If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Why These Guys Are Gods

I came home on Sunday night to the sad news that Marco Simoncelli had been killed in an accident during the Malaysian MotoGP at Sepang. On the second lap, Simoncelli was about to lose the front end in a slide at about 100 mph, and had dug his knee into the tarmac to save it. This caused the bike to slew to the right, straight into the path of Edwards and Rossi, who both collided with the fallen bike and rider. Simoncelli's helmet came off in the impact, and that was the end of that.

Simoncelli was a vastly entertaining rider, never afraid to take monumental risks in the pursuit of a place in the race, and this didn't always endear him to the other riders. But he was a colourful character and he will be sadly missed. It is worth remembering that fatalities in motorcycle racing are now extremely rare. Riders are falling off all the time, but the protective gear is so good, and the run-off areas at major circuits so generous, that even minor injuries are uncommon. Once in a while, however, circumstances come together and bad things happen. It's part of the game, and the riders are all quite realistic about it.

By way of a tribute, here is a photo of Simoncelli showing the unearthy skills that the top riders demonstrate day after day. It's a corner, right enough, but look at the orientation of the bike. It's pointing towards the grass in the inside of the track. The rear tyre has come unstuck (intentionally) and the bike is sliding sideways with the rear wheel spinning, the better to get a good drive onto the straight. Not too hard to do in a car (Jeremy Clarkson manages it whenever he takes a fast car onto the track in Top Gear), but much harder on a bike, where you have to balance the grip and power on a machine that wants to fall over. The rider is already hanging off the side of the bike to increase the ground clearance and keep the rear tyre off the sidewalls. All of this at probably 120 mph. The black rubber streaks on the track tell the story.

RIP Marco.


  1. Scares the hell out of me! l'm built for comfort ... not speed!

    Sad loss to the sport.

  2. tragic loss. ride in peace marco.

  3. Very sad indeed that Marco lost his life - it really was a 'freak' accident.

    Normally losing the front end on a bend means centripetal force throws rider & machine 'outwards', but here Marco careered 'inwards' and poor Edwards had no time to react.

    That coupled with the fact that his helmet got knocked off on impact (I've never seen that happen before), and the sad result was inevitable.

    The anguish is compounded by the fact that his friend & mentor - Rossi - was 'undertaking' Edwards and was then involved. From the clip below (at 13 secs in) it seems Rossi didn't strike Marco, just his helmet.


  4. I cannot watch motorcycle racing, because of that whole 'leaning over as they go round a corner' thing. It sets my teeth on edge!

  5. And I was absolutely disgusted to see that, while the tv had the sense not to replay the crash, the 'Mail' had the whole series of freeze-frame stills on its story.. :/

  6. Before the accident, he was already off the bike and on the ground, and the bike seemed to pivot about him and veer to the right. As Joe says, a complete freak of an accident. Knowing the strength and integrity of even the cheapest consumer-level helmet, the force to knock it off would have broken his neck. I'm pretty sure he was gone before the bike stopped sliding. Rossi must be in torment today. I am so very sorry for them all.

    Julia, I'm glad I didn't read the Mail today. It really doesn't need to be splashed across the front pages. On a lighter note, I expect you fly occasionally. When the plane is banking in a turn, that's the only time I feel secure, because I know what it is doing and why. Anna is the opposite, and asks why it doesn't just slide out of the sky.


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