The 40-year-old Rizla Suzuki star made the decision after a serious accident at the final round of the British Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch during practice on Friday, October 7th. He crashed heavily, breaking four ribs on his right side, puncturing his right lung and breaking his left collarbone in the accident. He also suffered injuries to his neck and back which may require corrective surgery. No complications are expected and a full recovery is expected.
“When I hit the barrier it was like a switch in my head flipped,” explained JR, who came back to racing against the odds from a severely broken leg in February. “Instantly I knew it was time to stop. I had received a warning with my broken leg earlier in the year. I see this as a final warning and I’ve made the decision to stop racing, more for my wife Shelley’s sanity and for the good of my family than for me.”
JR, from Nottingham, has been racing since he was eight years old and has competed at the very highest level in Grand Prix, World Superbikes and British Superbikes. A triple British Superbike Champion, JR was the reigning title-holder and sporting the number one plate when he suffered his crash.
With more than 200 British Superbike race starts and 50 victories to his credit, JR is a living motorcycle legend. He started his career in Schoolboy motocross before moving on to short circuit racing in 1987 and sampling road racing at the Isle of Man TT. In 1990 he won the British Supersport Championship and then in 1992 his first British Superbike Championship – adding titles two and three in 2001 and 2004 respectively. In between his national titles he raced in Grand Prix and World Superbike Championships, including a full season as a factory WSB Suzuki rider in 1996.
“I am satisfied and relaxed about my decision to retire,” said JR. “I’m in a lot of pain right now, but my spirits are very positive and I’m comfortable that there’s an exciting new life for me ahead. Strangely enough, what makes it easier for me to accept is the fact that I had agreed terms with Rizla Suzuki team owner Paul Denning only four days earlier to race for the team next season.
“The fact that Paul, the whole team and the guys at Suzuki had the confidence to ask me to ride in 2006 is a massive compliment and a real honour. I am leaving the sport knowing that Rizla Suzuki thought I was good enough to win the Championship again - thanks to them for that belief, it means a lot to me. I am stopping for the right reasons right now, knowing that I had an opportunity with a great team on a fantastic bike.”
JR will be transferred from Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford to the Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham this week and continues to make good progress. A committed family man, he is looking forward to returning to his home town where he can be near his wife Shelley and eight-year-old son Ben as he recovers from his injuries.
Paul Denning said: “John Reynolds is a personal friend, one of the world’s best motorcycle racers and a truly exceptional person. We have spoken in detail and he has made his decision to retire for all the right reasons and with his family in mind. We support him whole-heartedly and will be with him every step of the way during his recovery.
“Despite his early season injuries this year, JR is leaving competitive racing at the very top of his game. His performances over the last few rounds showed us clearly that with a winter’s worth of testing and training under his belt, he was ready to win again. John’s competitive spirit was as inspiring as ever!
“The team is sure that JR could have challenged for the Championship again in 2006 and while it is a great pity he will now not be riding next year, he will be joining Rizla Suzuki to put his experience and raw passion for the sport to the best possible use. It’s been a pleasure working with JR as a rider and as a friend. Already the whole team, as well as Suzuki GB and Rizla, are looking forward to working with him in 2006.”
JR said: “Thanks to my family, my sponsors and all the many people who gave me opportunities and support over the years – you all know who you are. Also, racing fans are quite simply the best sports fans in the world and have given me more inspiration and strength than they can ever know. I have achieved a lot and enjoyed my career, it has been a brilliant ride and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I can’t wait to get fit and start work again – I want to thank the team Suzuki and Rizla for giving me so much positive encouragement about the future.”