The world's most competitive national bike championship visits the ultra-fast Snetterton circuit in Norfolk this Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend, with a host of possible winners champing at the bit.

Snetterton has, for five decades, proved a stern test of rider and bike alike. It has two of the longest straights in British racing, as well as a combination of fast and tight corners, and provides fans with often fascinating battles. The British Superbike Championship is all set for another titanic contest.

Over the last couple of years, the championship has developed into a series of head-to-head battles - with Neil Hodgson vs.. Chris Walker, and John Reynolds vs.. Steve Hislop - but this season is proving to be the most open for years. Hislop has laid down a marker for the others to shoot at, but the eight races so far this year have produced four different winners in all, with Sean Emmett, Michael Rutter and Shane 'Shakey' Byrne all joining Hislop on top of the podium.

Hislop's campaign has got off to a flyer, eclipsing the disappointment of last year's shattering crash at Rockingham which ruined his down-to-wire duel with eventual champion Reynolds. In the first of the two races last time out at Oulton Park, he caught a flying Rutter to rack up another win while, in the second race, he was sitting on Rutter's tailpipes, when the red flags flew after old rival Reynolds' engine blew itself to bits and curtailed the action.

Reynolds has had a slower start to his title defence, having to contend with a new bike in a new team, but was gaining momentum before dumping it at Donington in race one. The crash saw him sidelined for race two on medical advice, and having to make a new start at Oulton Park. The reigning champion fought tyre problems to finish fifth in the first race at the Cheshire venue, and was giving it everything when his machine failed spectacularly in race two. JR will be desperately hoping that he can kick-start the defence of his hard-won title at Snetterton.

Behind the big five, however, there is a snarling pack all desperate to make it onto the podium. Led by the IFC's Paul Brown and the Virgin Mobile Yamahas of Simon Crafar and Steve Plater, the field will also include youngster Paul Jones, who joins the Virgin veterans on an R1. John Crawford will also be back on his ETI Crescent Suzuki after suffering a concussion early in the season, but Karl Harris will miss the event after his big off at Oulton Park. The Yorkshire rider will be replaced by Italian Giovanni Bussei, after Mark Willis was prevented from accepting the ride by personal commitments. Matt Llewellyn also expects to be back on the Motopower Honda.

 

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