Track tragedy puts racing into perspective for DeCouto
Tragedy marred Paul DeCouto’s racing experience at last weekend’s American Sportbike Racing Association (ASRA)/ Championship Cup Series (CCS) event at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
The local expert motorcycle racer was competing in the same combined expert and novice race as rival Cesar Chacon who was involved in a crash and later died from his injuries in hospital.
Cesar, 30, was involved in a multi-bike incident at the start of last Saturday’s race and subsequently flown to Cooper Hospital in Camden, New Jersey where he succumbed to his injuries two days later.
DeCouto said Chacon’s death cast a dark shadow over last weekend’s event.
“When something like this happens it makes you think and from my perspective I was thinking this guy is leaving behind a wife and daughter,” he said. “They all came to the track to have some fun and enjoy some racing and be a part of a sport that’s so positive and then something like this happens.
“My four-year old son (Jayden) was with me at the track so when I heard this guy died and is leaving behind his daughter it really hits home for me because the last thing I want to do is not be here for my son.”
DeCouto feared for the worst after the race was held up for several hours while an investigation took place at the track.
“The long delay and investigation led us to believe that someone had died, but we didn’t know for sure,” he added. “They (race officials) sent us back to the pits and then we got reports saying it (delay) was going to take long because there was an active investigation going on. Investigators were brought from outside to come and investigate the accident which usually is not a good sign.”
American John Palmer suffered severe injuries in the same race and had to be airlifted to hospital by helicopter.
Following the lengthy delay, the race eventually restarted with DeCouto placing sixth.
“It’s really tough knowing you are going to restart a race with one less rider,” he said. “The reality of how dangerous the sport can be really hits home.
“Something like this makes you think but then you get back out there and get back into the groove of racing. You lose sight of that (accident) and get focused back on winning and doing whatever it takes to remain safe.”
DeCouto managed one podium display in New Jersey, a third-place finish in the Expert Formula 40 event.
He also finished fourth in the Expert ASRA Pro Superstock race to stretch his lead in the championship series to 14 points over nearest rival Tim Bemisderfer (USA), shaving nearly three seconds off his previous fastest lap time (1:30) in the process.
“I was chasing AMA Pro racer and last year’s ASRA Pro Expert Champion Tim Bemisderfer when I achieved my personal best lap time,” DeCouto said. “He was running a blistering place.
“It wasn’t one of my favourite tracks. But it was definitely a learning experience.”