Grand Prix motorcycling returns to Silverstone this weekend after a 24-year absence, and with a brand-new circuit for the teams and riders to get to grips with.
Last used in 1986, when future world champion Wayne Gardner beat Didier de Radigues in a Honda one-two, a new generation of two-wheeled superstars will take to the hallowed surface this time.
The classic Club, Abbey and Woodcote bends may have been emasculated, but the new 'Arena' layout is set to lie second only to Phillip Island in the average speed stakes.
The first grand prix riders to get a taste of the new circuit were Suzuki duo Loris Capirossi and Alvaro Bautista, who completed a handful of laps on GSXR-1000 Superbikes recently.
Capirossi, grand prix racing's most experienced rider of all time, made the first of his 303 starts only four years after Silverstone was replaced by Donington Park as the venue for the British race.
After sampling the track, turn for turn, the Italian sat down with AUTOSPORT to give his guide to the new circuit.
It's a nice corner, but it's so bumpy. Without the bumps it would be very nice. I think it will be very important to get the set-up of the front suspension right, because you need to be good on the bumps, but you also need to be able to carry the speed in the fast corners. It will be an interesting compromise for the engineers.
This is my favourite part of the circuit. It's very fast and flowing, and the approach speed is very high. It's difficult though, because if you make a mistake on the first left, all the corners follow so quickly that it will cost you time in all of them and you'll be slow onto the [Hangar] straight.
The Suzuki riders tackle Stowe
The straight is pretty long and fast. When we did the laps on the superbikes it was about 170mph. The braking [for Stowe] is good and there's plenty of grip, but that was on superbikes with their brakes. With the carbon brakes on the MotoGP bikes, we should be able to brake much harder and later, and the speed should be quite high through the turn. A very nice turn.
It's a bit fiddly and the way the kerbs are [flat with a tall raised surface beyond it] hard to see because they are not painted. So you get your knee down on the left-hander, but you stay clear of the kerb. On the exit you have two right-handers, but you keep the bike on the same lean all the way through, treating it as one corner. Everyone will have to work hard on the settings to stop the rear wheel spinning up here.
The braking zone is very bumpy going into the corner, but it's quite good.
There's only one good line through this section, and it's nice and fast. Its tricky though because there's a lot of tarmac on both side of the circuit, so it's not so easy to see what's the circuit and what's not. I think that by the time the GP comes around, there will be advertising boards up so it will be a lot easier.
Just a normal right-hander. It doesn't look like an overtaking place, but it might be because you have to keep the exit tight to make the following corner. I think someone could try a move into there, but it will be brave.
Capirossi enjoyed the revised track
The slowest corner and very tight. It's really important to get the last corner [Village] right to line yourself up for this one, because the speed on the exit will affect you all down the long straight. The track is still very bumpy here too. I think maybe the whole section is a bit tight for our bikes - fine for a Moto2 or a 125 though.
You're still accelerating out of the hairpin and just as you bring the bike straight, you're onto lean again for this one, but it's quite quick so it's alright.
The corner is okay, but because the straight before it is long, I think a lot of overtakes will be done here. The first lap will be interesting because you can get a really good slipstream on a straight like that.
You have to think about this turn before you make the left [at Brooklands], because if you go too deep, you have to come in too tight. I think maybe there will be many different combinations of lines through these two corners. We will have to see which is best.
The good thing is that they've taken the chicane away. I saw a superbike race here where they used it and it didn't look good, just very slow and fiddly. The bad thing is that the tarmac on this part of the circuit is very old and very bumpy, which makes this corner very difficult. On the day we tried it, the track was very dusty too so there was not much grip.
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