A Bonita Springs man died in a fiery crash after sneaking onto the racetrack at Sebring International Raceway on Friday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol and track officials.
Douglas K. Martin, 63, died after the pickup truck he was driving crashed into a wall on a difficult right-hand turn inside the closed racetrack.
An FHP spokesman said the track was secure and Martin did not have permission to be on the track.
“We’ve … determined the man was trespassing,” Robert Hayward, the safety steward at the raceway told the Highland Today. “He circumvented locked gates, he was on a racing facility where he had no business being, and he was in some way impaired.”
Martin lost control of his 2002 pickup truck and crashed into Turn 17 at a high-rate of speed, the FHP report stated. Turn 17 is one of the most difficult, raceway President and CEO Tres Stephenson told the Sebring newspaper: after a long straightaway, the driver must slow the vehicle, make a 180-degree right turn, and then accelerate again for another long straightaway.
In the raceway’s history, several professional drivers, in cars designed to take such turns, have crashed at Turn 17.
The report indicates that Martin was killed as a result of the injuries he sustained when his truck hit the wall. The crash occurred around 11 p.m. and Martin was wearing a seat belt.
Hayward told the newspaper that Martin was a big man and the worker alone was unable to remove him from the truck.
As for why Martin was at the track, it remains a mystery.
A woman who came to the phone at his Bonita Springs home said, “my friends all know who he was” and then asked to respect the privacy of her children.
“We don’t know who he was,” Hayward said. “I have done nothing since 7 this morning but try to find out.”
The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) had rented one side of the track, said Stephenson. Hayward said SCCA events are not for spectators, but Martin got in.
“He’s not one of our guys, really,” Hayward said. “We don’t know who he was, or who he was with. We can’t find where signed in. I don’t think he was with anybody.”
The Highland Today reported that witnesses told Hayward that Martin was observed drinking around 5 p.m. and talking about owning a race car 10 years ago. The FHP said a toxicology report is pending.