The heat is on in the early season duelling for the British Superbike Championship as the country's top riders power into Snetterton's double-race third round on Bank Holiday Monday, 7 May.

Former champions John Reynolds and Steve Hislop are in the driving seat, but can't take anything for granted as John Crawford and James Haydon close in.

Reynolds, riding the Red Bull Ducati, has good memories of the fast, Norfolk circuit, having enjoyed one of his four victories of last season there, and he is feeling confident of an action replay despite being denied a 'clean-sweep' of maximum scores so far in the current campaign by a super-fast breathtaking move by Hislop at Silverstone last time out.

The MonsterMob Ducati rider, who has made a remarkable recovery after a high speed horror crash last August, that left him with a broken neck, is well on the pace. Hislop, who won the crown in 1995, three years on from Reynolds' year of glory, is back to his most determined as his last dash for glory, on Easter Monday, illustrated.

With half-a-mile of the race to go, it had seemed that Reynolds was all set to take his fourth consecutive victory of the season, but Hislop twice went ahead, only for the series leader to re-take him. Then dramatically, with the flag in sight, Hislop charged past him at around 150mph to claim his first victory in the domestic series in almost three years.

''I wanted to see how brave he was," smiled Reynolds, adding, ''fair play to him, I knew he was going to do something and he did.'' Hislop was delighted: ''The last time I won, I beat John also - people thought that in situations like that I was soft, but now they know otherwise.''

The Isle of Man-based Scot goes into the Holiday Monday action bidding to reel in the 17 points deficit he has on Reynolds: ''I was determined that I was always going to be back in racing, and now that I am, my determination to win back the title is even stronger.''

It all adds up to a classic confrontation, with the power of the Ducatis well suited to the 1.952 mile circuit, a point illustrated by the record breaking 106.23mph lap by Reynolds last season - that could well be shattered as the fierce front-running dice continues among the leading works riders.

James Haydon, the Berkhamsted rider, is anxious to end the winning domination of Reynolds and Hislop - the Virgin Mobile Aiwa Yamaha race-ace and pre-season title favourite has not helped his cause, taking a bruising and battering in three tumbles in the opening rounds, but still bravely charging to two top three finishes.

''I had to salvage as many points as I could at Silverstone, but I have had time to get back to fitness, and now have to hope that I have used-up my share of bad luck for the whole season already,'' said Haydon, who is currently fourth in the rankings, just a couple a points down on the consistent Clarion Suzuki-rider John Crawford.

Adding to the action will be Kawasaki's Isle of Man TT race winner Michael Rutter together with Paul Brown, the holder already of five British crowns at 250cc and Supersport levels, who now rides the Dienza Ducati. Sean Emmett and Jamie Robinson could also cause problems.

In the 'race within a race' for the Privateers Cup, Sittingbourne rider Shane Byrne, riding the Performance House Suzuki is forging clear, having taken four straight victories, but Lincoln's Lee Jackson, riding a Yamaha built by Virgin Mobile Aiwa team boss Rob McElnea is looking good to break the monopoly on the winner's champagne, along with Dean Ellison and Francis Williamson.

In the all-action support race package, keep an eye on 15-year-old Australian 'super-kid' Casey Stoner who is going all-out to complete a hat-trick of victories in the British 125cc Championship while his compatriots Paul Young, in the British Superstock, and Kirk McCarthy, in the British Supersport, are also on course to make it three straight wins in three starts.

Cambridge-based South African Shane Norval and Ulsterman Adrian Coates promise a showdown - each has taken a win and a second place so far in the British 250cc Championship, while in the Junior Superstock Championship Ben Wilson is keen to take a second victory to maintain his advantage in the points.

Official qualifying is throughout Sunday 6 May, 09.00 - 17.55, with all of the racing on Bank Holiday Monday 7 May, starting 12.10, after the morning warm-up sessions for all classes from 09.00.



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