27-year-old former World Superbike rider Mark Heckles has signed for Honda to partner Steve Plater for the next two rounds of the 2003 British Superbike Championship.

Heckles tested the Honda Racing VTR1000 SP-2 at Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire on Wednesday, when he was selected to race the WSBK winning machine at Snetterton this weekend.

The popular Liverpool rider rode a similar machine in last year's world series and recorded his best placing of sixth at Silverstone. Heckles' invaluable experience should be a key factor in adapting to the power and handing characteristics of the SP-2.

"I'm absolutely delighted to be given this opportunity to compete for Honda Racing," said a happy Heckles. "I'm really looking forward to racing for such a professional team at Snetterton. There's no doubt that Honda is the number one racing brand and their commitment to racing is second to none. I feel as strongly as they do about getting the best results possible and hope that this will be the start of a long and successful partnership between us.

"I love Snetterton, but have never had a competitive bike to ride there before," he added. "Also, I've had the advantage of riding Colin Edwards' machine in a private test at Brands Hatch last year.

"That experience helped me at Cadwell Park and will prove invaluable during the limited amount of practice we have over the weekend. The Honda Racing SP-2 is a superb machine and I know I'll have no problem fitting into the team. I'm therefore confident that I can do well."

Heckles' experience on the VTR1000 SP-2 last season should also be of benefit to his new team-mate Steve Plater.

The ever-smiling Lincolnshire rider had a frustrating start to his British Superbike campaign. He tangled with two riders on the first lap of race one and then lost the front end while chasing the leading group of riders in race two, although he did remount to take a solitary tenth place.

"The only way is up after Silverstone," said 30-year-old Plater. "Sometimes you just get days like that, but I'm determined to bounce back at Snetterton. It's a circuit I particularly enjoy and even finished on the podium there last season. My aim this weekend is to repeat that success.

"I see Mark's arrival in the team as a positive factor," added Plater. "There's no doubt that having a second rider to share information with will be a step in the right direction for me. We all know that the potential in the Honda Racing SP-2 is there for the taking and I'm confident that I'll be able to make a significant improvement in my personal performance this weekend."