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GP Week : Issue 139
GPWEEK OPINION >> At times like this, all thoughts are muddled by grief. In one split second, in one freakish moment when the tyres gripped and imposed an illogical trajectory, everything that is beautiful about bike racing turned ugly. The sudden loss of Marco Simoncelli will take some getting used to. He was a lion of a man, with a great big mane and a booming voice, and a great big heart. He was also a lion of a racer: “I never give presents to the other riders.” By the end of this, his second MotoGP season, he was as fast as the Aliens. He had a big future. His gung ho style found some disfavour with his rivals. He was blamed for knocking off Pedrosa at Le Mans; Lorenzo at Assen. His critics might wish now that he had heeded their advice. But it’s irrelevant. He was a racer, who only knew one way. Senna’s way. What most would call the right way. And in the end it was not his exuberance or aggression that played him foul, but a quirk of physics. Fighting for fourth, he was fast into the right-hand turn 11, one after the left-right esses behind the pits. The camera on the challenging Bautista’s Suzuki recorded his back tyre painting a black streak as it spun, searching for grip. But it was the front that let go first, and the bike slid away. A perfectly normal low-side get-off. It should have ended with a safe slide into the run-off. Instead it got weird. Somehow the tyres gripped again. If the bike had been a bit more sideways this might have precipitated a loop over the high side. But that didn’t happen either. Instead, as had happened last year to Shoya Tomizawa, the bike speared inwards towards the inside of the corner, Simoncelli inside and half- beneath the riderless machine. The guys behind, Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi, didn’t have a chance. Neither did Marco. So what is the effect on racing? On racing fans? On racers? In the shocking hours after the event, it is hard to gauge one’s feelings. I wrote back in 1993 after Wayne Rainey’s crippling crash that, for those who were there, “racing will never be the same again”. In some ways, it wasn’t. But it was in others. It’s like that. The sport is bigger than the man, and that is still true. On a personal level, it might be different. Hours after the event, BBC commentator Steve Parrish predicted that Rossi might retire. He and Simoncelli have been friends for a long time. While Rossi’s part in his friend’s death was nothing if not accidental (he didn’t know if he’d hit him or not; photos suggest that he did), it could prey on his mind. Racing in general needs some answers. Why did his helmet come off? Could the design be improved? Would that have made any difference? Why did the tyres grip again in this quirky way? Is there anything that can be done to prevent that? But we all know that nothing can be done to avoid the extreme danger to a rider when he is struck at high speed by following motorcycles. In this case, he will be very lucky to escape with his life. The only way to prevent that happening will be to stop people racing each other on motorbikes. I don’t think that’s what Simoncelli would have wanted. It remains only to express sincere condolences, shared I am sure by all readers, to Marco’s family, friends and team. He achieved a lot in his 24 years. You must be proud. MICHAEL SCOtt MotoGP Editor opinion The end of a Lion 25