The penultimate round of the British Superbike Championship, powered by Halls, takes place at Brands Hatch this weekend [13/14 September], as the newly-crowned 2003 Champion, Shane 'Shakey' Byrne, returns to his local circuit to embark on his final challenge of the year - to set a new British Superbike record of fourteen race wins in a season.

Despite lifting the 2003 title at Cadwell Park, the Sittingbourne ace is unlikely to be happy until he has set the new record. Byrne has won ten races and needs to win the final four if he is to break Niall McKenzie's 1997 record of 13 in one season.

While 'Shakey' is concentrating on carving his name in the BSB record books, his closest rivals still have plenty to fight for at the Kent track. Rizla Suzuki's John Reynolds and Renegade Ducati's Michael Rutter will be going head-to-head in the battle for second place in the overall standings.

Reynolds, currently 34 points clear of Rutter, looks favourite to win. The Rizla Suzuki rider has experienced his fair share of good fortune at Brands Hatch this year, enjoying a win and a second at the first meeting in June, and an excellent second place at the European Round of the World Superbike meeting a month later. Reynolds also arrives at Brands off the back of two-second place finishes at Cadwell Park.

Rutter, however, has only finished one race at the circuit, and experienced a frustrating meeting last time out at Cadwell Park - with a third and a lowly twenty sixth-place finish. However, the determined Ducati rider will not give up as long as there is even the slimmest chance of retaining his Number Two plate.

Crowd favourite Steve Plater will also be looking to continue his winning ways. The Honda Racing rider finished third at the track in June, and recently notched up his second win for the Japanese manufacturer at Cadwell Park. However, Plater will have to keep a keen eye on Hawk Kawasaki rider Glen Richards, two places behind him, in sixth. The absence of fifth-placed Kagayama will no doubt fuel the Ozzie's will to close the seventeen-point gap between him and Plater.

Last time out at Brands Plater beat Virgin Mobile Yamaha racer Gary Mason in a close battle for third place, something that Mason will be hoping to avoid this time round. The Lichfield-based rider, who's finished fourth in as many races, is still hoping to clinch his maiden British Superbike rostrum. Newcastle-based Chris Burns, who made his debut for the Yamaha team at Cadwell, will be partnering Mason for the second time.

Further down the British Superbike grid, Dave Wood and Dennis Hobbs will be battling it out for the Privateers' Championship. At present there are a mere two points separating the pair and, with fifty points up for grabs this weekend, the action is sure to be intense as the duo fight tooth and nail at a track where both have had victories this season.

The Championship will once again welcome a new face to the grid this weekend as 18-year-old Tom Sykes joins the Rizla Suzuki team to replace the injured Yukio Kagayama, who suffered a broken pelvis at Cadwell.

While the British Superbike double race bill is sure to provide fans with an abundance of action, the ever-popular support classes will admirably fill the track in the interim. The British Supersport Championship was settled at Cadwell, as Honda Racing rider Karl Harris claimed the 2003 spoils, but MonsterMob rider Stuart Easton will be out to maintain his second place position ahead of Simon Andrews. In the 125GP class, Michael Wilcox and John Pearson look set to go down to the wire, as do the National Superstock series and the Yamaha R6 Cup. The New Era Pro-Bike riders will also be battling it out in their Championship.

BSB qualifying starts on Saturday at 2.45pm, followed by the Dunlop Super 12 at 3.30pm. Racing gets underway on Sunday at 1.15pm, with race two at 3.45pm [all times local]. The best of the action will be shown live on Sky Sports with further deferred highlights on BBC Grandstand.

Picture credits: Double Red.

 

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