Michael Laverty and Andy Reid have their sights on British glory
The 2016 British Superbike Championship and supporting classes get under way at Silverstone this weekend, with Michael Laverty and Andy Reid - two of our greatest prospects for championship honours - among a glut of top class local talent taking part.
Laverty ended last season in the premier British Superbike class with a win for local team Tyco BMW, and following on from an almost faultless pre-season with the Moneymore-based official BMW squad he has been installed as second favourite for the title behind four-time champion Shane Byrne.
Laverty has a wealth of experience and if his pre-season form and confidence are anything to go by, there's a great chance he could fulfil his dream of becoming British Superbike champion.
Laverty has won the British Supersport title in the past, and 21-year-old Jordanstown ace Reid believes 2016 could be his year to follow in the footsteps of the TAS Racing ace, having served his apprenticeship during an eventful rookie season in 2015.
Reid won his debut race in the class at Oulton Park's woodland circuit last September with the TTC Yamaha squad, and such was the intensity of the battle and the strength of his victory, motorcycling fans voted Reid their McLean Bookmakers' Race of the Year winner back in January.
But with the dinner suit and black tie back in mothballs until the winter months, young Reid is now gunning for the main prize at next year's Cornmarket Motorcycle Awards - and to do that he must win this season's British middleweight title.
"It was fabulous to win that award, especially as it was a public vote and we topped a fantastic race at the North West 200 to win it," said Reid. "It shows the high regard that the British championship is held in at home now, as we're normally known as a country of road racing fans."
Looking to the year ahead with new team Quattro Plant Cool Kawasaki, I asked Reid what he'd taken from his rookie season and if it could help towards a serious title challenge.
"I think the one thing I've learned is that you don't need to lead every lap and win every race," he smiled, which was a trait last year after he came unstuck just 24 hours after that award-winning victory. The result? A season-ending injury.
"I think last year being in a team owned by a rock star like Keith Flint probably added a bit of extra hype," he said of his time with the TTC Yamaha squad.
"Don't get me wrong, they are a great bunch of lads but I think the Quattro Plant Cool Kawasaki set-up will be a more stable environment for me."
Reid's former adversary in the Superstock 600 class, Kyle Ryde - who pipped him to the title on the final day in 2014 - is now racing in the World Supersport Championship and managed by current WSB champion Jonathan Rea.
Reid has similar aspirations, but has also realised - after last season's tumultuous season - it's one step at time.
He added: "Exactly. I watched Kyle do so well last season and that snowballed into putting extra pressure on myself. It's great that he's been given a WSS opportunity but I've got to keep the focus on my own job, and my only aspiration this season is to be British Supersport champion. If I can do that then the rest will take care of itself."