CROFT Circuit, near Darlington, hosts the penultimate round of the Maxxis British Winter Supermoto Championship tomorrow and, with all classes still evenly poised, there is bound to be no love lost between the leading competitors on St Valentine's Day.

Organised by the British Motorcycle Racing Club, the fastest-growing motor sport in the UK will see a host of top names descend on the North Yorkshire track for the sixth round of the prestigious series, which is also backed by Fuchs Silkolene and Yamaha UK.

Favourite for victory in the 650 and open classes will be series leader Christian Iddon aboard his factory specification Team Zupin HM Husqvarna, but the Derbyshire teenager will be under pressure from the likes of defending winter champion Warren Steele (570 Husqvarna) - still suffering the legacy of a broken leg last season - and KTM's Ady Smith.

Last time out at Brands Hatch, Switzerland's former motocross veteran Danni Muller (WIRE Yamaha) stole the honours after Iddon hit problems with a puncture, to close the gap in the open series to just 11 points, so a decent result at Croft is vital for all the riders going into the final double points round at Lydden at the end of the month.

Iddon and Muller have won a pair of Superfinals each, with the other victory going to Smith in the opening round at Cadwell back in November.

Muller leads the 450 class, just six points ahead of the works Honda of Humbersider Leighton Haigh, and they can expect a challenge from riders of the calibre of Rob McNealy (Honda) and Irish champion Davy McKee (Yamaha).

Despite the road racing season being imminent and many top riders who have contested the series to date sitting this one out, a number of stars from that particular discipline will still be in action, including local Superbike hero Dennis Hobbs from Guisborough aboard his 450cc Honda.

The former Laird of Croft will be up against triple TT winner John McGuinness (650 Husaberg), ex-Endurance world champion Terry Rymer (560 KTM) and regular British Superbike stars Dean Ellison, former champion Dave Heal and Lee Jackson.

With about 18 races on the packed programme as well as the Silkolene Superpole, which sees the top two riders from both 450 and 650 finals square off against the clock to set the grid for the Superfinal, the action is sure to be intense.

Gates open at 9am, with practice from 9.30. Admission is just £5 per adult with accompanied children under 15 free.

* Stockton's Keith Davison and co-driver Ian Jackson from Hartburn made the long trip south to contest the Oakington Stages Rally in Cambridgeshire, but came away empty-handed when they were forced to retire.

Seeded one, the two-litre Darrian T90 crew were favourites to win and were leading the Middlesex County AC event held at Oakington Barracks near Longstanton when a drive shaft broke.

* The opening round of the popular BTRDA Rally Championship kicks off in the Forest of Dean tomorrow, with local interest centring around three cars on the Chepstow-based Wyedean Rally.

With former 1400cc champions Mark and Andrew Constantine from Richmond set to miss much of this season while they finish off building their new car in preparation for a full series assault in 2005, it will be down to the open class and one-make competitors to try to bring the glory home.

More than capable of doing that will be Leeming businessman Kevin Procter who, along with Northallerton's Mike Gilby, will be aiming to improve on his lowly seeding in the Motoscope Subaru.

Winners of the recent Riponian Rally, the pair start at number 31 on their first competitive visit to Gloucestershire and a good result on the Wyedean will set them up for the Malcolm Wilson Rally in the Lake District on March 6 and the North Humberside Forest Rally on March 27.

After a number of seasons in the Ford Ka Championship, Hamsterley youngster Stephen Petch and co-driver Michael Wilkinson will debut their new Peugeot 206 in the final round of the Peugeot Winter Cup in readiness for this season's main championship. They are among the favourites in the SGP Motorsport XSi.

Also in action will be Darlington's Paul Hudson, who deputises in the co-driver's seat alongside Swindon driver Geoff Whittaker in the Darlington-based CS Rallysport Ford Escort.

l The biggest annual sporting event in northern Scotland takes place tomorrow when the 2004 Arnold Clark Thistle Hotel Snowman Rally gets under way from Inverness city centre.

Organised by the Highland Car Club, the opening round of the eight-round County Saab Scottish Rally Championship will see 90 cars, including six driven by Scottish champions, in contention through the snow-covered Highland forest stages.

They will include County Durham marauder Barry Johnson. The Shildon driver won the prestigious title back in 2002, but suffered in the opening rounds of his title defence last year.

This season, however, he's planning to return the title south of the border in his current Subaru WRC before taking delivery of a new car during the season.

"It's going to be a seriously strong championship this year", admitted Johnson.

"We had a couple of technical problems last year which essentially wrecked our season, but we're well up for it this year.

"In addition to the Scottish series, I'm doing the ANCRO National Championship and I'll start the British Rally Championship, which means I've got eight events on almost successive weekends.

"After that there's a bit of a break and that's when I'll start using the new car."

While the new car is likely to be an ex-2002 world championship Subaru, Johnson has also tested a Ford Focus WRC at M-Sport's Cumbrian facility a couple of weeks ago and has yet to make a decision.