Sunday, 23 October 2011

Marco Simoncelli (20th January 1987 to 23rd October 2011)

Four minutes ago it was announced on BBC Sport that the MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli has died after a horrific crash at the Sepang race in Malaysia. He was 24.
I was watching the race live this morning. We're MotoGP fans in Maison CB and saw the crash when it happened just minutes after the race started. And, as the BBC reported, it was horrific. Simoncelli fell and was hit by two other riders. As the replay revealed in all its terrible, slow-motion detail, he was run over in front of our eyes. The impact was such that it forced his helmet off, and that was a sure sign it may have been fatal. That and his motionless body on the track. As the commentators struggled to say anything other than "oh no... oh no", we saw a shot of Simoncelli's girlfriend back at the paddock. She was staring at the screen, her hands to her face. I'm not sure I can find the words to describe the look in her eyes.
Like all motor sports, motorcycle racing is fast and contains a huge element of risk. These young riders understand that, and, to many, that is part of the appeal. There are, however, surprisingly few fatalaties when you add together the number of races and competitors over the years. So it is a shock to see it. And in such graphic detail.
I'm not sure if anyone else who reads this blog is even interested in MotoGP, but it's the end of a life and that's what usually moves me to write a post. Compared to his family and friends, my reaction to Simoncelli's death is pretty insignificant. But I do feel shocked and upset. I can't quite seem to switch off the action replay in my head. Or that look on his girlfriend's face.
I visit families all the time who have lost loved ones in accidents. Sometimes they are young. Sometimes their death has been witnessed by others. A death seen by thousands of track-side fans, or millions of TV viewers, doesn't make it any sadder or more significant. They are all tragic in their own way. But this morning served as a sharp and terrible reminder to me of what some people have gone through before I knock on their door.


  1. My wife and I were also watching the race live here in Australia. I also have the replay in my mind, for me it is the vision of seeing an empty helmet rolling across the track. We love the MotoGP and although we have never met Simoncelli, his death is like a death in our family. There will be thousands of people across the world, the extended family of the MotoGP i.e. the fans, whom tonight and perhaps for some time will be grieving this tragic loss. It would appear that Simoncelli took his corner too fast on cold tyres and low sided. The race had only just begun, he was pushing too hard, too early. I recall earlier this year when he was criticised for his riding style, and I remember at a press conference at Estoril when Jorge Lorenzo said to Simoncelli that riding dangerously "is not funny, we are playing with our lives". Simoncelli played too hard this weekend. May he RIP.

  2. Hi Dave. Great to hear from a fellow MotoGp fan across the globe. Yes, Marco was a risk taker. And today his luck ran out. As well as thinking about Marco and his family, I can't help wondering what Rossi and Edwards are feeling right now. Through no fault of their own, they have played a part in the death of a fellow rider. And, in Rossi's case, a close compatriot. Words won't do it justice.

  3. so sad , my favourite rider in the GP circuit , risk taker yes , exciting , yes ... more dangerous than others ... i dont think so , he pushed , he was paid to push and get that machine as far up the rostrum as possible , unfortunately this accident was a bit of a freak ... any other lowside and hed have been in the gravel nursing nothing more than a bruised ego , unfortunately here it looks like he tried to save it as he usually does , this unfortunately put him right on the line of rossi and Edwards :( RIP Simo ... a legend lost , I too feel for Edward and Rossi ... bound to be destroying them right now :( Best regards from Northern Ireland. Tim Walsh.

  4. Hi. Thanks for the blog. I happened upon it by chance as I googled about the accident. I'm not really sure why (I'm not even a MotoGP fan though occasionally watched races with an old housemate who was into it) - not knowing the rider or any of his loved ones and not having seen the crash, I still feel terribly sad after hearing about this incident. More at the thought of what his poor family and girlfriend will be going through. I can't believe the poor girl had to see her boyfriends death played (and then repeated in slow-motion) on a big screen. I also feel so sad for Valentino Rossi who by all accounts was very close to Marco. I'm currently studying neuropsychology so I suppose have a more graphic idea of what happened when the helmet came off.

    I guess eventually the people close to Marco will perhaps take some comfort from the fact that he died doing what he loved.

    Comfort Blanket - thank you for the work you do, I'm sure that many families you go to find your input invaluable. Wishing you inner peace and strength to keep on providing this vital service.

  5. Hi Tim. Thanks for commenting. Marco was certainly a character - big hair and the personality to match. A favourite with you and many other fans. And you're right - all those riders have their own degrees of danger. This was, indeed, a freak accident that could so easily have had a different ending.

  6. I wonder, Charles, if you feel we get too much slo-mo of such dreadful events? And when we do see something like this, I just hope that the person's family don't have to see it repeated over and over.

    I shall not spend any time at all mourning for Gaddafi, but some commentators are saying they regret the replays of some very brutal footage.

    Yes, such a sight as the death you describe makes us think and feel more deeply when we call on peple. I visited a family last year of a woman who was hit by a train. Thank God that wasn't shown in slo-mo for her grieving family to watch in horror on News at 10 etc. I think their imaginations were giving them as much of it as they could handle.

    Or am I just chickenshit?

    Anyway - RIP Marco Simoncelli, what a dreadful pity. As you say, dangerous sports are followed because they are dangerous. I met a middle-aged female climber recently who watched her husband "peel off" across a valley from her, and she said that she thought quite simply "well, that's that." They both knew it could happen, and it did.

    Hope you've shaken off those images OK.

  7. So sorry CB, half asleep - should of course be CB not Charles of whom I'm asking my question...

  8. Thanks Holly. When I published my post this morning, I really didn't expect to have comments from new visitors. I know you've all come via searches for stories about Marco, so I hope you're not disappointed to find it's just a small tribute! But I'm so glad you've got in touch and thank you for your kind words.
    Your neuropsychology studies must be really interesting, although I imagine your awareness of what may have happened to Marco is equally distressing. Poor guy. As you say, he died doing what he loved. I just hope he didn't suffer, and that his ending was as instant as it looked.
    Warmest wishes and peace to you too Holly. x

  9. No worries GM!
    Several hours later and I do still feel a bit distressed about what I saw this morning. Just thinking now about the aftermath for everyone who was close to him. Footage of events seems to come as 'standard' these days. And what is kept from us by TV bosses is usually found on web sites. But you always hope that some element of respect and consideration is involved. Sadly, not always...
    But, as you say, sometimes the imagination is just as powerful as the truth being screened in front of your eyes. Sometimes worse.
    Good to hear from you GM. Hope you've had a nice weekend. x

  10. I know what it's like to bike -- though I haven't biked since I parted with my BSA A10 to a nice man who kept a goat in his house, so that dates me! But I remember the glorious feeling of riding, and I adored all my bikes more by far than I've ever liked a car -- here's to you, Francis Barnett and your wonderful geometry and that way you stood up again firm as can be as we came out of a corner; and my beloved Tiger Cub, the swiftest, snortiest bike with its wonderful megaphones. I loved to ride into Deal early morning after my shift on the cross-Channel ferry and hold the white line and blast down the Strand, fearless. Way to go!

    So here's to you, Marco.


  11. Brilliant! Thanks Charles. That's the thing about bikes – they inspire so much emotion and nostalgia. Whether you're a professional racer or Sunday rider, that feeling of man and machine (or woman and machine, of course!) is like nothing else.

  12. I think the events which unfolded during the race show how lives can be changed in the blink of an eye - irrevocably. The suddeness and traumatic accident snuffed out a promising career within a second and underlines the fragility of life. A brave man who paid the ultimate price in bringing a sport he loved and enjoyed to our living rooms. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time - who witnessed this tragic accident - but he died doing what he loved best - RIP

  13. Hi Anon...
    You are so right - the fragility of life was never more evident than in those tragic seconds. I was looking at pictures of Marco in today's edition of Motorcycle News and there is a really lovely one of him taken just before Sunday's race. The big hair and big grin. Its lovely. Who would have known what was to follow. He loved what he did and we loved to watch him. A career 'snuffed' out but a man and life that won't be forgotten...

  14. Simoncelli goodbye, hopefully you're still in heaven, you are a very good racer