Honda Racing Corporation's latest Superbike - the CBR1000RR Fireblade - will make its long-awaited debut in the world's leading domestic road racing series, the British Superbike championship, this weekend.

HRC prepared the four-cylinder, four-stroke racer in its Japan headquarters before handing it to the HM Plant Honda team for extensive factory supported testing in Spain and the UK, in preparation for this moment.

Riding the 'Blade will be two very different riders - proven BSB race winner Michael Rutter, who joins the team after several seasons on a Renegade Ducati, and Honda prot?g?e Ryuichi Kiyonari, direct from sampling a partial season of MotoGP no less.

Thirty-year-old Rutter has finished third and second respectively for the past two BSB seasons and starts the 13-round series as one of the favourites for what will surely be a hotly contested title. His 2004 target is simple:

"I want to go out there and win the championship. That's my aim after coming so close to the title in the past," he stated. "I think that there are more factory bikes than ever before in the championship, so it's going to be a highly competitive year. I believe that HM Plant Honda Racing has the best set-up in the paddock and I already feel I'm in a strong position."

After shining in his native Japan, then being thrown into the MotoGP deep end after the tragic death of Daijiro Kato, Kiyonari has been moved to the UK by Honda to hone his big bike skills further. The 21-year-old from Saitama has shown promising, and spectacular, form in pre-season testing and many pick him to be the surprise of 2004.

"The HM Plant Honda Racing CBR1000RR is an excellent machine, which I have high expectations for. I hope that the Fireblade will give me a victory this year," said Ryu. "I'm delighted to have the chance to ride in the British Superbike Championship with such a professional team.

"I would like to learn a lot from riding with the other fast riders who are competing in the series. I hope that I will be able to learn about competing in the races and other aspects of the British championship from my team-mate Michael Rutter."

Sunday's two 22-lap Superbike races around the 2.25-mile international circuit will be shown live on Sky Sports.