SEPANG, MALAYSIA, OCT 23 –
Marco Simoncelli, the tall, bushy-haired charismatic Italian who rode for the San Carlo Honda Gresini team, died today after succumbing to injuries suffered in a second lap crash in the Malaysian Grand Prix. He was 24 and lived in Cattolica, Italy.The Grand Prix was canceled after the accident.
Simoncelli was in fourth place when he lost the front in the turn 11 right-hander on the second of 20 laps. He slid down the track under his bike, which caught traction and shot him directly into the path of Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards and Ducati Marlboro’s Valentino Rossi, both of whom unavoidably hit him, with Simoncelli’s helmet being knocked loose. Edwards was jarred to his right, impacting Rossi, who was sent flying into the grass, though he managed to stay upright and rode back to the pits. Edwards suffered a dislocated left shoulder, which was popped into place. Afterwards, he was given a sedative.
“He was more concerned about Marco’s condition than his own,” Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team owner Herve Poncharal said.About 30 minutes after the accident, race officials canceled the race, though without any official notification of Simoncelli’s condition.A crawl on the bottom of the television broadcast read “Race cancelled as the medical centre staff is focusing on treating rider 58 Marco Simoncelli and track action cannot be resumed in the current circumstances.” Minutes later, at 4:44 p.m., a public address announcer told the fans, “It is much regret that due to the incident in the first lap of the MotoGP race and Sepang International Circuit has decided to cancel the remainder of the race.”The fans, who had no idea of the severity of the accident, which was on lap two, not lap one as the announcer said, reacted badly, whistling and screaming and throwing bottles at pit lane from the main grandstand.Simoncelli’s death was announced by another crawl on the bottom of the telecast at 4:56 p.m.
The last premier class rider to succumb to racing injuries was Daijiro Katoh, who also rode for the Gresini Honda team. Katoh was gravely injured in the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka and died in the hospital two weeks later. Katoh’s death led to significant safety improvements, as well as the Japanese Grand Prix being moved from Suzuka to Motegi.