Photo Shoot: A summer weekend on two wheels

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The Independent Online
Brands Hatch on a late summer's Sunday is two-wheel heaven. Many of the thousands who travelled to the Kent circuit last weekend to marvel as the veteran Scot, Niall Mackenzie, continued his purple patch on a purple Yamaha by winning the British Superbike Championship for the second successive season have a distinct advantage over other sporting spectators.

For they live the dream; the motorcycles they ride are near replicas of the machines which the professionals hurl around at breathtaking velocity.

It is the key to Superbikes' popularity in Britain over the blue riband, rival, grand prix circuit. That was illustrated last month when some 60,000 spectators - British motorsport's second biggest crowd after the Formula One circus at Silverstone - arrived at Brands Hatch on a fleet of bikes to cheer Carl Fogarty in the World Superbike event. Britain's most celebrated and accomplished rider since Barry Sheene is another reason why the class's popularity has mushroomed over the past five years: in 500cc GPs there are no Britons riding the handbuilt, infernally overpowered machines; in Superbikes, bulldog Carl beats allcomers with metronomic regularity. And after cheering the Blackburn Bullet to victory, for a relatively modest pounds 12,000 it is possible to ride away from the circuit on a facsimile of his scarlet Ducati 916 dream machine.

If watching sport is a vicarious experience, then the latest Italian, British and Japanese road bikes bring anyone with a full licence and enough cash close to the thrills of professional road racing. Manna on a motorcycle.