Sunday, October 23, 2011

Farewell, Super Sic: A tribute Marco Simoncelli - Galactus

I'm still in something of a state of shock at the news that Marco Simoncelli, at the age of 24, died after an horrific accident at the MotoGP race at Malaysia's Sepang circuit in the early hours of this morning.

After losing the front end of his Gresini Honda RC212V he slid into the path of the oncoming bikes of Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi. Neither rider was able to avoid hitting him. In the aftermath of the crash he lay unmoving on the tarmac, his helmet no longer on his head. He was pronounced dead only 50 minutes afterwards.

The plan for today was pretty simple. A lazy late morning breakfast, followed by catching up on the Sepang race on iPlayer. Except the race wasn't available. Then I found out why.

Death is, sadly, part and parcel of motorcycle racing, even more so than in the four wheeled version. You can't build a roll cage around a bike. You can't fit it with crumple zones. I can still remember attending my first live race and realising just how sickening the sound of leather hitting tarmac at high speed truly is.

I've witnessed my fair share of deaths in the sport (thankfully never when actually at a circuit). Shoya Tomizawa at Misano last year sticks in the memory. There have been a number in British Superbikes and its various support classes, Ben Gautrey in the Superstock 600 race at Cadwell Park in August being the most recent. I won't even start going into the Manx TT.

The riders, and indeed the fans, accept that this is the case. It happens, your heart goes out to the riders' friends and family, but ultimately you accept it and move on. So I'm not sure why, to me at least, this death feels so different.

Perhaps it's because Marco, affectionately known as Super Sic, was one of the bright emerging talents of the sport, a world champion at 250cc level. Perhaps it was his racing. He had been criticised many times in the past for his aggressive riding style and, for some of his fellow riders, overly dangerous passing manoeuvres (he and Lewis Hamilton would probably have found much to talk about at a dinner party), but this was what made him so exciting to watch, and had livened up a class that too often in recent years has descended into a procession. Or perhaps it was his infectious personality. He had a bright, engaging smile, an effervescent personality and an obvious love and enthusiasm for his sport.

A gangling young man with a huge shock of curly hair, at 183cm tall he stood out in the MotoGP paddock and looked like his bike was far too small for him, knees and elbows sticking out in a style that would best be described as gawky. He looked awkward on a bike, rather than at one with the machine. Appearances were, however, highly deceptive. After a highest placed finish of 2nd place at last week's Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island a bright future lay ahead. Sadly, no more.

A special thought goes to Valentino Rossi. The two were close friends, with Vale seeming to take the older brother role, defending Marco against the occasional storm of criticism. For his bike to have been involved in the accident is too cruel. I'm not sure whether Marco's helmet had already come off when Vale ran into him, or whether it was this impact that removed it. I've only watched the incident once and have no desire to watch it again. Vale must be in deep despair tonight, and I wonder whether he will even want to continue in the sport. I hope he does.

I've been in a state of numb hurt all day. This death has cut me far deeper than any I've witnessed in the sport before. Farewell, Super Sic. The MotoGP paddock and the world of motorsport will be far sadder for your absence.

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