REST EASY MARCO

What an absolute shock! I just can’t believe that we’ve lost Marco Simoncelli in what seemed like the blink of an eye. I only met him for the first time last week at Phillip Island, where he was so kind to my sons, who were excited to finally meet their racing hero. He immediately struck me as a wonderful person, full of life and passion, truly a larger-than-life character. The funny thing was, while we were all eager to get our pictures taken with him, he was also keen to have his picture taken with me, which at the time thought was a really nice gesture. Now he’s gone. Like everyone else, I watched it all unfold live on TV and just couldn’t believe it. We all know that racing is dangerous and that these types of things can happen, but it’s still a massive shock when they do.

At this point, Toni, the boys, and myself simply want to extend our deepest condolences and thoughts to Marco’s family, friends, and team. I also want to extend my sincerest sympathies to Colin and Valentino. They will be absolutely gutted and racked with a huge amount of guilt. Having been involved in a similar incident with Franco Uncini many, many yeas ago, I have a pretty good idea about how they’ll be feeling. But it simply wasn’t their fault. There’s nothing they could have done. Both will be replaying the event in their mind over and over again, wondering if they could have veered to the left, the right, braked harder. But while a small consolation, the TV footage of the accident - now and in the years to come - will show them they had absolutely no time to avoid the collision. It was, sadly, just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

UNFORESEEABLE CIRCUMSTANCES

The accident that claimed Marco’s life was freakish in the extreme. I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years associated with racing. The start of the incident isn’t entirely clear as it happened off camera. All we saw was his bike veering violently to the right and into the path of Colin and Vale. I think he must have initially lost the front, only to have the tires somehow grip again and launch him straight across the track.

You know, a lot of people and media have been asking me over the past 12-hours if this sport is too dangerous. The honest answer is that, yes, to a certain extent, it is. And if fans and TV executives are honest, they’ll know that danger is part of the appeal and excitement. For the riders themselves, the adrenalin-charged thrill of being on the edge is also a huge part of why they race. Of course, we’re talking very high speeds and when things go wrong the consequences can be disastrous.

But at the same time we need to put things into perspective. Other sports (like horse riding, rock fishing, football, cycling, skydiving) are also dangerous. Even simply driving on the roads is dangerous. As for MotoGP, everyone involved knows the risks, and extreme measures are taken to ensure a high degree of rider safety. Things like track run-off, protective riding gear, and onsite medical facilities are all first rate, while the skills of the actual riders themselves is staggering. Yet sometimes we simply have to acknowledge that the worst can sometimes occur. Yesterday’s dreadful tragedy was one such time. And while no words can ever make up for such a loss, I’ll be choosing to remember Marco for what he was: an exciting, enthusiastic, entertaining, talented, fearless competitor. And, I think it’s fair to say, a great bloke.


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Wayne Gardner

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