Italian rider killed in Malaysian motorcycle race

October 25, 2011 - 1:57 PM
APTOPIX Malaysia MotoGP Grand Prix Simoncelli

Marco Simoncelli of Italy (58), center right, lies on the track after the crash at Malaysian MotoGP Grand Prix in Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011. A Malaysian MotoGP official says Italian rider Marco Simoncelli has died after an accident at the race. (AP Photo)

SEPANG, Malaysia (AP) — Italian rider Marco Simoncelli died of chest, head and neck injuries Sunday after crashing and being hit by two other riders at the Malaysian MotoGP motorcycle race. He was 24.

Race organizers said Simoncelli was sent to the medical center at the Sepang circuit for treatment but efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

"He was already unconscious when the medical team arrived," said MotoGP medical director Michele Macchiagodena. "We attempted to resuscitate him but failed. He died 45 minutes later."

The race, the second to last of the season, was canceled.

Simoncelli died a week after Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon was killed in a 15-car accident in the IndyCar finale at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Simoncelli lost control of his Honda at turn 11 four minutes into the race, but his bike regained partial grip and swerved across the track and into the path of American Colin Edwards and Italian Valentino Rossi.

Simoncelli's helmet was ripped off in the collision and he lay motionless on the track. He had been fourth at the end of the first lap. The other two riders were unhurt.

The Italian's death was first fatality in MotoGP since Japan's Daijiro Katoh died from injuries sustained at the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix. The number of deaths in MotoGP since it was founded in 1949 is now at 47, MotoGP said.

Last year, Japanese teenager Shoya Tomizawa died after crashing in a Moto2 race at San Marino.

Race director Paul Butler said circumstances surrounding Simoncelli's accident would be investigated.

Sepang circuit chairman Mokhzani Mahathir voiced his condolences and said it was unfortunate that a death occurred for the first time since the circuit opened in 1999.

"We had our standard operating procedure ... this is one-of-a-kind freak incident where the helmet came off and I am sure (motorcycling body) FIM and MotoGP will be looking into this," he said.

Newly crowned MotoGP champion Casey Stoner said that he feared for Simoncelli after seeing video of the crash.

"As soon as I saw the footage it just makes you sick inside," the Australian told the British Broadcasting Corporation. "Whenever the helmet comes off that's not a good sign."

The Italian motorcycling federation canceled all events planned for Sunday at the Mugello circuit near Florence.

The Italian Olympic Committee said it would honor Simoncelli by requesting a minute of silence at all Sunday's soccer matches, with AC Milan, his favorite team, planning to don armbands in his memory.

Italian Olympic Committee President Gianni Petrucci said Sunday marked the saddest day of his presidency.

"Life is sacred; you shouldn't die at age 24 just for a race," ANSA news agency quoted him as saying.