rider John Reynolds put in a truly heroic performance at the final round of the 2002 British Superbike Championship to take second and sixth place finishes.

A huge crowd of more than 27,000 cheered on Reynolds in his last two races as the reigning Superbike Champion at the 2.5-mile long Donington Park GP circuit. But none of them were aware of the intense physical pain he was battling against just to climb on his GSX-R1000 and start the racing.

After crashing at Mallory Park earlier in the month, Reynolds suffered a gouge in his left arm that is now infected. He also suffered a slipped disc in his back that may require surgery and meant he was riding today with no feeling in his left foot and a lack of strength. On top of that, the Nottingham ace has also got a serious dose of the flu and was bed-ridden earlier in the week with a temperature.

In a sporting gesture, Reynolds handed a number one plate to newly crowned Champion Steve Hislop after the Ducati rider claimed the title by finishing third in race one. But once the dust settled, he was quick to point out that he was only lending the Scotsman the title and he wants it back next year.

Karl Harris also saw his reign as British Supersport Champion come to an end today. The northerner never defended his title, instead choosing to ride in the Superbike class where he has had a mixed year. The bad luck that dogged him early in the season reared its head again today and he managed a seventh place finish in the first race and retired from the second.

In the first race Reynolds started in fourth place on the grid but by turn one was up to second behind early leader Hislop. Five laps later a four-man breakaway led at the front with Reynolds in third place only inches from the lead. On lap eight Yamaha's Emmett crashed out of the race at the Esses and Reynolds moved into a comfortable second place behind Ducati's Michael Rutter. Constantly putting pressure on the lead, Reynolds was unable to make a decisive move for the victory as his rear tyre started to slide in the latter stages of the race.

Rutter won the race from Reynolds with Hislop in third, taking the Championship title in the process. On the podium, Reynolds handed a front fairing with the number 1 plate across to rival Hislop in respect of the Scotsman's achievement at taking the 2002 title. Harris, starting from 10th on the grid, fought his way to seventh place by the chequered flag.

In the second race Ducati's Steve Hislop and Michael Rutter made a break at the front right from the start, leaving Reynolds in third place. As the race developed, the Rizla Suzuki rider's ailments caught up with him and he slowly slipped back, battling tooth and nail for every inch of Tarmac before surrendering to sixth place that he kept until the finish.

Harris looked on for repeating his first race finish of seventh or even better, but at half race distance was forced to retire.

"All week I've been wearing a cloak of agony, but now the races are over I can at least rest in bed," said Reynolds afterwards. "The second race was much harder than the first. If I'm honest, I think I burnt myself out in the first race getting second place. I had nothing to offer in the second race; no strength or any go at all. But it was probably my fastest ever race around here and I know we can win with the GSX-R1000."

"Now my priority is to sort out my back injury. I will rest this week and then next week get back into training for next season. I have really enjoyed being part of the Rizla Suzuki team and hope I can stick with them next season and reap the rewards of what we have achieved this year. We started with a good bike and now have a fantastic machine that I have no doubt can win races in Britain or World Superbikes. I have told Steve that I am only lending him the number one plate for a year and then I'll have it back!"

For Karl Harris it wasn't the best end to the season. "I don't know what to feel at the moment," he said. "That was not how I wanted to finish the season. It has been a very hard season and I'm glad it's over now and I can concentrate on next year. I knew it was going to be hard moving into Superbikes. It has helped that I have been with Rizla Suzuki, it is one of the best teams in the paddock."

Team manager Paul Denning gave his summing up of the day. "Given the circumstance that John at best should have been in bed, at worst possibly hospital, he has done a stunning job to get on the podium and finish the second race. It is a true reflection of his character, commitment and determination. Now we have a year's worth of data, telemetry and experience with the bike, we know a fully fit John Reynolds on a GSX-R1000 will be a serious title contender".

"Karl rode hard all weekend and he has had another tough weekend to go with a difficult year. It is never easy at this level but I have every confidence that if he keeps up his stirling efforts then his talent will simply explode.

"Finally, I'd like to thank the sponsors and team partners for supporting us in an incredibly exciting season of British Superbike racing. There have been six different winners and more live crowds and bigger television audiences than ever before. With a bit of luck we will set the record straight next year. We look forward to building on our plans and success with all our partners in 2003."

 

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