There's just a few days until Donington Park's biggest motorsport event of the year, the Motul FIM Superbike World Championship on 5-7 July.
The world's top superbike racers will all be in action at the East Midlands circuit, with a new event format this year meaning the stars of the show will race three times across the weekend for the first time, while the new summer event date means fans will hopefully bask in summer sunshine!
This year's championship battle is one of the closest in many years. Leading British light Jonathan Rea, a former BBC Sports Personality of the Year runner-up, has made World Superbikes his own recently with Kawasaki, claiming four consecutive world titles. But Spaniard Alvaro Bautista, a former MotoGP rider, has entered the series with Ducati this year and well and truly upset the established order!
Bautista won the first 11 races of the year, a new record for a new arrival, but Northern Irishman Rea has fought back magnificently in recent weeks with four wins of his own, and a string of podium places. The pressure has begun to toll for Bautista, as he's crashed out of good positions in two of the last four races, meaning just 16 points separate the top two heading to the only round in the UK.
It's not all about the top two though, Dutchman Michael van der Mark sprung a surprise with a double win for Yamaha at Donington last year, and has won again this season. Meanwhile Donington locals Leon Haslam (Smalley) and Alex Lowes (Derby) have both claimed multiple podiums this year, and have considerably more knowledge of the Donington circuit compared to almost any other rider in the line-up.
Kawasaki's Haslam is the reigning Bennetts British Superbike (BSB) champion and has re-entered the world scene this season after three years in the Britain's leading domestic category, while Yamaha's Lowes is another former BSB champion and a Donington ace.
There are two more Brits for home fans to support as well in the form of Ducati's Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes, who has switched to BMW for 2019. Sykes is almost unbeatable at Donington, having won nine consecutive races at the circuit between 2014 and 2017, but as he adapts to his new machine, it would take a very special performance to return to his previous levels of Donington domination.
Talking of the podium, World Superbikes provides unprecedented fan involvement at the event, including ultra-close access to the post-race celebrations for all races, including the support race programme which includes World Supersport, World Supersport 300, Pirelli National Superstock 1000 and the British Talent Cup. Fans will be close enough to taste the spray from the winners' Prosecco bottles!
In addition, spectators will also be able to enjoy the popular Paddock Show, again free of charge to all visitors, which will include rider appearances, games and quiz shows, giveaways and star guest visits all weekend. The open paddock policy will also mean fans can easily get autographs and selfies with the stars of the show.
As well as the fierce on-track action, there's a big programme of activities around the track, including a special Ducati display featuring a range of bikes from the prestigious Italian manufacturer. Other fun attractions include the Demon Drome stunt Wall of Death stunt show, an Extreme Wheelie machine, a fairground, children's face painting and live music on Friday and Saturday evenings.
World Championship leader Alvaro Bautista commented: "It's been 10 years since I was last at Donington and I have good memories from there. I got my first ever point in the world championship and also my first ever podium. I hope to enjoy the track and see lots of fans there!"
Nearest challenger Rea said: "My home race at Donington is so special. It's the only race where all my family and friends can come out to watch. I grew up racing in the national championships, we have so much support from the British crowd too as well as everyone at Kawasaki UK, so it's going to be really important to do a good race."
Donington-local Haslam added: "Winning at my home round would be fantastic. I've come close a lot of times with lots of seconds or crashing out of the lead with 10 metres to go, and we managed to finish second here as a Wildcard with Puccetti Kawasaki in 2017 which was nice. We've missed that World Championship win so to get a win here would mean everything.
"When you're travelling the world it might look glamorous from the outside, but it's a lot of time away and that little bit of support, living down the road and having friends and family come along definitely spurs you on a little bit more."
Tickets for the Motul FIM Superbike World Championship at Donington Park are available in advance from £25 for adults, with free entry for children under 13. Discounts are also available for teenagers aged 13-15. For more information or to book, click here
Photo Credit: WorldSBK.com