Italian motorcyclist Marco Simoncelli was killed in a crash at the Malaysian Moto Grand Prix on Sunday, the second auto racing accident in a week.
The 24-year-old rider lost control over his bike on the second lap and slid across the track at Sepang International Circuit in the Malaysian MotoGP while being hit by Colin Edwards and then Valentino Rossi, who were riding behind him. Edwards dislocated a shoulder in the crash, but Rossi returned to the pits.
The Gresini Honda rider's helmet came off during the collision, and he was immediately taken to the medical center for treatment, where he was soon pronounced dead from unsustainable chest, head and neck injuries.
Officials were interested in restarting the race, before they learned the extent of Simoncelli injury, but the race was later cancelled as news became clearer, and as fans threw bottles in anger.
Race director Paul Butler said there will be an investigation into the crash.
Simoncelli's death is the first in Moto GP since Japan's Daijiro Katoh died during the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix. Simoncelli's death brings the number of recorded deaths in MotoGP to 47 since it was founded in 1949.
Tributes flowed in for the Italian, who won the 250cc world championship in 2008, taking the crown in Sepang. He then went up to MotoGP in 2010 and managed an eighth place finish overall last season.
The Italian motorcycling federation canceled all events planned for Sunday at the Mugello circuit near Florence.
Here are some highlights of his accomplishments up to his death:
- Simoncelli was a top rider of the Italian Minimoto Championship from 1996 to 2000 as a child. After taking two consecutive titles in I.M.C., he moved to 125cc bikes. Simoncelli took the European 125cc title in 2002 and had a first taste of Grand Prix racing the same year.
- In the 2003 season, Simoncelli moved to the World Championship full-time with the Matteoni Racing team. His best result was a fourth place finish in the season finale at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo of the Valencia Grand Prix in Spain.
- A consistent point-scorer in his 2003 rookie season, Simoncelli moved to the Rauch Bravo team in 2004 and scored his first Grand Prix win at a rain-soaked Circuito Permanente de Jerez of the Spanish Grand Prix in Spain, but could only manage an eleventh place finish overall in the final standings.
- In the 2005 season, Simoncelli joined the Nocable.it Race team and won at Jerez again, this time in dry conditions. This result and five other podium finishes helped him to reach fifth place overall in the final standings, giving Simoncelli the opportunity to leap into the quarter-litre category.
- A steady 2006 season saw Simoncelli achieve 10th position in the championship representing Metis Gilera, with whom he continued in 2007 and 2008. Simoncelli was the only front-runner to move to the 250cc class, riding for Gilera, which marked their return to the class. In most races he finished between 7th and 10th place. Simoncelli's best result was 6th place in the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai. He competed for the Rookie of the Year with Shuhei Aoyama, but by season's end, Aoyama won by seven points. Simoncelli finished 10th in the final standings.
- In 2007, continuing with Gilera, Simoncelli's season was similar to the previous one: 10th in the final standings, without a podium finish.
- In 2008, Simoncelli achieved his first race victories in the 250cc class, his main win coming at his home race in the Italian Grand Prix held at Mugello Circuit in Florence, Italy. With one lap to go, Simoncelli leaned to the left on the long straight, possibly to block off Hector Barbera. Barbera then crashed into him, and Simoncelli won the race by three seconds. Barbera wasn't hurt, but some people called for sanctions against Simoncelli. However, he only received a verbal warning from the MotoGP Riders Safety Commission. Simoncelli was the emergent rider for Gilera, who Gilera provided him with a top-of-the-range RSA machine for the final races of the season. Simoncelli eventually secured his fifth win of the year in the Australian Grand Prix held at Phillip Island early in October. On Oct. 19, 2008, he clinched the 2008 250cc World Championship after finishing 3rd in the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.
- On 25 June 2009, it was confirmed that Simoncelli would move up to premier class racing for the 2010 MotoGP Championship after agreeing to ride with the San Carlo Gresini Honda tea.
- In 2010, Simoncelli got off to a slow start, having suffered two preseason testing crashes at Sepang. After finishing eleventh in his debut, Simoncelli improved over the rest of the season, finishing 16 of the 18 races in the points en route to eighth place in the championship with 125 points. His best finish was fourth place at the Portuguese Grand Prix in Estoril, missing a podium finish by 0.06 seconds to Andrea Dovizioso.
- In the 2011 season, Simoncelli was predicted to be the season's dark horse. He finished fifth in the season opening race at the Qatar Grand Prix in Doha, before falling from the lead after a wet race at Jerez. During the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, Simoncelli collided with Dani Pedrosa while they were battling for second. The resulting crash saw Pedrosa break his collarbone and Simoncelli received a ride-through penalty, eventually finishing fifth. At the Catalan Grand Prix in Montmeló, Spain, Simoncelli secured his first MotoGP pole position, 0.016 seconds ahead of Casey Stoner. However, a poor start saw him drop to seventh, managing only to recover one position to finish sixth. Simoncelli earned his first podium in the premier class, with a third place at the Czech Republic Grand Prix in Brno.
Here's a look at the crash on Sunday: