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Batey Takes Points Lead As Lopez Is Knocked Down At Loudon Amid Controversy

By August 9, 1998April 26th, 20211998 News

Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki’s Tray Batey qualified fastest and took the Formula USA Series point lead with two close second-place finishes at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. But teammate Grant Lopez slipped to fourth in points after he was knocked down by another rider, 1-1/2 laps from the finish of the second race, while running fourth. Lopez was later diagnosed at Concord Hospital as having a concussion.

Batey now leads Formula USA points with 276. The next closest competitor has 264 points and Lopez is tied for third with another rider at 258 points. Lopez will be required to obtain medical clearance prior to racing the team’s racebikes again.

In 103 HP class action, Josh Hayes took the points lead with a strong second-place finish on his hybrid fuel-injected GSXR750/GSXR600. With one race remaining in the series, Hayes has 151 points to his closest competitor’s 127 points.

Hayes rode the same bike to third in the 126 HP class and is third in class points. And in an astonishing display of versatility, Hayes also rode the hybrid machine to 12th in the first Formula USA race and ninth in the second, and is now eighth in F-USA series points.

Lopez’s crash in turn three on the next-to-last lap came as another rider lost control on the brakes and fell just as Lopez turned into the corner. The other rider’s crashed machine hit Lopez and knocked him down, with both machines and riders sliding into the tire barrier.

After Lopez had determined that his machine was too damaged to continue, Lopez was approached by the other rider and they exchanged words. A cornerworker instructed the riders to leave the impact zone but was standing blocking Lopez’s only route around his crashed motorcycle and toward the direction he had been told to go. Lopez brushed past the cornerworker as he followed instructions to leave the area. For unknown reasons, the cornerworker then ran after Lopez and grabbed his left shoulder. Lopez swung his left shoulder and arm back to break the grip on his shoulder as he glanced over his shoulder and continued walking.

Controversy erupted as the cornerworker charged that Lopez had intentionally struck her in the head, a charge mild-mannered Lopez denies. And as Lopez followed instructions to leave the scene, an unknown person in nearby grandstands charged the fence and made death threats against Lopez, and later, according to an e-mail exchange between track workers on a New England internet list, then attempted without success to organize “a lynch mob.”

Because the incident seemed so out of character and because Lopez remained agitated afterwards, team members took a protesting Lopez to Concord Hospital immediately after leaving the track Sunday night. Lopez was examined by Dr. Andrew M. Jaffe, underwent a CAT-Scan, and was diagnosed as having a concussion. A copy of Dr. Jaffe’s diagnosis was FAXed to Formula USA and racetrack officials on August 10. A common side-effect of concussion is combative behavior.

Despite the diagnosis, as soon as the team was informed of the involved cornerworker’s name (on August 11), Lopez sent the cornerworker a letter of apology. The text of the apology letter follows:

“I am very sorry about what happened in turn three at Loudon last Sunday. I was dazed from the crash and very upset that the Formula USA Championship points lead I worked so hard to build up was lost because somebody else screwed up and hit me. Now they tell me I may not even be able to get a medical release for Pocono and I feel like my entire season has been wasted.

“I hope you understand that I didn’t mean to hit anybody and all I wanted to do was get out of there. I know cornerworkers have a dangerous and hard job and I appreciate that you’re out there. I hope you and your friends (relatives?) who said they were going to kill me can understand and please accept my apologies. I hope I can visit you at your corner station at Pocono and apologize in person.”


Grant Lopez