The entry list for the 2011 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship shows an impressive 38 riders from eight different nations are set to line-up on the grid for the Brands Hatch season-opener on April 22-25.
American John Hopkins will make his eagerly anticipated BSB debut with Samsung Crescent Racing at the event, but will first return to the MotoGP World Championship this weekend in Spain as a substitute for the factory Suzuki team.
Hopkins finished fourth for the team in the 2007 MotoGP Championship and he deputises for the injured Alvaro Bautista at Jerez. Reigning National Superstock 1000 champion Jon Kirkham completes the Crescent line-up.
For the first time since 2007 there will be a defending champion as Japanese ace Ryuichi Kiyonari continues his quest to become the most successful BSB rider of all time by chasing a fourth BSB title.
HM Plant Honda has former double champion Shane 'Shakey' Byrne joining him this season and expectation is high for the pair following pre-season testing.
Australian Josh Brookes finished second in last year's title chase while riding alongside Kiyonari at Honda; he has switched to the Relentless Suzuki by TAS team, which looked set to lead the GSX-R title attack this year as the lone factory-backed Suzuki entry… until Crescent pulled off the Hopkins deal.
Tommy Hill suffered heartbreak at the end of 2010 for Suzuki, and - alongside Byrne - offers the best pre-season chance of a home grown champion. Hill has switched to Swan Yamaha and been very impressive in the Spanish pre-season tests.
Michael Laverty, his team-mate, pushed him all the way and he will want to beat Hill to become the first Yamaha rider to win a BSB race since 2009. However, Motorpoint Yamaha's young-guns Frenchman Loris Baz and James Westmoreland will want to upset the form guide in their first full season of BSB.
The leading Kawasaki team of Stuart Easton and Gary Mason have the all-new Ninja ZX-10R for this season and the Colchester-based team are determined to have a real attack on the title this year.