ITALIAN rider Marco Simoncelli’s tragic death will definitely remain the talking point for everyone when the MotoGP circus returns to Sepang around the same time next year and, while it may be unavoidable, it also sent a sombre message to race organisers to be even more careful when it comes to safety aspects on the track.
The Sepang International Circuit (SIC), the organisers of the Malaysian Grand Prix, were, in fact, fined €15,000 by the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) at the start of the annual event on Friday after marshals failed to warn Moto2 riders of a wet patch on the track.
The wet surface on Turn 10 was deemed to have created a very dangerous situation for the riders at the start of their first practice session and four riders actually fell at the spot.
Moto2 championship contender Marc Marquez of Spain suffered a massive highside (thrown off the bike) and withdrew from Sunday’s race.
Briton Bradley Smith had a worse fate as he fell and broke a collarbone after hitting Marquez’s bike.
“When I got to Turn 10, I saw yellow flags waving and I thought it was because of the crashes before me. I slowed down and the next thing I saw was the wet track and I almost immediately lost control of the bike,” said Bradley.
The SIC have decided not to appeal against the fine after carrying out an internal investigation, attributing the mistake to a late reaction by the marshals.
That episode and Simoncelli’s tragic death have emphasised the need for stricter supervision and vigilance when it comes to safety measures on the track.
To be fair to the SIC, the critical injuries Simoncelli received that eventually led to his death were unavoidable, given the circumstances of his fall, and should not be related to Friday’s incidents.
The Italian, who ironically claimed his first world title in the 250cc class at the same track three years ago, slid back onto the track instead of the usual run-off gravel area.
His helmet had also come off as he ran into American Colin Edwards and compatriot Valentino Rossi.
MotoGP race promoters Dorna and FIM will surely conduct their own investigations – especially as to how did the helmet come off and whether his death could have been prevented.
Another matter which needs urgent attention is the way Dorna and the SIC handled the cancellation of the MotoGP race because the fans were clearly agitated at being kept in the dark for some time.
There was only one announcement to the waiting crowd at 4.40pm saying that the race had been called off, without any reasons being given. The race started at 4pm and only lasted two laps.
Naturally, the crowd at the main grandstand facing the pit area, not knowing the real reason, began to show their disappointment and displeasure by throwing mineral water bottles and used plastic containers onto the track.
“A joint decision was made together with Dorna to call off the race,” according to SIC chairman Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir.
But they should have placated the crowd by explaining the circumstances of the horrific crash and the fact that the riders were not in the right frame of mind to re-start the race.
Simoncelli’s death was only officially announced at a press conference at 5.45pm but the crowd should have at least been told that a rider was fighting for his life at that point.
Hopefully, everyone would have learnt their lessons from this sad episode and more safety measures can be put in place to prevent another loss of life.