Local favourite John Reynolds needs an action replay of his two double-winning exploits of last season as he powers into the third round of the MCN British Superbike Championship at Donington Park on Sunday [28 April].

The reigning champion has still to taste the victor's champagne and currently lies in third place in the rankings as he watches 2001 rival Steve Hislop enjoy life on top.

Nottingham rider Reynolds, who won a dozen races last year to retake the title he had previously won back in 1992, switched from the dominant Ducati of last term to ride the latest Rizla Suzuki GSX-R1000 bike, but has found the going tough as Hislop, riding MonsterMob Ducati, has forged clear at the top, with Sean Emmett, aboard the IFC Ducati in second place.

Hislop, the Isle of Man-based Scot, is a man in a hurry to take the title he missed out on last year when he was sidelined by serious injuries sustained in a penultimate round crash. Beaten by a split-second by Emmett after being baulked by a backmarker in the opening round, the MonsterMob rider has dominated the exchanges in the subsequent three races, taking comfortable victories, to move 21 points clear of Reynolds' former team-mate Emmett.

"It would be nice to stay ahead, but there is still a long, long way to go," smiled Hislop, who is delighted with a seasonal starter that puts him on course for the crown he last held in 1995.

Nearest to him in the points, Emmett stunned everyone with his Silverstone victory, especially as his bike only arrived on the eve of the meeting - and he had not ridden for five months. The bonus for Emmett is that he is aboard the bike he raced last year in Red Bull colours, as team-mate to Reynolds.

As the rider who took second and third places last time out at Brands Hatch, however, it is Reynolds himself who is clearly back on the pace.

"The bike is good - I am happy with it, but now I have to ride even harder," said the champion, "People say Donington must be my favourite track because I have a good record and clinched the title there, but I find it one of the hardest tracks there is in the world to conquer. It is so technical - I've just about learned it after riding it for 14 years - it is a circuit of total commitment."

Reynolds' new team-mate, 22-year old Karl Harris, secured the 2001 British Supersport crown with success at Donington, but is looking to build on recent results following his graduation to the senior class.

The leading trio plan their own private battle for supremacy, but the weekend's two 25-lappers should also see Virgin Mobile Aiwa Yamaha riders Steve Plater and Simon Crafar coming into the reckoning. Lincolnshire rider Plater has turned in some stylish performances so far this year, while Crafar, the Kiwi who won the British 500cc Grand Prix at the Leicestershire circuit in 1998, is settling well to riding his 1000cc R1.

Another Lincolnshire lad, Paul Brown, is another rider to watch. As Emmett's team-mate, he is clearly enjoying the power of the IFC Ducati and even two broken fingers on his right hand did not prevent him from taking a top three finish last time out.

Two riders with successful pedigrees in the Isle of Man TT races are also showing well in the country's premier racing series. Michael Rutter looks comfortable aboard the Renegade Ducati, as team-mate to last year's Privateers' Cup winner Shane Byrne, while Dave Jefferies, the Yorkshireman who twice has won three races in a week on the Island, is in the points while deputising for the injured John Crawford.

Around the two feature Superbike races, there is a busy supporting programme on Sunday, with a guest race for the BMW Boxer Cup adding to the thrills of the National Championship action for 125ccGP, Supersport, Superstock and Junior Superstocks.

Qualifying for all classes is throughout Saturday, from 0900hrs, with the grid-deciding Dunlop Superpole session for Superbikes -, in which the top 16 riders from timed qualifying face a one lap against the clock shoot-out - at 1532hrs. Adding to the drama of the Superpole session is the ?20,000 cash jackpot provided by Pit & Paddock Insurance for the first rider to set five consecutive pole starts. Hislop aims to take another step towards the prize, having already set pole in the opening two rounds.

Superbike testing is between 1400 and 1700 on Friday 26 April, with adult admission costing ?5. Adult admission for Saturday is ?10, and ?25 on Sunday.



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