SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – The industry is mourning the loss of racer Tommy Aquino, 21, who died Feb. 2 after a head-on collision at a Piru, Calif., motocross track, where he was training.
Aquino, of Santa Clarita, was pronounced dead about 12:30 p.m. at Piru Ranch Motocross. The other rider, Michael Westerband, 23, suffered major injuries. Both riders were wearing helmets, authorities said.
A preliminary investigation indicated Westerband lost control of his motorcycle and hit Aquino. The death was ruled an accident.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office and the California Highway Patrol responded to the crash. A chaplain was requested at the scene, and Aquino’s family apparently was there at the time of the crash, according to the Ventura County Star.
Aquino belonged to the American Motorcyclist Association Pro Racing organization and had competed professionally since 2008. “Aquino became known for his racing talent, quick wit and uplifting smile,” the AMA said in a statement. Aquino’s Facebook page indicates he was excited about the 2014 season.
“It’s been a heck of a year racing with everyone in Superstock 1000. I've had some of the best races of my life on the big ZX-1000, racing with everyone from Isle of Mann legends, up and comers, to seasoned pros. It's been a huge pleasure to race in British Superbike with Team WD-40, and I hope to be back with everyone in 2014!” he wrote late last year.
Friends, fans and sponsors posted condolences on the page and released statements in tribute to Aquino.
Keith McCarty, motor sports racing division manager for Yamaha, called Aquino a “talented rider.”
“Our deepest condolences go out to Tommy’s father and mother, Tom and Carrie, and to Tommy’s younger brother, Michael,” he said.
Former Yamaha teammate Josh Herrin said Aquino was like a brother. “Tommy was an unbelievable person and will be deeply missed by people in the racing community across the world,” Herrin said.
“Tommy was family to us, and the first rider on our race program," said Helmet House in a company announcement. "Every time Tommy visited our office he was all smiles and always full of enthusiasm for his next adventure. His next adventure was going to be a big one: Competing in the British Superbike Series for the WD40 team. Though he had only competed for a short time in the Superstock (1000cc) class for the team, he had already posted podium finishes and a win, and it was obvious Tommy was destined to continue his winning ways in the Superbike class.”
Press image courtesy AMA