John Reynolds reckons he can maintain his pace at the head of the pack as the British Superbike Championship roars into Silverstone on Easter Monday, 16 April, for a double race second round power-thriller.

The Red Bull Ducati rider began his campaign in brilliant style, hitting double top in the first round, but the champion of 1992 came under heavy fire from his former team-mate and arch rival in the title stakes, James Haydon, in the second of the two races at Donington Park.

The intense scrap between two front-runners saw Haydon three times nose his Virgin Mobile Aiwa Yamaha ahead in the final four gripping miles, but Reynolds, riding smoothly, and showing that consistent form that last season saw him finish every race in the top, bit back decisively to take the victory by less than a second.

That incredible duel is just a taster of what lies ahead on the demanding International circuit at the Northamptonshire grand prix venue. Haydon, who slid out of the first race of the new campaign, re-mounting to take an eventual eighth, is eager to hit back strongly at a circuit he enjoys.

''This is a circuit that I just love. It is a fantastic venue with a great feeling of sporting pedigree about the place. As a circuit to ride, it has some really fast corners and is both fun and challenging," said Haydon, who is currently fourth in the points standings.

The Berkhamsted rider is confident, has a bike with proven speed, and he goes into the Silverstone round hoping that he will have an up-turn in fortune. Twice, he fell from his bike at Donington: ''I hope that all of my bad luck for the season is out of the way in that one event. Looking back on the second race there, it was great, but would have been even better if I had won. I intend to put the record straight this time.''

Reynolds enjoyed the dice for supremacy: ''I was full on all of the way and really enjoyed it. I want the title, and the way to secure it is to keep winning races. That is my strategy.'' The Nottingham rider has a comfortable 17 points advantage ahead of the determined Scotsman Steve Hislop.

His first round form proved he is back to full fitness after the horror crash of last August which left him with a broken neck - riding the MonsterMob Ducati, Hislop, the title winner in 1995, took second and fourth placings.

''I kind of surprised myself, especially making such good starts to lead both races.
Throughout, I had the single minded determination to return to racing. I may be nearing the end of my career, and that has focussed me, and made me more determined to get the British title again," said the rider with a pedigree of eleven victories in the most demanding of all events, the Isle of Man TT races.

Hislop is just a point ahead of another Scot. Clarion Suzuki rider John Crawford, twice the British Supersport Champion took a brace of third placings to underline his growing stature in the title stakes, while Team Kawasaki's new boy, Michael Rutter is set to make a strong challenge for honours.

The championship is strong - the presence of four manufacturers supporting the top six teams and their nine riders ensures keen competition out front, but, there is also another scrap going on further down the field for the Privateers Cup - a series within a series for independent riders.

Shane Byrne, riding the Performance House Suzuki took a double opening round victory, but will be hard pressed to maintain that form as Francis Williamson and Dean Ellison threaten.

The two British Superbike races are just part of a busy race programme: keep an eye on Australian 'super-kid' Casey Stoner in the British 125cc Championship race. The 15- year-old is a 'hot-shot' for the future, while fellow Aussie Paul Young, a former Superbike Privateers Cup winner, has made his intentions of taking British Superstock crown clear with a dominant opening round victory aboard his Suzuki.

South African Shane Norval, the first round winner, together with Adrian Coates, twice British 125cc Champion Darren Barton and Steve Sawford look set to continue their early season British 250cc Championship title bout, while Kirk McCarthy and Matt Llewellyn, pressed by Woolsey Coulter and John McGuinness, are the likely front-runner in the British Supersport Championship race. Ben Wilson is hoping for a second successive victory in the British Junior Superstock race, but James Hutchins, who lost the lead on the final lap of the opener, is keen to make amends.

Racing is from 12.10, following morning practice from 09.00, on Easter Monday, with official qualifying, including the 'one-shot' lap against the clock Dunlop 'Superpole' grid deciders for both British Supersport and British Superbike races, throughout Easter Sunday, starting at 11.00.

 

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