The final race of the 2013 Modified Championship in the small Caribbean nation of Puerto Rico — where sport compact racing is emmensely popular — took a tragic and deadly turn last week, when a two-car incident injured three and took the life of a bystander at the conclusion of what had been one of the most successful drag racing events in the country’s history.
According to a tip that we recieved, the final round of the last of eight races in the 2013 Modified Championship at the Salinas Speedway, held on Wednseday, November 27th, pitted Juan Illanas in New Generation Racing’s “El Papa” Mazda RX-8 against Jose Capestany and the “Sonic Racing” Mazda RX-7. Per the eyewitness account, which is confirmed though video stills of the incident, Illanas’ machine took an abrupt turn near the 1/4-mile mark and turned across the race track, clipping the wheelie bars of the “Sonic” Mazda at nearly 190 MPH. The contact reportedly sent Capestany into and over the guardrail, where his racer struck a spectator, Ricky Colon, along with cameraman Edrick Rodriguez, who was nearby and hit by flying debris from the RX-7. The “El Papa” RX-8 was sent into a series of barrel rolls before coming to a rest.
Per the tip and via translated news reports and social media discussions, all four men were transported to a nearby hospital for their injuries. Although unconfirmed, Capestrany reportedly emerged with a broken leg and head injuries but was later released, while Illanas suffered a clavicle injury. Rodriguez was taken by helicopter the Rio Piedras Medical Center with three broken ribs, a broken arm, and head and bodily injuries, and remains in intensive care. Sadly, Colon succumbed to his injuries and passed away.
An impressive 40-plus entries in the 3/4 chassis-style Modified class arrived to attempt to qualify for the 16-car field. These cars utilize a range of body makes and models, with such engines as the Toyota 2JZ and Mazda Rotaries for power, and this particular race marked the quickest field in the history of the class, with the top qualifier running 6.72 and a quick 7.35 anchoring the field of qualified racers. The race reportedly began at 5 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon and the ill-fated final round didn’t roll into the water box until nearly 7 a.m. the following morning, well after the sun had already risen.
The deadly crash has already sparked debate regarding safety measures at Puerto Rico racing facilities — discussions that could lead to further emphasis placed on both racer and fan safety in the future.
Our thoughts go out to the family of Ricky Colon and all of those involved in and effected by this tragedy.