The British Superbike Championship returns to Brands Hatch this weekend after a gap of five weeks, giving Honda Racing's Mark Heckles and Steve Plater more than enough time to prepare for the sixth round of the series and to reflect the progress that they have made to date.

None of the British Superbike stars will be more fired up for the challenge posed by the 2.6-mile Brands Hatch circuit than Mark Heckles. The 27-year-old Liverpudlian visits his favourite track, confident that he can record his best results of the season on his VTR1000 SP-2.

"This is the first circuit I've been to this year where I can call on direct Superbike experience," said Heckles, who has only raced for Honda Racing at three of this season's British Superbike rounds. "I really like Brands and managed to win a European Superstock race there in 2001 (pictured). That success, coupled with my experience on a similar Honda machine last season in World Superbikes, gives me even more confidence than I've had at other circuits, where I haven't raced for some time.

"I'm highly motivated at the prospect of the second half of the season which is still ahead of me. I've been working hard in the gym to ensure that I can do myself justice at such a crucial time of my career," he added. "The last couple of months have been like a whirlwind and I'm over the moon with the way that the bike and team have been performing. I'm desperate to get on the podium, and on the basis that you're only as good as your last race, there's no better time for me to start climbing the points table."

Meanwhile, 30-year-old Plater showed he is getting to grips with the world championship-winning machine by claiming his first podium finish of the season last time out at Knockhill. That helped elevate him to seventh overall in the series - only 17 points behind third place Glen Richards.

"There's still everything to play for with just over half the season still to run," said the ever-smiling Plater. "I've been really busy since Knockhill visiting the Isle of Man TT with Honda Racing and appearing at dealer open days but now it's back to the serious business of training hard for the challenges which lie ahead.

"So far, I've been disappointed with my personal performance in the championship to date. The first two rounds were particularly frustrating, but my form has definitely picked up since the third round at Thruxton," he continued. "The team is used to racing at Brands in World Superbikes, so hopefully we'll have some good set-up information to continue the excellent progress that we've been making. I expect that the action will be fast and furious - let's hope that Mark and I are in the thick of it."



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