Ron Yates  R.I.P.

Austin-Healey expert and website contributor Ron Yates was killed Sunday, September 26, 2004 at Buttonwillow Raceway near Bakersfield in a non-racing track incident.

From the "Bakersfield Californian":

Two Men Die In Crash On Buttonwillow Track

   MARK BARNA, Californian staff writer e-mail: 


Two men were killed Sunday at Buttonwillow Raceway when their convertible sports car overturned while motoring on the track during a non-racing event.  The driver, Ronald Burnett, 46, of Cypress, died while being transported by helicopter to Kern Medical Center, said Kelly Cowan, deputy coroner of the Kern County Sheriff's Department. 
The passenger, Ronald Yates, 70, of Mohave Valley, Ariz., was pronounced dead at the scene.  Both men were wearing a seat belt and helmet, Cowan said.

The accident occurred during a mid-day drive-around in which visitors pay a fee to motor their cars on the Buttonwillow Raceway track. Burnett was driving an Austin Healy, a conver- tible that racers at the track said was a street vehicle with no roll bar or other safety accouterments found on race cars.

Buttonwillow Raceway officials were not available late Sunday afternoon for comment on the wreck.

Bakersfield residents Martin and Twila Willey, there to race their Formula V car, were having lunch in the racers parking area when the accident occurred. They were about a quarter-mile from the accident site, which is near a remote stretch of track called Lost Hill, known to racers as Magic Mountain.

"I just heard an ambulance and everyone started running," Twila WIlley said.

After the rise and fall of Lost Hill, the track straightens out, then is followed by a sharp C-turn called the Sweeper. It is this general area where the accident occurred, Twila Willey said.  Martin Willey said he typically motors around the Sweeper at 70 mph in his Formula V.

Willey said he feels safe on the track because his race car has roll bars, and he wears a seat belt and a helmet. But he acknowledges that things can go wrong quickly.

"It's a dangerous sport," he said. 

Copyright, 2004, The Bakersfield Californian

From David Sculley:

Ron, RIP, I will miss the humor and history embodied in your semi-whenever Austin-Healey publication "Dipstick Digest". It was a labor of love for all of us car people.  We'll miss you, pal!!!

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