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Sports car driver killed on curve

May 19, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

SUMMIT POINT, W.Va. - Sports car driver John Legat was attempting to pass another car in the Jefferson 500 Sunday afternoon when he lost control on a curve and struck a tree, splitting his vintage race car in half, according to West Virginia State Police.

Legat, 50, of Carol Stream, Ill., was pronounced dead at Jefferson Memorial Hospital, said Trooper S.T. Dillon.

Legat worked with computers, but spent his weekends competing on an East Coast racing circuit, Dillon said.

Legat also had a pilot's license and flew fixed-wing aircraft, Dillon said.

His wife and a friend were at the track when the accident occurred, Dillon said.

A crowd of about 2,500 were on hand Sunday for the race, the sixth annual vintage sports car race, said track spokeswoman Marie Orsini Monday.

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The accident occurred out of sight of the crowd, Dillon said.

The race track is more than two miles long with 10 curves, lined with trees at several places, Dillon said.

Dillon said the weekend death was the third fatal accident at the race track he's investigated since April 1995. The other two involved a motorcycle and a go-cart, Dillon said.

Legat was driving a 1974 Porsche in the race and was attempting to pass a car before a S-shaped curve, Dillon said.

Legat failed to make the curve and ran off the road into a group of trees, Dillon said.

Legat's car struck at the driver's side door, splitting the car in two, Dillon said.

The trooper said he did not know how fast the car was traveling at the time of the wreck.

Dillon said he was unable to get to the accident scene because track officials did not want to stop the race.

Dillon said those involved in racing know it is a risky sport.

"It's not like getting out here on Route 9 and hitting a bad curve. These people know they're going to be out there running it as hard as they can," Dillon said.

Sunday's race was organized by Intercontinental Events, which rented the track, Orsini said.

Calls to a number provided by Orsini to Intercontinental Events were answered by a telephone machine and were not returned Monday.

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