Tony Carter's tribute to Craig Jones

Eurosport's World and British Superbikes presenter Tony Carter pays tribute to Craig Jones who died after a crash at Brands Hatch on Sunday

THE NEWS Craig Jones had succumbed to his severe head injuries and died in the early hours of Monday morning was as horrible to hear then as it is still, several hours later, to write about.

Analysing the cause or mechanics of the crash at Clark Curve that injured Craig so heavily is a pointless exercise. The overriding and abiding memory that I have of the World Supersport race is one of the 23-year-old racing at his absolute best, giving the world a virtuoso performance in getting the most from a machine that wasn't quite as quick or sorted as he made it seem.

Craig was on blistering form. We've seen him sliding the Parkalgar Honda around all year long, but up until the point where his rear tyre broke away for the final time, the Brands Hatch race was without doubt his best of the year. Given what he was on, who he was up against and how he was performing I'd say it the probably one of the best rides of his career too.

The rival Hondas that Craig had split were the Ten Kate Hannspree pairing of Jonesy's good friends Jonathan Rea and Andrew Pitt. The Ten Kate motorcycles were faster than Craig's, but he wouldn't back down for an instant.

All three of them were riding well, it was a great example of what they do. Professional riders getting the most from their bikes, dancing around the edges of grip and physics at speeds which few of us can barely contemplate.

It was a typically fabulous case of Jonesy wringing the neck of the bike and doing things with it that made us smile and gasp in equal measure. Wonderful to watch and a privilege to witness.

Jonesy just didn't know how to roll the throttle off and admit defeat. He would absolutely, typically, brilliantly give it everything he had.

He was a great guy on and off the track. When we were at a circuit Jonesy was focussed like you couldn't believe. He'd always be approachable and chatty but there was a steely determination behind everything he did in the build-up to the races. He was ready for work, he was anxious for work. His work was getting the best out of whatever motorcycle was underneath him.

Occasionally Jonesy would come into the office with good mate Cal Crutchlow for a natter and catch-up, and when they did I had the devil's own job keeping them on a single train of thought for anything more than a couple of minutes. Together they were like a pair of five year olds, anything bright or shiny could distract them away from a chat only for them to reappear all excited with some gossip they'd forgotten to pass on a minute or two earlier. Cal was always trying to get Jonesy to stop chatting because he wanted to go and play golf, Jonesy would pick things up from my desk and try to solve them (if it was a Rubik's cube type of puzzle or something similar) or repair a gadget that had been broken for months.

Both as a pair and individually, they were a great dose of life at its unblemished best and always left everyone with a smile on their face. Trying to get Craig and Cal to sit down and concentrate away from the track was a gloriously funny waste of time. It was like herding cats.

Craig was a complete gentleman when out socialising too. Whether at a mate's barbecue, a 50th birthday party in an intimate Thai restaurant or a more formal lavish wedding full of suits, hats and feather-clad dancing girls Craig was always in the middle of the party loving life and the occasion - and more often than not would find himself the centre of a smiling throng of people equally determined to have a good time, too.

As much as we don't like the fact, it is true that crashing is a part of racing. If you go round and round on a track for long enough you will fall off the bike - that's a simple part of the competitive world of two wheels.

Craig, like every single racer you watch on a Sunday afternoon, had fallen off a motorcycle enough times in his career to thoroughly know and accept the risks. I don't want this to sound like a reason for accepting what has happened, but I do want to make the point that every person who puts a helmet on and heads out to battle on track does so absolutely wide awake to what can happen.

They are grown ups and love motorcycle racing. They are the modern gladiators who face up to the risk but do what they do because of the sheer exhilaration that only racing motorcycles can bring, and every single one of them should be applauded loudly for that.

In a world where the PC and Health & Safety regimes have gone quite mad ruling over us all with a rod of bubble-wrapped iron and approved safety goggles, motorcycle racing is the last true arena for the bravest to do what they do and as such, every single one of them enjoys racing above almost everything else.

Craig Jones was on the cusp of an incredibly special time in his career and looked like going all the way to a World title in the very near future.

All the paddock will sorely miss Jonesy's infectious laughter, intelligence and skill. Sitting here in the cold light of the day though the outcome of the crash seems even more like a pointless loss of not only life, but sublime natural talent too.

Goodbye mate.

Craig Jones - January 16 1985 - August 4 2008

2008 : World Supersport with Parkalgar Honda

2007 : 5th overall World Supersport Championship with Honda

2006 : World Superbike Championship - Foggy Petronas Racing

2005 : 2nd British Supersport Championship - World Supersport Guest ride for Ten Kate Honda at Brno finishing 6th, also wild-card rides at Silverstone, qualifying on the front row, and leading the race before pulling out with clutch problems, 8th at Brands Hatch.

2004 : 8th in the British Supersport Championship, two podiums, two front row starts, first British Supersport race win and the Sky Sports Rider Of The Day award at the final round of the series at Donington Park.

2003 : Winner of the Steve Hislop Young Rider Of The Year Memorial Trophy, 7th overall in the British Supersport Championship, one Pole Position, first British Supersport Podium and Rider Of The Sky Sports Rider Of The Day at final round Donington Park.

2002 : British Junior Superstock Champion. 6 Wins, 4 seconds, 4 pole positions and 8 lap records.

2001: Competed in the British Junior Superstock Championship, finishing in 6th place or higher in every race entered, first 600cc podium finish at Brands Hatch before an early end to the season due to injury.

2000 : Awarded RK young Rider of the Year Trophy competed half a season in the British Superteen Championship, Four Podiums. And the other half season in the British 125 Championship with top 10 finishes.

1999 : 4th in the British Superteen Championship, First Road Race Victory at Oulton Park, 4 podiums and 4 lap records.

1998 : British Senior Mini Moto Champion, 1st World Mini Moto UK Round.

1997 : 2nd in the British Senior Mini Moto Championship.

1996 : British Junior Mini Moto Champion, 8 Rounds, 8 Poles, 8 Wins.