Last year it was his collarbone, but this time it was the championship lead that Rizla Suzuki rider John Reynolds made a break for after he took a victory and third place podium finish in Sunday's opening races of the 2004 British Superbike season at Silverstone.

In damp but drying track conditions in the first race, JR slid his Rizla Suzuki GSX-R1000 to third behind race winner Michael Rutter on a Honda. In the dry second race, JR led from the second lap to the chequered flag, withstanding enormous pressure as Rutter and his team-mate Ryuichi Kiyonari fought to try and pass. JR is equal on points with Rutter at the head of the championship standings.

"I worked hard for my results today and it was not easy," said JR on Sunday afternoon. "In the first race I had the speed but as the race distance went on and the track dried out, my wet tyres started to lose grip and I can honestly say that third was the best result I could have achieved.

"In the second race I got to the front early and pushed hard. My pit board kept reading plus nothing, so I pushed harder and harder right until the chequered flag, knowing that both Hondas were snapping at my heels the whole time.

"Thanks to my Rizla Suzuki team for preparing my GSX-R1000 and for their support this weekend. Last year I broke my collarbone and left with no points, this year I have two podiums and I am leading the championship; that is quite a change in fortune. Well done to Yuki for his brave and determined ride today, he is well and truly back and has proved he is a force to be reckoned with in BSB this year."

Starting from seventh on the grid, Rizla Suzuki rider Yukio Kagayama finished in an incredible fourth place in his first race since breaking his pelvis at Cadwell Park seven months ago. In the treacherous conditions, Yuki put on a controlled and masterful display of bike riding and was rewarded by the loudest cheer of the weekend when he crossed the finish line.

Returning to his crew in the pits, he couldn't contain his emotions and wept with relief at achieving a solid race finish, something doctors had told him only two-months ago would not be possible.

In the second race, Yuki was in fourth place and challenging for the lead on the second lap when he was forced to retire to the pits.

"After the first race I was in little tears," said Kagayama. "I remembered my three months in hospital after crashing. That time was very difficult on my head and on my heart. In Japan only two months ago, my doctors told me it was maybe not possible to race today and that was difficult time for me.

"But Rizla Suzuki team, my family, friends and my fans believed in me and I worked hard to race today. Now I am so relieved, I cannot help but to cry when I received the chequered flag. I am walking and riding again!

"In the second race I retired when something feels not normal. I was able to run fast lap times with leaders today and this is good for me. I am still not full race fit and still only riding safely not to crash. Maybe soon I will be able to race full gas and my aim is still to win races to say thank you to my fans for believing in me."

Rizla Suzuki team manager Paul Denning gave his opinion on the weekend's racing. "We leave Silverstone in high spirits but under no illusions," he said. "John had to withstand enormous pressure to win the second race and he dug deep into his reserves to take a well-earned victory for Rizla Suzuki. It is clear that this is going to be a very tough championship to win in 2004 and we will be back in the workshops tomorrow revisiting all that we have learnt this weekend and working to implement developments to our Rizla Suzuki GSX-R1000 before the second round at Brands Hatch in a fortnight's time.

"I am delighted that we are leading the championship but something inside me is extremely selfish and I am disappointed that Yuki was not able to finish the second race. After all the effort he has put in, he deserved a better result, but we will look at the silver lining and at least we now know that he is back and able to run near the front of the races. When he regains full fitness, he is going to be hard to beat.

"Well done to the entire Rizla Suzuki team this weekend. We are up against new machinery and some serious Factory backed teams on track, but proved a lot of points with our Rizla Suzuki GSX-R1000, which it has to be remembered, started life as a production bike out of our Crescent showroom."

The British Superbike Championship continues with round two at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit in Kent, on Bank Holiday Monday, April 12th. Stay tuned to Crash.net for details of how you can win free tickets to the event and look out for John Reynolds' new column on www.crash.net/bsb.

 

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