Tuesday, October 25


By Michael Esdaile

ITALIAN Marco Simoncelli died from injuries received in a collision on the second lap of the Shell Advance Malaysian MotoGP race at Sepang on October 23.

The race was immediately red-flagged as medical staff and race officials tended the stricken 24-year-old Italian, who was laying face-down and helmetless on the race track after he lost control of his Honda RC212V and collided with Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha) and Valentino Rossi (Marlboro Ducati) who were right behind him.

Simoncelli had qualified fifth fastest, taking his place on the second row of the grid between Americans Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden. In the morning warm-up session for the race Simoncelli had posted seventh fastest time and elected to use a hard compound rear Bridgestone tyre for the race. All the other major contenders opted for the medium compound tyre.

On the opening lap Simoncelli was battling with Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista with Ducati’s Nicky Hayden next in the line, with a small gap back to Edwards and Rossi. Perhaps trying too hard to stay ahead of Bautista, Simoncelli lost rear tyre traction exiting a right-hand turn toward the end of the second lap.

On-board video footage from Bautista's Suzuki showed Simoncelli’s rear tyre leaving a black rubber mark on the tarmac as the rear wheel starting spinning, then he clipped the ‘rumble strip’ rounded curbing at the edge of the track with his right knee and right elbow. The slow motion on-board footage from Bautista's bike then showed Simoncelli’s left foot coming up off the footrest as his body was pulled down onto the track on the right-hand side of the San Carlo Gresini Honda.

Whether his right leg was trapped under the fairing of the steeply banked motorcycle is not clear from the video footage, but he still had his right hand holding onto the throttle. The Honda then arced from left to right across the race track, right into the path of the following Edwards and Rossi.

Both riders were involved in the impact, but Rossi was bounced wide by Edwards’ bike, and after a couple of big wobbles, he rode it out across the grass on the right-hand side of the track.

Edwards however was tangled up in the crash, dislocating a shoulder in the process as he tumbled and slid off the track. When the debris had cleared, Simoncelli’s helmet could be seen bouncing across the grass while the Italian lay prone on the race track several metres away.

Despite immediate medical attention and the best efforts of the entire medical team at the circuit, Simoncelli succumbed to his chest, neck and head injuries at 16.56 Malaysian time. As all the available medical personnel and equipment was being used in an effort to provide the best assistance possible to the Italian, Race Direction took the decision to cancel the race rather than make a re-start while so many medical people were not available to deal with any further incidents.

However, when the large Malaysian crowd was told of the cancellation over the public address system, the reasons were not fully explained, with the result that some became agitated and threw bottles onto the track.

At the time, Carmelo Ezpeleta, head of MotoGP commercial rights holding company Dorna Sports SL was going from garage to garage in the pit lane, informing the MotoGP riders of the situation.

The incident had happened out of sight of one half of the grand stand so a large part of the crowd did not understand the true nature of the incident.

A press conference was held soon after at which members of the Race Direction Paul Butler, Claude Danis, Franco Uncini and Javier Alonso were joined by Medical Director Doctor Michele Macchiagodena to explain the circumstances of Simoncelli’s death.

Simoncelli made his Grand Prix d├ębut at Brno in the Czech Republic on August 25, 2002 and placed 27th in the 125 GP. Two years later he won his first GP, the 125 race in Spain and after a further year in the 125 class, he moved up to the 250 class in 2006, winning the World 250 Championship two years later, in 2008. He attempted to defend his championship in 2009 but had to settle for third in the title chase that year behind Japanese Hiroshi Aoyama and Spaniard Hector Barbera and ahead of Alvaro Bautista.

Last year he moved up to the MotoGP class riding for the San Carlo Gresini MotoGP team and battled with Ben Spies for Rookie of the Year status, that accolade going to Spies. This year he continued with the San Carlo Gresini team, but was supplied with a factory Honda rather than the ‘satellite’ bike he had in 2010.

Trevor Hedge of Australian website motorcylenews.com.au has covered the Simoncelli fatality in some depth. Read it at: http://www.mcnews.com.au/NewsArchives/2011/October/RIP_Simoncelli.htm