The final British Supersport round at Donington Park ended almost before it had begun for Adrian Coates and John Crockford, when separate incidents saw both riders out of the race before the end of the first lap.

The weekend started badly for Crockford when a fall right at the beginning of first qualifying meant he missed the rest of the session and spent the second session playing catch-up whilst dialling-in the handling on his rebuilt machine. Despite pulling out all the stops, the Southampton rider had to be content with a fifth row starting position for the race.

The competitiveness of this year's field was proved by the fact that team-mate and 2001 British 250cc champion Coates found himself in tenth place on the grid despite being less than one second off pole-man Karl Harris' time.

The start of the race saw both Padgett's riders determined to get among the front runners as they streamed into the first corner. Taking every opportunity to gain a crucial advantage on the riders around him, Coates accelerated hard out of Redgate only to have the rear tyre lose grip momentarily, the resulting slide pitching the bike into a high-side, throwing the Ulsterman off the bike and into retirement with a damaged ankle.

As the following riders scattered to avoid the fallen rider, Kawasaki-mounted Rob Frost had to swerve into the gravel, collecting Coates' Honda on the way and causing the organisers to send out the safety car.

Meanwhile, the rest of the field continued to race around the first lap and, by the time, they rounded the Melbourne Loop for the first time, Crockford had already made up for his disappointing qualifying position and was fighting for a top-six position. Unfortunately his luck then deserted him again when Kieren Murphy high-sided coming out of the hairpin, leaving the 2002 Superstock runner-up with nowhere to go.

Suffering a broken finger as a result of his fall, Crockford managed to re-mount and ride back to the pits, but not before the safety car had completed another lap, effectively putting him out of contention.

"I was keen to get back out but, when the safety car came past again, it was unlikely I'd have managed to get a decent finishing position and, with my damaged hand, we decided it was better to call it a day," a bitterly disappointed Crockford said, "It's really frustrating because we'd managed to get the bike right on the pace and I had no trouble making up places on that first lap. Added to that, I'm just about to get married and a broken finger on your left hand's not a great thing to have when it comes to exchanging rings!"

Team-mate Coates not only had to share the frustration of an early exit from the race, but also faced a wait to find out the extent of the damage to his ankle.

"They weren't able to tell me if it's actually broken or not, so we've got to wait until it's settled down a bit," he reported, "The only saving grace is at least I won't miss any races and, hopefully, it won't affect my preparations for next year too much. The 600s have been a great class to race in and, with Karl defending his championship and the other manufacturers bringing out new bikes to compete against the Hondas, 2004 should be even better."

The good news for the team is that after further examination the doctors have confirmed that, while Coates' ankle is severely bruised, there are no bones broken.



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