When I saw the video from the crash I just couldn’t believe and couldn’t watch it once more. For me it's not a moral dilemma. Indeed, another young racer has died on TV, cut down as millions watched, leaving those who loved him. We outsiders can only understand, not actually feel. Watching or not watching the crash that killed Marco Simoncelli won't bring him back, and as human beings, we're hard-wired to certain ghoulishness. It's who we are.
To me, Moto GP is the highest form of motorized competition. Yes, I'm four-wheel weirdo crazy enough to drag myself out of bed early on Saturday mornings for Formula One qualifying. But the reductive display of skill in motorcycle racing, specifically in its highest ranks, puts Moto GP far above any other motorsport in terms of sheer racing drama.
And so, Simoncelli's death hit me hard, in part because of how hopefully I'd been watching his currenr ascent. A brash young rider, Simoncelli had spent his second season in the big show crashing people out and getting a reputation for being a nutter. To get a feel for what Simoncelli meant to the future of motorcycle racing and racing in general one need only watch the final laps of the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.
Simoncelli was hovering in third. A vexing rain was falling on half the track, and the spotty slickness began claiming riders, first Álvaro Bautista, then Cal Crutchlow, then Simoncelli's Gresini Honda teammate, Hiroshi Aoyama. Casey Stoner was so far out front that only a similar shunt would have kept him from the top of the podium. As the race unwound, Dovi put in his quickest lap of the race, and looked sure to hold second, while Simoncelli, who'd pulled off a breathtaking last-lap pass on Dovi at San Marino a month earlier, appeared to be resigned to the third podium step.
And then he wasn't. Closing in on Turn 4, a low-gear hairpin, Simoncelli outbraked Dovi just over 0.2 seconds ahead of Dovizioso. It was Simoncelli's best result in Moto GP. The 24-year-old rising star would die a week later in a freak accident during the second lap of the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang. I've heard it's one of those one-in-a-million accidents that no one can predict and no one can comprehend in retrospect. I wouldn't know.
Nearing the end of his second Moto GP season, Simoncelli had just signed to Gresini for 2012. His reputation for pushing harder than his specialized hardware, and the laws of physics, might allow seemed a function of his youth, but so was the enthusiasm that made him such a likable character in a sport of bitter rivalries. When he pulled it together, as he seemed destined to, the coming years would be laid out like a golden highway.
And then they weren't.
1987 — 2011
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