Racing enthusiasts were dealt another tragedy this month.
Last week, British IndyCar star Dan Wheldon died in a fiery accident, sending shockwaves through the sport. On Sunday, Marco Simoncelli, one of the best motocross riders in the world, was killed in a horrific crash at the Malaysian MotoGP motorcycle race in Kuala Lumpur.
The 24-year-old Italian (riding a white motorcycle) crashed after being hit by two other riders, and was then sent to the local medical center where he was pronounced dead 45 minutes later due to chest, head, and neck injuries.
Simoncelli was motionless on the track following the collision, and his helmet had come off.
The way the crash transpired was horrific. Simoncelli had lost control of his Honda at Turn 11, just four minutes into the race. His bike regained partial grip and swerved across the track, where he ended up in the path of Italian racer Valentino Rossi and American Colin Edwards. There was no doubt that Simoncelli's collison was serious on first glance.
Edwards dislocated a shoulder in the crash, but Rossi returned to the pits.
Officials were interested in restarting the race before they learned the extent of Simoncelli's injury, but the race was later cancelled as news became more clear.
The race took place in front of over 64,000 fans, and some decided to throw bottles and trash onto the track facing the grandstand in protest of the race being called off. According to Freemalaysiatoday.com, video footage was shown of Simoncelli's girlfriend weeping in the stands moments after the crash, but that that did not deter some unsympathetic fans from showing their displeasure.
Newly crowned MotoGP champion Casey Stoner of Australia feared for Simoncelli the moment he witnessed the crash.
As soon as I saw the footage it just makes you sick inside, Stoner said to the BBC. Whenever the helmet comes off, that's not a good sign.
Race director Paul Butler said there will be an investigation into the crash.
Marco was flamboyant on and off the track, said Matt Roberts, a BBC MotoGP broadcaster. When someone dies, everyone always says they loved life. But he had a very vibrant personality. He already had a huge fanbase around the world, partly down to aggressive riding - but also because he was just a cool guy. He didn't take himself too seriously and would have been a big star for next year.
Simoncelli won the 250cc world championship in 2008 and clinched the crown in Sepang. He moved up into MotoGP in 2010 where he finished eighth overall last season. He signed on with the San Carlo Gresni Honda team in June 2009.
He ended 2010 in eight position and was considered a possible surprise contender in 2011, though his best finish in 2010 was fourth place in Portugal.
It had been a difficult year for Simoncelli after several crashes, but he finished in second place in Australia last week.
Seven-time champion Rossi, who was a close friend of Simoncelli, posted this on Twitter: Sic for me was like a youngest brother. So strong on track and so sweet in the normal life. I will miss him a lot.
Sunday's fatal accident comes just seven days after Wheldon crashed and died in Las Vegas. Wheldon's funeral services were held on Saturday.
The Italian motorcycling federation canceled all events planned for Sunday at the Mugello circuit near Florence.
Simoncelli's death was the first in MotoGP since Daijiro Katoh died from injuries at the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix.
Here is a look at the accident (Warning: Video is graphic)