Motorcycling: New machine gives boost to Mackenzie

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Niall Mackenzie resolutely announced his intention to retain the British Superbike title by heading the practice leaderboard at Donington Park yesterday before tomorrow's opening double header, writes Andrew Martin.

Mackenzie's achievement underlined his confidence in the the upgraded Cadbury's Boost Yamaha YZF750 he will ride in the 22-race championship. "I have a brand new bike," he said. "It's to the '96 factory World Superbike specification and a fair bit better than I raced last year I've got everything I asked for, now it is down to me."

Competition will be intense. The series has attracted five factory teams, with four former champions lining up on the grid. Mackenzie conceded: "It's going to be harder this year. There are half a dozen guys capable of winning the title."

John Reynolds, a former champion riding the Reve Red Bull Ducati 996, closed within four-hundredths of a second of MacKenzie while Team Kawasaki's Terry Rymer was marginally slower. Jim Moodie overcame teething troubles with the new Crescent Suzuki to claim fourth place on the leaderboard, ahead of Mackenzie's team-mate, Chris Walker.