The high-risk, high-speed world of motorsports was in mourning again on Sunday after young Italian motorcycling star Marco Simoncelli was killed in the Malaysian MotoGP at Sepang.
Simoncelli, 24, died after his bike veered across the track and he was hit at high speed by American rider Colin Edwards and world champion Valentino Rossi, who were both powerless to avoid catastrophic contact.
The tragedy came one week after British driver Dan Wheldon was killed in a horrific 15-car pile up during IndyCar’s season finale at Las Vegas.
Wheldon’s funeral took place on Saturday, and a public memorial service was held on Sunday a matter of hours after Simoncelli’s death ratcheted up concerns over safety in high-speed sports.
At Sepang, Simoncelli’s helmet was knocked off in the collision with Edwards and Rossi. He was motionless for several minutes before being airlifted to the hospital, where he died shortly after.
Edwards dislocated his shoulder in the crash, while Rossi was unhurt, at least physically.
Reaction to Simoncelli’s death was swift, with current MotoGp world champion Casey Stoner saying: “As soon as I saw the footage, it just makes you sick inside. Whenever the helmet comes off, that’s not a good sign.”
Formula 1 driver Mark Webber tweeted: “RIP Marco. A special talent that will be missed. Thinking of your loved ones and all the MotoGP paddock.”
Respected motorcycling comentator Steve Parrish wrote on the BBC’s Web site that Rossi’s own involvement in the tragedy would be particularly hard for him, having been a close friend and mentor of Simoncelli.
Parrish said his gut feeling was that seven-time MotoGP champion Rossi would now retire from the sport.