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R.I.P Marco Simoncelli

The world of motorsport is in mourning for a second consecutive weekend following the tragic death of Italian Moto GP rider Marco Simoncelli in Malaysia today. The 24 year old died just four minutes in to the race in Sepang when he came off his bike and skidded in to the path of Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi, who were unable to avoid him. The impact of the two bikes hitting Simoncelli caused injuries from which he was unable to recover, despite the best efforts of the medical team and around 45 minutes later, the tragic news of his death was announced.

 

Marco Simoncelli was one of Moto GP's most colourful characters (This image is the property of Reuters)

The incident occurred at turn 11 on only the second lap of the race as the Gresini Honda rider ran wide and tried to maintain control of the bike. He was unable to do so and the front end of the bike went from underneath him. It must be said that this is a highly common occurrence in Moto GP (four riders did the same thing last week) and does not normally cause any issues as the bike slides away from the rider. However, on this occasion the bike took Simoncelli with it and in to the path of two oncoming riders. Colin Edwards careered in to the stricken Italian at great speed before being catapulted out of the saddle himself (Edwards suffered a dislocated shoulder in the incident) and then the impact of Valentino Rossi’s Ducati appeared to be what removed Simoncelli’s helmet. The red flag was immediately waved and medical staff were on the scene very quickly to tend to the Italian, who lay there motionless. The race was eventually cancelled once the seriousness of Simoncelli’s condition was known. Around 45 minutes later, at 16.56 local time, it was announced that they had been unable to save him.

In a hastily arranged and highly emotional press conference, Medical Director Michele Macchiagodena explained what had happened: “He suffered a very serious trauma to the head, to the neck and the chest. When our medical staff got to him he was unconscious. In the ambulance because there was a cardiac arrest they started CPR (cardiac pulmonary resuscitation). Immediately in the Medical Centre, with the help of the doctor of our staff at the Clinica Mobile and local doctors, he was incubated and it was possible to take off some blood from the thorax. The CPR was continued for 45 minutes because we tried to help him for as long as we thought it was possible. Unfortunately it was not possible to help him and at 16:56 (local time) we had to declare he was dead.”

Questions will inevitably be asked about the safety of the sport, although it should be noted that this is the first death in the Moto GP class since 2003. Paul Butler (Race Director) stated that “Quite clearly the consequences and circumstances surrounding the accident will be thoroughly investigated.” Perhaps most worrying is the way Simoncelli ended up without a helmet and there will no doubt be questions raised about the design of such head protection. All of this is however for another time and for now; everybody’s thoughts and prayers are with Marco Simoncelli’s friends and family. We should also reflect on just what a huge talent and colourful character the sport has lost.

This was only Simoncelli’s second year in Moto GP following a successful career on smaller bikes, and he certainly made an impact. After entering the sport’s top tier, he quickly garnered a reputation for risky, swashbuckling driving which was exciting but also the subject of much criticism. The Italian’s aggressive riding style led to altercations with the likes of compatriot Andrea Dovizioso and Spain’s Dani Pedrosa. In fact, a crash with Pedrosa at this year’s French Grand Prix saw the Spaniard miss three races with a broken collarbone and Simoncelli serve a drive through penalty. Following the incident, the 24 year old admitted “in the future I will try at certain times to evaluate the situation better and be a little more cautious.”

 

The Italian's maverick riding style won him fans and critics alike (This image is the property of Moto GP)

Despite the criticism, Simoncelli’s talent was undeniable. He showed an ability to eke every last mph out of a non-factory bike and his capacity for overtaking was already becoming legendary. Two podiums this season, including a second place finish last week in Australia, had helped Simoncelli seal a deal to ride for Honda’s factory team next year and he was seemingly on his way to becoming the sport’s next big star before tragedy struck in Malaysia.

The Italian was brave on the track and much loved off it. He simply loved the thrill of riding at speed on his bike and his flamboyance in and out of the saddle won him the adoration of many fans. Several experts, including the BBC’s Steve Parrish, were tipping him to be a serious title contender on the Honda next year. Simoncelli was delighted at being offered a ride on the best bike on the grid, but the sight of a highly talented, highly exciting Italian on the machine is one of which we have been robbed.

There are rumours that Valentino Rossi, a close friend of his countryman, will retire following this weekend’s crash as he is said to be devastated and it was evident that the tragedy had caused much introspection amongst the other riders. The accident has rocked the sport to its core and it will take a long time for it to return to something like normality, but in the meantime let’s remember a young man who just loved riding a motorcycle and who provided us with fantastic entertainment both on and off the track. Thank you for the memories Marco, you will be sorely missed. R.I.P.

The Reactions of fellow Moto GP Riders

Casey Stoner (Honda): “As soon as I saw the footage it just makes you sick inside. Whenever the helmet comes off that’s not a good sign. I’m so shocked and saddened by the loss of Marco. When things like this happen it reminds you how precious life is, it makes me feel sick inside. All I can say is how sorry I am for Marco’s whole family. I can’t imagine what they are all going through and our thoughts and wishes are with them at this time. I hope they all stay close and pull through this tragedy together.”

Andrea Dovizioso (Honda): “He seemed invincible. What happened seems impossible. We raced together since we were kids. I saw him always pushing to the maximum. He crashed many times but without major injuries. In these circumstances, words don’t seem to be appropriate. I think of Marco’s family and all the people dear to him, in particular his father and mother. I also have a child and what happened today is the hardest situation you can imagine. I watched the images and I’m shocked. In a race you fight and push hard and disaster is often around the corner. Marco was a strong rider and he always pushed hard.”

Dani Pedrosa (Honda): “Many times we ourselves forget how dangerous this sport can be and, when you lose people on the way, nothing has any meaning. It’s clear we all do what we like, what we love, but on days like today nothing matters.”

Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha Tech 3): “RIP Marco Simoncelli! A great rider and all round nice guy. My thoughts are with all his family & friends. I will never forget today.” (From Twitter)

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