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Young racers not a novelty in motorsports

Teen and pre-teen racers are not unusual in motorsports, according to Josh Lief, Virginia International Raceway (VIR) general manager.

“It’s not unusual to see a young driver in some of the divisions of motorsports,” he said.

That question arose in the wake of the tragic death of Robert C. Gette, 38, of Charlotte, N.C., last Saturday at VIR and as VIR kicks off a weekend of speed with its Suzuki White Lightning AMA Pro Nationals (See stories, page B1).

Gette died at the scene when he was struck by a 12-year-old racer becoming the fourth fatality at VIR since the track reopened in March 2000 and the fifth fatality since the track originally opened in 1957, according to published reports.

Virginia State Police Trooper T. C.

Comer repored the fatal crash occurred at approximately 1:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon on the racetrack when a Yamaha 250 lost control and overturned on the track. When a Suzuki sv650, operated by Gette, came up behind and swerved to avoid the crashed motorcycle, the Suzuki lost control and overturned.

As Gette was getting onto his feet, a Moriwaki 250 struck him, Comer reported. The Moriwaki, operated by 12-year-old Ian Tetrick from Sutton, W. Va., was unable to avoid the downed motorcycle and its rider.

James Bonner of Coopersburg, Penn., operator of the Yamaha, was transported by ambulance to Danville Regional Medical Center for treatment of non-life threatening injuries, according to state police reports.

Tetrick was flown to Duke University Medical Center for treatment of serious injuries, authorities said.

Lief said in motorsports drivers are ranked by their ability and performance, and they work themselves up through the ranks.

“All racing events at VIR are governed by other sanctioning bodies,” Lief said. “Those sanctioning bodies have their own rules and regulations governing racers and racing divisions.”

The VIR general manager said when he was racing he had run against a 14-year-old.

Lief said only a small proportion of those who race at VIR in the semi-pro divisions are in their teens or younger. “They’re a very small proportion,” he said.