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'I saw my pal die in Brands race tragedy'

PUBLISHED: 14:53 06 August 2008 | UPDATED: 10:00 23 August 2010

A RACING motorcyclist watched a friend suffer fatal injuries during a freak accident at Brands Hatch. Calvin Hogan, 22, of New Ash Green, witnessed the terrifying moment when Craig Jones lost control of his Parkalgar team Honda in the ninth round of the

A RACING motorcyclist watched a friend suffer fatal injuries during a freak accident at Brands Hatch.

Calvin Hogan, 22, of New Ash Green, witnessed the terrifying moment when Craig Jones lost control of his Parkalgar team Honda in the ninth round of the World Supersport Championship on Sunday.

Fighting for the lead through Clark Curve, he slid off but his head was hit by a following rider who did not have enough time to avoid the stricken 23-year-old.

Spectators watched in disbelief as Mr Jones' limp body was spun round after the impact, lying motionless on the track near the main grandstand.

Mr Hogan had raced with Craig Jones and they had trained together for two years at the ATU Academy for Britain's most promising riders.

He said: "I was watching the race live on Eurosport and knew immediately it was very serious. You ride so close to each other, there's a lot of trust. There's no way the nearby racer, Andrew Pitt, could have avoided him. I spoke with the organisers on Monday and Andrew is absolutely devastated. They were good friends, had been riding together for the last couple of years and knew each other's style inside out.

"Bikers belong to a small fraternity where everyone knows each other and Craig's death has shocked the whole biking world. He was loved in the paddock and had huge potential. His long-term girlfriend Karen Atkins must be distraught."

Mr Hogan said 99 per cent of riders would have 'high-sided' where the rider is flicked over the handle bars and may have survived the accident.

He added: "Craig has felt the bike slide, he has excellent control and can power slide better than anyone in the world.

"Most riders would have let go of the throttle and when the rear wheel grips the tarmac the bike violently flicks you 30 metres over the handle bars into the gravel trap away from danger.

"But Craig was sent spinning along the tarmac which made it even worse for Andrew who had no where to go. It's a freak accident, that's the tragic thing about it. Craig would want people to go on as normal. We all know the dangers but we race because we love it."

Shortly after the incident Mr Jones was rushed to the Royal London Hospital by Kent Air Ambulance with severe head injuries. Despite frantic attempts to save the promising rider he died at 12.30am on Monday with his family by his bedside.

Jonathan Palmer, chief executive of MotorSport Vision which owns the racetrack, said: "I am so desperately sad that Craig died from the injuries he sustained at Brands Hatch. He was a really super young guy and only on the Saturday evening was I chatting to him in the paddock with him telling me about his World Superbike ambitions for 2009. Craig was so determined and professional, would always say hello and enthusiastically keep me in touch with his progress."

The victim, from Peterborough, was a regular podium finisher and had started on the front row of the grid.

Mr Palmer added: "Britain has lost a wonderful rider whom I admired enormously and had every chance of being a future World champion.

"It is fitting that the abiding memory so many of us will have of Craig was him riding brilliantly, battling for the lead of an incredible race, in front of his home crowd.

"It seems barely believable that such a freak accident claimed his life and I extend my deepest sympathies to his family and friends."

Parkalgar team manager Simon Buckmaster said: "The team's thoughts are with Craig's family and friends at this very difficult time. Craig's family passes on their thanks to all well wishers."

Mr Jones won the 1996 British Junior Mini-Moto Championship and the 1997 British Senior Mini-Moto Championship. In 2005 he finished runner-up in the British Supersport Championship before moving to the World Superbike Championship for 2006. In 2007 he finished fifth in the World Supersport Championship. He was amongst the favourites for the 2008 Championship title.

martin.sawden@archant.co.uk

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