CHAMPIONSHIP leader Michael Rutter has welcomed the increased competition he will get with the return of title holder John Reynolds to the Bennetts British Superbike fray.

Reynolds returned to the track on Tuesday after taking a month off due to his broken leg.

The Rizla Suzuki rider suffered the injury in pre-season testing in Spain and opened his title defence after undergoing surgery.

But after struggling to make an impact as he was forced to race while wearing a special cast over the injured leg, Reynolds took the advice of his doctors and quit the track for a month.

He returned to action during an official test at the Croft on Tuesday, ahead of the main event on June 5, and was less than a second off the pace of the day's quickest rider, Leon Haslam on the Airwaves Ducati.

It putting in several flying laps Reynolds proved there was little or new rust on his leathers and Rutter knows he will not relinquish his title without a fight. But rather than wishing he was still sidelined HM Plant Honder rider Rutter is more than happy to see him back on the grid.

"It might take JR one or two meetings to get into it or he might surprise us and come straight up there, " he said. "I'm glad he's back.

It's good to have the British champion back in the series."

Rutter has a healthy lead over his adversaries, Reynolds included, but despite achieving a double in the two races at the Darlingtonarea circuit last year, he is taking nothing for granted.

"We have got a 45-point advantage but it will definitely be a difficult race at Croft, " he said.

"It was a close race last year and I think it is going to be even closer this year.

"It's a different year this year and there's different people out there. Forget about last year's result, forget about last week's result."

Published: 27/05/2005