Defending MCE Insurance British Superbike champion Shane Byrne is “ready to rock” as he sets out to capture his sixth title.

The new season gets under way at Donington Park this weekend with the Be Wiser Ducati rider looking to defend the crown he won by 29 points last year.

Byrne, who turned 40 during the off-season, won nine rounds in 2016 to pip Kawasaki’s Leon Haslam to the title for his third championship in five years.

He has been hampered by a lack of pre-season running ahead of the curtain-raiser but wants to get his defence off to the best possible start in Leicestershire.

“We are a bit behind our rivals testing-wise in terms of time on the bike, but I’ve been working harder than ever away from the track to be sure we’re ready to rock this weekend,” Byrne told

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“The final round at Brands Hatch last year feels like an awful long time ago. It’s been a long winter for some reason, having not ridden for a while.

“I really enjoyed getting out at the test last week but now is the time to step up; it’s round one this weekend and I want more than anything to try to defend the fifth title I earned last year.”

Australian Josh Brookes won the title in 2015, splitting Byrne’s last two successes, and is also hoping to start positively in his quest to once again topple the Londoner after poor weather cost his Yamaha team valuable testing time.

“The last five days I’ve ridden on a bike, four of them have been in the wet so rain seems to be the consistent factor as of late,” Brookes said.

“I’m happy with the bike in the conditions I have ridden it in, but it’s no way to gauge the performance of me or the bike.

Josh BrookesJosh Brookes (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“We have to win, the plan is to win, that is our goal and that is what everyone wants to start the season off on a high.”

After the opening race weekend at Donington, the championship moves on to Brands Hatch and Oulton Park before travelling to Knockhill in June.

The final race of the season will once again come at Brands Hatch. The only non-British race on the calendar is in Holland, with the two rounds at Assen coming on the penultimate race weekend of the year.