Virgin Yamaha's Steve Plater will lead Honda's 2003 challenge on the BSB championship aboard their awesome SP-2 1000cc twin, as the mighty World Superbike champions drop down for a full factory attack on the British series.

The Castrol team [headed by Neil Tuxworth] had lost double WSBK winning rider Colin Edwards to Aprilia and MotoGP, while HRC were reluctant to pump more money into the WSBK series, with the departure of all but the factory Ducati team to GP's for next season, therefore the move to BSB was decided.

Plater had looked set to partner Sean Emmett at the Virgin Mobile team - and is believed to have told the team so - but the Honda offer was just too good to resist. Reigning champion Steve Hislop has now taken Plater's place on the R1 [see separate story].

Rizla Suzuki's Karl Harris will be the teams second rider, but will step down to the Supersport class.

Despite the move to BSB, Honda are expected to return to WSBK in 2004 with a race version of their ever popular Fireblade.