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Five-time champion Shane Byrne is back to defend his title and a favourite in online sports betting to retain, but there are a host of riders hoping to wrestle the crown away from the British star.

Byrne clinched the 2016 crown with one race to spare after finishing sixth at the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, just behind title rival Leon Haslam in fifth.

Haslam ended the season 29 points behind Byrne but will hope his Kawasaki can power him to glory this time around, while ex-teammate James Ellison is aiming to improve on his third-placed finish after switching to Yamaha.

Honda duo Dan Linfoot and Jason O’Halloran rounded off last season’s top five and with the team recently taking delivery of their exciting new Fireblade bike, hopes are high of mounting a serious challenge for top spot.

Arguably the biggest news of the close-season is the confirmation 2015 champion Josh Brookes is back in BSB after a disappointing year in the World Superbike championship.

The Australian previously raced in the series between 2009-2015 and returns aboard a Yamaha machine with his sights firmly set on regaining the title.

“I am certainly pleased to be back on the bike as it is a known quantity – it isn’t like I have to wonder what to expect from the bike and what is possible,” Brookes told crash.net. (http://www.crash.net/bsb/news/236818/1/brookes-returns-to-bsb-with-anvil-hire-yamaha.html)

“It is one of those boxes that is already ticked as it has been done before.

“The final decision was quite easy because British Superbikes is the best domestic series in the world at the moment and racing has a big following in Britain so teams can afford to get the sponsorships and pay riders a salary.

“That is what you need to go racing – a competitive bike and the freedom to be relaxed as you know you are making income while risking what you need to get the performance.”

Brookes is the fifth Yamaha rider confirmed in this season’s series, joining Ellison, Shaun Winfield, Michael Laverty and Aaron Zanotti on the grid for the Japanese manufacturer.

The 2017 campaign begins at Donnington Park (March 31 – April 2), with Round 2 at Brands Hatch Indy circuit two weeks later.

The season runs for 12 rounds finishing at the Brands Hatch GP circuit from October 13-15.