Rizla Suzuki riders Karl Harris and John Reynolds both led the pack during the two hotly contested Thruxton round of the British Superbike Championship.

Harris fought his way to the front in the first race while Reynolds took the lead in both races and was desperately unlucky not to win the second event after retiring with just six of the 2.356-mile laps to go.

Race one was of two distinct halves for the Suzuki squad. Starting strongly, both riders fought their way to the front and led the field in formation for the first time this year before rain called a halt to proceedings after just four-laps.

In the restarted second part of the race, which was declared as a wet race and wouldn't be stopped for the weather again, Reynolds opted for full slick tyres while Harris put an intermediate front and cut slick rear onto his GSX-R1000.

Harris got the better start, taking second spot on track after the restart, while Reynolds got caught in a battle for fourth. But as the weather brightened up and the track dried completely, Harris slipped back through the field and the slick tyre runners started to improve.

While the first three riders opened a gap, Reynolds was caught in a ferocious race-long battle for fourth with a string of rivals. He eventually came out on top despite suffering a lack of grip. Ducati's Michael Rutter won the race.

Race two saw Reynolds got away in second place and Harris slotted in behind him in third, both of them behind initial leader Michael Rutter on a Ducati. The two Suzukis tailed the leader for the next six laps until Harris dropped to fourth as the race contenders started to jockey for position.

On the ninth lap Reynolds took the lead of the race while Harris continued to drop down the field as he started to lose rear grip. Reynolds and title leader Steve Hislop on a Ducati then started to break away from the chasing pack. Reynolds felt confident he could have overtaken Hislop, but as they came to complete lap 15, Reynolds was forced to retire. Harris took sixth position at the chequered flag, behind race winner Shane Byrne on a Ducati.

"After the first race, we had a problem with the rear end of the bike sliding round and pushing the front tyre. The bike was difficult to ride and fourth was the best I could do," explained JR afterwards. "In the second race, we decided to lengthen the wheel-base a bit to improve stability and we stiffened the rear suspension slightly. It worked a treat, the bike was riding well and I was in control. I was enjoying the race and think I could have taken the win okay, but I had to retire.

"The more practice and testing we do, the closer and closer we get," maintained Reynolds, before paying tribute to his young teammate. "Karl's performance today was absolutely brilliant. It was difficult out there and to get the results he did on his comeback is fantastic."

"To get in the top six after being off for three months is great," said Harris himself. "In the first race we made the wrong tyre selection, we thought the rain would have continued but it didn't. In the second race the weather was fine and I was able to race aggressively. But as the race went on the rear tyre started to lose grip and I ended up sixth. My wrist wasn't a problem and that's good news."

Team Manager Paul Denning summed up: "Today promised so much, but it ended up slightly disappointing and we didn't get the results that we deserved. Karl's performance was great. We thought he'd struggle to go race distance but he ended up with a top six finish and that is fantastic. It's great to have him back in the team.

"John did his normal determined job in race one, then in the second race I have no doubt he would have won but he had to retire. The major positive thing to take away from today is that John's crew made an untested setting change to his bike between the races that dramatically improved it for him," claimed Denning.

 

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