Aug 22, 2008
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R.I.P Toriano Wilson
The motorcycle community, the family that is AMA racing, lost someone too young this past weekend in a race related crash at Virginia International Raceway. Fourteen-year old Toriano Wilson of Bermuda, teenager, motorcycle racer, future star, passed away from injuries sustained.
To say that I'm shaken is an understatement. I feel cold with sadness, and lost, missing his huge smile already and the grins of his family who were always so close by.
I met Toriano earlier this year at Barber Raceway in April, along with his dad Dennis and Dennis's girlfriend Debbie. I was touched by their enthusiasm and energy and with the grit that kept them pushing forward with whatever it took so that Toriano could follow his dreams. And the kid dreamed BIG, you could see it in his eyes when he talked about racing and hear the determination ringing in his voice when he talked of improving his times, or passing another rider, his dad's approving hand on this tall kid's shoulder.
They came by every race after that to say their hellos and give us updates, to wish myself and teammate Josh luck on our own racing endeavors. Dennis smiling, Debbie smiling, Toriano outshining them both with his white-tooth grin. I remember thinking that he was mature for his age, he carried himself well, he spoke well, he respected Josh and I, had good manners, but most of all, he had that adventurous twinkle in his eye.
I stopped watching the Red Bull Rookie's Cup races, after seeing a couple kids toss themselves in crashes at Infinneon Raceway, not because I don't believe in the series or believe that kids that age should be racing, but because it was too hard for me to witness children tumbling, potentially getting hurt. I now more fully understand my parents' steady refusal to watch me race, despite their pride in my achievements and their full support.
I commend the parents that stand by their kids in the quest for achieving their goals and dreams, and with the courage that it takes to watch them fall and get back up, fall again. In this rare case, Toriano did not get back up. It is the dark reality of motorcycle racing, the stark contrast to checkered flags and podium appearances, and smiles all the time.
My body went cold when I heard of a crash in the rookie's cup that had sent two of the boys by life flight to the hospital. I immediately asked around to find out which kids had been hurt, my stomach turning when I heard, "Toriano"¦..it doesn't look good."
That night, shaking, I dug around in our trailer to locate the delicate bottle of pink sand from Bermuda that Toriano and his family has so thoughtfully given me a few races back. I placed it beside the bed in my hotel room and, fighting bad dreams, sent all my energy to him, his family, his recovery. In the morning, Josh and I drove to the hospital to see if we could offer some support, my phone rang as we were nearing the building.
I knew the moment I answered, the way the news entered me, a voice in the background sounding muffled, as though talking through clouds, and my knees buckled, shaking hands dropping the purple flowers, a shock of color against the gray pavement and I shook my head at Josh, tears streaming. He seemed to freeze then, his arms limp and dangling for what seemed like forever, the least animated I have seen him, ever.
We lost someone too young, in an accident that has left us all reeling. What his family is going through at this moment I cannot imagine as I feel my own coldness in the marrow of my bones and catch myself blinking back tears in the most random of moments.
I do not know why I write this down now, except that I feel compelled somehow to commit his name and his energy and his short life to my memory forever and share with others how in such a short time, his smile touched me deeply.
My thoughts and my love go out to his family, his friends, fellow racers, and to all those that were touched by his life in some way or another. This is a lesson to all of us that life is precious and can be much too short and that we need to grab each moment and crush it to our skin.
I will miss you greatly Toriano Wilson.
North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
I was absolutely devastated to read the tragic news about Red Bull Rookie Toriano Wilson's passing as a result of injuries sustained at this weekend's race. Living in the Caribbean now, I've been watching his progress since the beginning. He seemed to be quite fast and able to adapt to new tracks well. I'd be leaving something out if I didn't admit that seeing a young rising star who also happened to be black was also compelling for me personally.
Having gotten into a pretty big crash myself, I understand the risks we take when we chose to pursue our passion for racing. It's just a shame when the numbers even themselves up in this way. Godspeed Toriano, I for one enjoyed watching you do your thing!
Port of Spain
Trinidad, West Indies
This is Alex White from Motorcycle Performance (WMSC #46). With regards to US Rookie Toriano Wilson, I am in touch with his family and team coaches. We may wish to put together a memorium article; they are also compiling a binder of comments/replies/emails from people who wish to contribute. I'll keep you posted.
It is a terrible loss. He was a great kid whom I was to have the pleasure of working with on his racing career.
Motorcycle Performance Services
Los Angeles, California
The death of young Toriano Wilson is shocking. Death usually is, traumatic death nearly always is, and the traumatic death of one so young always is.
Racers. Why do we race? Why do we love it? Why do so many of us risk so much for so little material reward?
Racers. I have considered myself one at heart and soul since that magical moment in 1962 when as an eleven year old I stood beside my father and pressed my nose against the chain link fence in Indy's turn two as Parnelli Jones screamed my father's beloved blue and white number 98 Agajanian Offy past us, billowing blue-black smoke in a plume sharply delineated by the high pale prairie sky. My father shook his head and flared the nostrils of his Roman nose as Jim Clark growled his tiny green Lotus impossibly fast through the turn in a perfect arc, an impeccable surgical incision over the last millimeter of the white curb and slingshotted onto the backstraight within an inch of the steel barrier in chase of the pawing sliding American roadster. The stupid bastards are going to kill somebody, I distinctly heard him say, can't they see the oil? The bastards are going to kill somebody.
Racers. My father never raced, but he was one. You don't have to, to be one. You can't grow to be one. You are one, from the first time your tricycle gets ahead of your little legs and you pick up speed down a hill. If you are laughing, with your eyes blazing as the blast of speed provoked norepinephrine hits your little body for the first time, ever; if that jolt of speed is a rush, a wannagoagain goagain wannagoagain papa moment, then the world has another racer, welcome to the club. And by the way, if it's your kid, don't turn your back on the little bleep for at least the next twenty years or so.
Racers. My first hero was the loser on that Memorial Day 1962, Jim Clark. And it was the day that I found out he had died, that he had driven a fragile little F2 Lotus into the forest at Hockenheim, that jolted me for the first time to the full realization of the other part of being a racer. For while the risks taken by the racer are for far different and less noble reasons and rewards than those taken by the warriors, the risk is the same. And for both, the deaths seem to occur regardless of and in spite of skill or strength, random; despite their frequency, despite knowing their inevitability, the deaths still shock.
Racers. I raced on two wheels, and watched my son do the same, neither of us ever more than mid-pack at the club level, but always with a smile on our faces, always reveling in the rush. And many times of course that rush turned into horror, unequivocal horror. The friends and foes we've lost, the stars and the fellow mid-packers, the horror is the same, the empty angry black emptiness.
Racers. The Toriano Wilsons make us question why we do this thing we do, why we let our children do this thing we do. As with warriors, if you have to ask you'll never understand. But today, as we read of Toriano Wilson, we wouldn't be human if our grief was not tinged with a large portion of self-recrimination as well.
Racers. Embrace the rush, use the fear to appreciate and enforce the deadly seriousness of the race, and I will never discourage you from being the racer you are, grandson... but be careful, be very careful.
Godspeed Toriano. To your parents, friends and family: Your tears are our tears. We who are racers do indeed understand.
Jon R. DeMent
St. Cloud, Minnesota