Blog: Marco Simoncelli, We Hardly Knew Ye

By Tom Martin

October 24, 2011

(photo credits: Jerko Scholten, Greg Hilde)
As I was starting to write a piece reflecting on the misguided Indycar policies that may have contributed to Dan Wheldon’s death last week, news came in that MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli had died in a race at Sepang. Simoncelli was one of my favorite MotoGP riders, but frankly that doesn’t matter. Any death in racing is one death too many. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.
Simoncelli was the kind of rider who leaves an impression. He rode hard, as they all probably do, but in a way where you could see Marco dance with the edge of adhesion. And Simoncelli had an aggressive passing style that allowed him to move up (and sometimes down) the leader board almost at will. He was fun to watch and his presence near the front created an added bit of tension that enhanced the drama by adding another serious player to the mix. The fact that he rode for Gresini Honda, which is not exactly a factory team, also helped for those who enjoy cheering underdogs. Many fans will miss him.
It is a little early in the emotional cycle to try to draw lessons from this crash. It might just be a fluke. Or it might be like many previous incidents where improved safety rules come from careful study of a complex event we hadn’t seen or understood before (as HANS emerged from the death of Patrick Jacquemart in IMSA).
But I don’t think it is too early to say that this death is not a good thing. It is bad. Period. And I don’t think it is ever too early to say that crashes are not what we want. We don’t want accidents and we don’t want “carnage.” Those who say such things are outsiders, with no appreciation of the sport, whose limited imaginations and deep cynicism cause them to impose morally abhorrent fictions on race fans. I encourage you to turn your back on such commentary.
I love racing. I love the challenge, the technology, the sound, and the events. I love the unfolding, uncertain drama. But most of all, I love the community and the people in it. Today that community is short another person, and is diminished as a result. Here’s hoping that the way we go forward can honor what Marco Simoncelli, and Dan Wheldon, gave us.