With new regulations being introduced for the 2004 season, the South African Superbike Championship promises to be as tightly-contested as ever.

With new regulations being introduced for the 2004 season, the South African Superbike Championship promises to be as tightly-contested as ever.

Of the new regulations, most notable is the replacement of the Superbike Formula's highly modified 600cc machines with near-standard unlimited 1 000cc machines.

"The machines are much faster than before, but their increased mass demands

earlier braking for corners," a top rider commented.

"With about 160 horsepower available, one has to concentrate on really smooth throttle application through and out of corners - all of which makes it really tricky to ride the machines quickly, as opposed to just fast," he said.

With the 2004 Vodacom Power Tour scheduled to start at AA Kyalami on Saturday, February 28, most of the country's top motorcycle teams have already tested the new, bigger machines with favourable results.

Heading up the entry list will be Autopage Cellular Yamaha team captain Russell Wood defending his South African title. He will be assisted by fellow multiple former Champion Greg Dreyer. While the Autopage riders will start the year on current Yamaha R1 models, these will be replaced by new examples before the season's third race.

Last season's Championship runners-up, the First Technology team, will again be represented on the track by Shaun Whyte, Arushen Moodley and 2002 Privateers' Champion Sheridan Morias.

A busy First Technology will also field a junior team and bring Honda back into the local racing arena with the introduction of 2004 Fireblade models.

Another importer to return with a full-scale factory team will be Ducati, fielding 999S versions for Stewart MacLeod, Lance Isaacs and former privateer Robert Portman.

Cell C Suzuki will send ultra-quick youngster Hudson Kennaugh and seasoned veteran Trevor Crookes into battle on new Suzuki GSXR1000 models.

Also on a Suzuki at the beginning of the year is Greame van Breda, though the rider does have plans to swap it for a new Yamaha R1 later in the season. Experienced Gavin Ramsay will depend on the Yamaha R1 derivatives throughout the season.

Making history by actively competing in South Africa for the first time will be Aprilia, providing youngsters Garth Norris and Clinton Pienaar with their new Mille machines.

Top riders Noel Haarhoff and Alex Lenearts are still finalising their 2004 plans, but could head up a number of privateers.

With the new regulations permitting the use of modified 600cc motorcycles for the 2004 season, the two veterans could well head up a number of Privateers on such machines.

Original article from Car