Racetrack Blamed for Horrendous Accident

     MONTEREY, Calif. (CN) — A year after an accident at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca nearly killed him, a motorcyclist sued Monterey County, Mazda and the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula, the nonprofit that the manages the track.
     Plaintiff Daniel Kee-Young Kim Jr. is CEO of Lit Motors, which is developing an enclosed, two-wheeled, self-balancing, electric vehicle called the C-1. It uses gyroscopes and artificial intelligence to stay upright and anticipate road and traffic conditions. It can go faster than 100 mph with a range of 200 miles and can accelerate from 0-60 in 6 seconds, according to the company website.
     Kim was not driving a C-1 when he broke seven bones and suffered other injuries at the racetrack on March 14, 2015.
     He was driving a Ducati 1199 Panigale Sportcycle to research how a motorcycle performs at various lean angles through corners. When it was released in 2012, Ducati claimed that the 1199 Panigale was the world’s most powerful production twin-cylinder engine motorcycle, capable of 195 mph and especially good at handling corners.
     After completing about a dozen laps, Kim was approaching Turn 5 when he spotted a slower driver ahead of him. Kim steered off the track to avoid a collision and hit a row of sand bags in the runoff area. He was thrown from his bike, went flying over the front wheel and the motorcycle landed on top of him. He suffered a fractured femur, ankle and ribs, ruptured the ACL in his right knee and other injuries. He has had a hip replacement and is walking again after spending months in a wheelchair. The medical expenses exceeded $500,000 and recovery took 10 months, Kim says in the complaint.
     He blames the condition of the racetrack, specifically the sandbags that were placed in the runoff area, which he says violate safety regulations requiring unobstructed runoff areas.
     “These unmarked sandbags — placed in an intended safety zone — substantially increased the risk of injury beyond those inherent to motorcycle racing,” the complaint states.
     Kim also accuses the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula, or SCRAMP, of systematically falling short on safety and misusing money earmarked for upkeep on general operations. He says the county and SCRAMP have fought over how money is to be spent, with nothing done to improve the track.
     “SCRAMP diverted funds from track sponsorships to operating or debt expenses rather than funding track improvements, as required by contract,” the complaint states.
     According to a series of stories in the local newspaper, the Monterey Herald, Monterey County supervisors have shared Kim’s concerns.
     According to an Aug. 7, 2015 story in the Herald: “County officials acknowledged they had … engaged in a national search for a new raceway manager capable of offering ‘financial stability,’ including the wherewithal to make necessary improvements and investments in the raceway.”
     That came soon after SCRAMP paid for a full-page ad in the newspaper, an open letter to the public calling for a “fair and open competition” for the raceway management deal. The nonprofit said it had invested $50 million in the track and had given more than $250,000 a year to local charities.
     The Monterey County Auditor-Controller’s Office in February hired an independent auditor to review the track’s finances, the Herald reported. SCRAMP is required to spend $5.25 million of the $7.5 million it receives in naming rights on track-related capital improvements, but county officials said it has not, according to the Herald.
     David Park, public relations manager for the raceway, said he could not comment on Kim’s lawsuit as he knew nothing about it.
     A call to the Monterey County Counsel was not returned and none of the county supervisors, contacted individually by email, responded to questions.
     Mazda spokesman Eric Booth said the company could not comment on pending litigation and Robert Nelson, Kim’s attorney, with Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein in San Francisco, had no comment either.
     Kim seeks medical expenses, lost wages, and punitive damages for gross negligence and dangerous condition of public property and pain and suffering.

%d bloggers like this: