A confident Karl Harris will begin his British Supersport title defence at Silverstone this weekend, on the newly re-branded HM Plant Honda CBR600RR.

Harris was the dominant force in last season's championship - the 24-year-old winning six races, taking four second places, breaking two lap records and claiming six pole positions.

'King Karl' won the series by 43 points from his nearest challenger, defending champion Stuart Easton, with two rounds to spare and will start 2004, once again, as favourite. Indeed, Harris' main concern seems to be not if he can win - but if he can win the title by even more...

"I think that the CBR600RR will be as strong as ever, so I'm not that worried about the competition," he began. "I'm approaching my title defence in the same way that I did last year. I don't feel under any more pressure now than I was then.

"I just want to try and win more races and maybe win the championship by more points than I did in 2003. We definitely have as good a chance, if not a better chance, of winning the title than we had last year. With the backing of HM Plant and Red Bull we just can't go wrong."

Unlike last year, where Harris was the only factory Supersport rider, 2004 will see the reigning champion joined in the HM Plant team by Jonathan Rea.

The 17-year-old is starting only his second season in road racing after a glittering youth motocross career and has progressed up from the Red Bull Rookies team that competed in the National 125 Championship in 2003.

Rea was selected for the coveted Red Bull Rookies Honda ride after a rigorous assessment of his ability on and off the track. He has since completed the team's pre-season test schedule alongside Harris in Spain and the UK.

"Testing has gone well and I've been really impressed with the Honda CBR600RR and the team," he said. "It's been hard to find a benchmark without riding against all of the other competitors, so it's difficult to assess how I'm going to get on in the races at this stage.

"I'll just have to get out there and see how it goes in the first couple of events and plan from there. We are using all of the data that Karl's crew had from last year, so that's obviously a big help."



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