has speared many a Brands Hatch victory in the past but this year he is still waiting for his first win of the season, despite looking poised to score full points on many occasions. The 1996 and 2005 World Champion is a master of Brands and has won on a four-cylinder machine to boot. That machine was a Suzuki GSX-R 1000, in 2005, and the latest 2007 version may well do some serious damage to the podium places at Brands, thanks to podium placer at Brno and recent Suzuka 8-Hours race winner, Yukio Kagayama (Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra). Currently tenth overall, Kagayama way be another good bet for Brands success, especially have spent two years racing in the BSB Championship.
The midfield fascination this season has included the battle between the second factory Ducati of Lorenzo Lanzi (Ducati Xerox) and Valencia race winner, Ruben Xaus (Sterilgarda Ducati). Lanzi's sixth place is under threat from the shadowing Xaus, only some ten points back. Roby Rolfo (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) has had flirtations with the podium this season, but scoring one at Brands would not only be his best SBK result ever, it would be a just reward for missing out on early top threes through simple bad luck. Max Neukirchner (Suzuki Germany) is looking to make up the 20 points he needs to catch Rolfo. Behind them all, the real threat is the rejuvenated Kagayama, who seems to be growing in stature every week.
Before the last round at Brno both Michel Fabrizio (DFX Corse Honda) and Regis Laconi (PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse) felt they have not had particularly clear runs at the podium places in 2007, but Fabrizio finally joined the podium throng this year with third place in race two in the Czech Republic. Laconi and Fonsi Nieto (PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse) have been unable to turn the speed of their Kawasaki engines into a significant reward in terms of overall points, with Laconi 12th and Nieto 13th.
The fight for the places in the overall top 15 is as closely contested and vicious as ever, with any mistake punished particularly harshly, due to the relatively low points totals enjoyed by the private entries. Jakub Smrz (Caracchi Ducati SC 999) heads the main privateer pack, but this weekend a new player re-enters the fray, Steve Martin (Yamaha YZF). The highly experienced Australian will have yet another new experience this weekend, as half his team will be regulars in the Yamaha YZF team camp, but the others will be from the British Championship Yamaha squad. Thus each machine will have different set-ups and equipment packages. Martin will be joining class regular Shinichi Nakatomi (Yamaha YZF) in Martial Garcia's team. Karl Muggeridge (Alto Evolution Honda) will be back in a one-man structure, with regular private entries Luca Morelli (DFX Honda Corse) and Dean Ellison (Pedercini Ducati) now being joined by the replacement for injured Alessandro Polita (Celani Suzuki), Stefano Cruciani.
WSS - KENAN READIES THE GIFT WRAPPING
It is still arithmetically possible for Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) to not become the 2007 World Supersport Champion, but it would take something of a late season miracle for Fabien Foret (GIL Kawasaki) to eat into Sofuoglu's current 70 point lead sufficiently to depose the long-time championship leader.
Should Sofuoglu win at Brands, irrespective of where Foret finishes, he would be crowned champion there and then. Even a growth of five points or more in his lead over Foret would also see him crowned champion. Katsuaki Fujiwara (Althea Honda) is looking to enhance his third place before the season elapses, and he has won a race at brands Hatch before, in 2002. Robbin Harms (Stiggy Motorsports Honda) was knocked out of contention for another podium at Brno, but is still well capable of finishing third by making up the gap of 17 points Fujiwara enjoys over him right now.
In what has been a colourful and sometimes chaotic WSS season so far, Joshua Brookes (Stiggy Motorsports Honda) is now back looking for podium finishes, while Massimo Roccoli (Yamaha Lorenzini by Leoni) is looking for his first top three of the year. Barry Veneman (Pioneer Hoegee Suzuki) is looking to stay ahead of Broc Parkes (Yamaha World Supersport Team) and the Aussie rider has a new team-mate this weekend, British Superbike regular for Yamaha, Tommy Hill. British interest is also very clearly focused on Craig Jones (Revè Ekerold Honda) who finished second at Brno and wants to go one better at Brands Hatch. Graeme Gowland (Team Benjan Motoren) is a local wildcard entry for this race.
SBK Press Office