Triumph ValMoto signed off the 2003 British Supersport Championship in style at Donington Park when the team's 18-year-old rising star Craig Jones give the British manufacturer a glorious and hard-earned first podium.

In an exciting display of skill and bravery, Jones simply refused to allow the opposition to get the better of him and scythed his way through the field from eighth on the grid to third place on the rostrum - and the rapturous applause of the 22,000-strong crowd.

Jones wasn't the only one on a mission during the final race of the year. Team-mate Jim Moodie made the early running, occupying the position that his team-mate would eventually claim. Immediately firing his Union Jack emblazoned Daytona 600 into third place, Moodie proceeded to take the fight to the championship leaders. And try as they might, Karl Harris, Michael Laverty and Stuart Easton were unable to shake off the #21 bike as they seared around the 2.5-mile Grand Prix circuit.

The safety car took to the track for a number of laps to lead the bikes round while marshals dealt with the debris from a spectacular crash that removed Adrian Coates and Rob Frost from the race.

The following pack took the opportunity to close up on Moodie during the subsequent three laps, but once the race recommenced Moodie still commanded his position with authority. However, his stunning run came to an end when, while running in fourth on the road, he outbraked himself at the Esses.

Gus Scott's guest ride with Triumph ValMoto was also cut short when he slid out on lap 13 after putting in a spirited performance that saw him make up several places during the race.

"Turns out that I got awarded a ten-second penalty for a jump start," said Moodie. "So it would have been a close call as to whether I made it on to the rostrum anyway, but that wasn't really the point. We've been working exceptionally hard all season to get the Triumph ValMoto to a stage where it could challenge for podium positions and I knew that if I got clear of some of the slower riders at the start, today was the day that I could show everyone just what the bike is capable of.

"I set off too early and knew that I was going to get penalised for it, but I was out-riding everyone out there for a while and loving every minute of it. In the end it was down to Craig to get the result, but the bottom line is that I got the opportunity and space to ride the Triumph ValMoto Daytona as it should be ridden. I had it in my head that I'd stay with them or crash, but I didn't expect to miss out a corner. I made my point and that's good enough for me."

With Moodie's exit, the TV cameras that had been following his every move shifted their attention to Jones - and he duly responded by providing some of the most dramatic motorcycle racing action of the year.

Unbeknownst to third-placed Stuart Easton, Jones had been cutting a swathe through the pack. After dispatching Simon Andrews with a display of controlled aggression, Jones pulled clear of his pursuers and was gaining 0.7 seconds a lap on the outgoing champion. The next thing that the Ducati rider saw was a flash of yellow as Jones jammed his bike through and into third.

At the end of the race Easton would be relegated one place for overtaking while following the safety car but neither he, nor Jones were aware of this at the time and the battle raged on. However, despite gaining this extra advantage, he could still not drive past the Daytona 600.

With Dean Thomas bearing down on them, the stage was set for an all or nothing battle to the chequered flag. Third place changed hands repeatedly as the pair went head to head over several thrilling laps, but every time Easton edged past, Jones just pulled another trick out of the bag. He took the lead for the final time two laps from the end. Easton and Thomas were tying themselves in knots trying to find a way past, but the speed at which Jones was travelling made their task impossible.

Jones crossed the finish line with his front wheel lofted high to celebrate a great personal victory as well as Triumph's first ever Supersport podium finish. His result also moved him up to the impressive placing of seventh in the final championship standings.

"I can't even begin to describe how good this is," smiled Jones. "We said that we'd be on the podium before the end of the season, but we didn't really plan on leaving it right until the last minute. It feels like a win to me and it's the perfect end to the year after all the hard work we've put in.

"This is how I wanted to thank Triumph and ValMoto for the faith that they showed in me at the start of the season," he added. "I feel as if I've matured as a rider this year and a lot of that is down to my team-mate Jim Moodie. I know how much this project means to British racing fans and hope that this is just the taste of things to come for Triumph ValMoto."

 

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