WSBK: Honda racer dies after crash

Kiyonari earns first career WSBK wins

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Aug. 05, 2008
World Superbike rookie Ryuichi Kiyonari earned his first two wins Aug. 3 at Brands Hatch, but the two-time British Superbike Champion’s triumphant weekend was overshadowed by tragedy in the Supersport class race.

Parkalgar Honda rider Craig Jones, 23, succumbed to head injuries suffered in a crash during the Supersport World Championship race. Jones crashed on the final curve of lap 16 and was struck by his own machine. The race was stopped by a red flag and Jones was immediately flown by helicopter to the Royal London Hospital. Jones passed away shortly after midnight, Greenwich Time, on Aug. 4 with his family at his bedside.

“It is with great sadness that we learned Craig passed away in the early hours,” says Simon Buckmaster, Parkalgar Honda team manager. “The team’s thoughts are with Craig’s family and friends at this very difficult time. Craig’s family passes on its thanks to all well wishers.”

The native of Northwich, England, Jones was the 2002 British Junior Superstock Champion and the runner-up in the 2005 British Supersport Championship before making the move to the World Supersport series in 2006. After nine rounds of the 2008 World Supersport season, Jones was in fifth place and was in second place in the Brands Hatch race when he crashed.

“We are all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Craig Jones following the injuries he received in his accident during the Supersport race,” says Paolo Flammini, chief executive officer of series promoter FGSport. “Despite his young age, Craig had been part of the World Superbike and Supersport scene for the past five years and he will be deeply missed by everyone in the paddock. He was having a great season with the Parkalgar Team and his race at Brands Hatch was another demonstration of his great talent. We at FGSport would like to convey our thoughts and sincerest condolences to his family and friends”

Ryuichi Kiyonari is on a hot streak, pulling a double at Brands Hatch following victory at the Suzuka 8 Hours.Jones’ death cast a shadow over what would have been a banner weekend for Honda.

Hanspree Ten Kate Honda’s Kiyonari’s first WSBK wins came just a week after winning the Suzuka 8 Hours race July 27 with teammate Carlos Checa.

In the first race on the British circuit, Kiyonari passed series leader Troy Bayliss on the 22nd lap to gain a lead. Kiyonari would hold off Ducati Xerox’s Bayliss and Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati’s Max Biaggi for the win with less than 0.2 seconds separating the three riders.

“I started badly in the early laps but my bike had a really good set-up so I could keep lapping in 1m26s laps,” says Kiyonari about the first race. “Then I pushed and pushed and finally I got the win.”

Kiyonari had a better start in the second race and dueled with his Japanese countryman Noriyuki Haga of Yamaha Motor Italia for the entire 25 laps on his way to win number two.

“I’m so happy, I cannot really believe it. We have been near the top of the leader board in all the sessions this weekend so we knew that we had a good race set up,” says Kiyonari. “The team worked hard to give me a great bike for both races and finally we have a win – no, two wins – to celebrate. It wasn’t easy. I found it difficult to pass and I made a couple of mistakes. In race one, I was very nervous for the last few laps but in race two I was able to keep a good pace right to the end.”

Haga finished in second, making up for a disappointing first race that saw him crash after seven laps.

“I am happy to take a second place in race two because in the first race my rear tire choice was not so good, and I was disappointed with that,” says Haga. “In the second race I just changed the rear tire and I had a good feeling with that one. I had a good battle with Kiyo (Kiyonari) but he was faster than me in some places, then I would catch him up.”

Troy Bayliss had tire problems in both races but still managed to increase his lead in the standings.Haga’s teammate, Troy Corser followed in third place, also improving on his results in the first race which saw him finish eighth.

“Race two was better than the first race, we made some changes to the tire choice and the bike and they worked well. I just could not run the pace of the guys at the front because they just pulled away,” says Corser. “I had a bit of a battle with Bayliss and it took a bit of time for me to get past him, but I am content with third. I’m out there trying to win races but podiums will have to do for now.”

Bayliss also encountered tire problems which caused him to finish the second race in 11th place. Despite the tire problems, Bayliss leaves Brands Hatch with a wider lead than when he arrived.

“I’m quite disappointed to tell the truth as I hoped to do a lot better today. By the last few laps of the first race the rear tire wear was pretty bad and that’s why we changed the tire before Race 2. Unfortunately that was the wrong choice and there wasn’t much I could do after the first few laps,” says Bayliss. “I am however happy with podium in race 1 as those 20 points have meant that I’ve increased my overall lead, even though it’s by just a few points. That was a great race this morning and my congratulations go to Kiyo who really was fantastic here today.”

The WSBK series enters its August break and will resume Sept. 7 at Donington Park, also in England.

World Superbike top five standings
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1st Troy Bayliss Ducati 1098 F08 334
2nd Max Neukirchner Suzuki GSX-R1000 252
3rd Troy Corser Yamaha YZF-R1 242
4th Carlos Checa Honda CBR1000RR 233
5th Noriyuki Haga Yamaha YZF-R1 230