Defending double British Superbike champions MonsterMob Ducati go into this weekend's opening round of BSB2004 brim full of confidence as their bid for a third successive title gets underway at Silverstone on Sunday.

After the late Steve Hislop's title success in 2002 was followed by Shane 'Shakey' Byrne lifting the crown again last season - before moving onto Moto GP - the Paul Bird Motorsport squad are pinning their hopes on the experienced Sean Emmett in the Superbike class, aboard the factory supported Ducati 999 F04.

The 34-year old Londoner has endured a torrid time over the past few seasons, but views his chances with Britain's most successful team in recent years as his best bet for landing the elusive title.

"I'm very confident, especially after the test at Silverstone last week when I was fastest," Emmett said, "But I know, come race day, it will be a different matter. It's important that we leave Silverstone with a good points haul, as the next two tracks we go to are two of my favourites. I just can't wait to get going. A double would be fantastic to get the season rolling, but we'll have to wait and see."

Another new face joins Emmett in the Penrith-based team, in the shape of young Ulsterman Michael Laverty, who will be hoping to win back the Supersport title that the team relinquished last season. The 22-year old County Antrim rider will have the latest works 749cc Ducati at his disposal and starts as one of the favourites going into round one.

"It's going to be tough, but I know I have the best package out there," Laverty admitted, "We've not had as much testing as I'd have liked, but I feel very comfortable on the bike and I'm confident we can find a good race set-up in order to be on the pace come Sunday."

Team owner Bird is also looking forward to the season ahead, as he bids for an unprecedented third title. The Penrith businessman, who has spent much of the winter behind the wheel of his Ford Focus World Rally Car, and rapidly climbed the UK driver's rankings, is quietly confident that his goal can be achieved.

"We know that we are the team to beat, and that everyone has upped their game this year to try to do just that, but we remain confident with the package we have in place," he said, "Both riders have points to prove and, with the best machinery from Ducati at our disposal, I see no reason why we can't keep winning.

"My team of Phil Borley, Stuart Bland and Jonathan Clucas have been working round the clock to get everything ready, and I'd like to pay tribute to them all for their efforts and hope the riders can repay them for all their hard work this weekend."



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