Editor's Blog: On The Death Of Marco Simoncelli, Marshals, And Why We Must Carry On

Colorful, controversial, but above all, fast. That was Marco Simoncelli in a nutshell. No tribute to the man here, so many others have done it, and far better than I ever could. I recommend reading Kevin Schwantz' thoughts on Simoncelli over on the excellent Superbikeplanet site, and in Spanish, a touching story by Spanish TV editor and one of the nicest people in the paddock, Ruben Fernandez.

And now Marco Simoncelli is dead, killed in a tragic accident at Sepang, struck from behind by Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi after losing control of his Honda. The crash was all too reminiscent of the crash that proved fatal to Shoya Tomizawa at Misano in September 2010, another incident that left the paddock stunned and lost for words. There, too, a rider lost control of their bike, crashing directly in front of other riders who had neither the time nor the space to avoid hitting him.

So similar are the two incidents that it is worth going back to the Tomizawa crash at Misano and comparing it with Simoncelli's accident at Sepang. Though Tomizawa's death hit the paddock hard, along with many hardcore motorcycle racing fans, it largely went unnoticed among the general public, as Tomizawa was killed in the Moto2 race, a support class and not the main show. Simoncelli was already a global star, racing in the biggest motorcycle racing show on earth, so naturally, his death generated a lot more coverage and raised many more questions. But the responses to Tomizawa's crash may prove instructive for both the mindset of the people involved and the direction that racing should take after Simoncelli's tragic accident.

Perhaps the first question that many are asking is how such an accident could happen, and whether it could have been avoided. The answer to that is simple: it cannot. With bikes racing so closely together at high speed, collisions are inevitable if the leading rider makes a mistake and either crashes or loses control of his machine. As Valentino Rossi said after Tomizawa's crash at Misano in 2010, "At 240 km/h, when a bike crash in front of you there is nothing you can do. They are just in the wrong place at the wrong moment."

And when riders are struck by bikes following behind, rider protection is as good as useless. With 150kg motorcycles travelling at well over 200 km/h, the amount of stored energy released in the impact is so massive that there is no way it can be absorbed and dispersed safely. The current state of material technology cannot deal with the energies released by being struck in the chest, as Tomizawa was, or in the back and neck, as Simoncelli was, by a racing motorcycle traveling at high speed.

What is remarkable is how very rarely serious injury occurs from these crashes. Just over an hour before Simoncelli's fatal accident, Axel Pons fell directly in front of Kenny Noyes during the Moto2 race. It was impossible for Noyes to avoid Pons, and he hit the Spaniard. Pons was knocked unconscious, and taken to the hospital were he was diagnosed with a concussion, and some minor cranial bleeding. But he has recovered well enough to be able to fly back to Spain either today or on Wednesday.

In a strange way, Simoncelli's death underlines just how safe motorcycle racing has become. There is now ample runoff at almost every circuit, with crash barriers either removed or pushed back a long way, obstacles removed and air fence covering ever more of the barriers that do remain around circuits. Along with this, safety equipment such as leathers, back protectors, boots, gloves and helmets have improved by such an extent that when news appears of a rider being "seriously injured" in a crash, it usually means they have broken an arm or a leg. Riders suffering spinal injuries are a rarity, fatalities now very rare indeed. There have been some thirteen deaths on closed circuits over the past twenty years at national and international level. Compare this with one-day eventing, where approximately 37 fatalities were recorded at national and international level during the ten year period between 1997 and 2008; in the same period, just nine motorcycle racers died.

That does not mean that there is no room for improvement in track safety, however. Much has been made of the handling of both Simoncelli and Tomizawa after their respective crashes, especially as both of them were dropped in the gravel while being removed from the track and taken to a nearby ambulance. In neither instance did being dropped make any difference to the outcomes - the injuries to both Tomizawa and Simoncelli were so severe that they were never going to survive them - but they do raise questions about both the level of training of the marshals and medical staff, and whether a fallen rider should be treated where he falls (either on the track or in the gravel) or first transported to an ambulance where they can be given better treatment than at trackside.

There are two schools of thought about attending to fallen riders, which can be summarized as 1: get the rider to medical equipment as soon as possible; and 2: get medical equipment to the rider as soon as possible. The decision that a first responder makes - in this case, always a doctor or paramedic with extensive experience of emergency medicine - is influenced by the seriousness of the situation, and by their judgment of the best option for the injured rider. That may in turn be affected by the medical regulations laid out in the MotoGP rulebook, and so it is worth summarizing those rules.

In the event of a crash, trained medical staff have to reach a fallen rider within 30 seconds. They assess the situation, and make a call to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) to inform them of the severity of the rider's injuries. There are four response codes, but only the two most severe (Code 2 and Code 3) may require the intervention of the CMO. In the case of a Code 3 (medical intervention required on track), the CMO can ask the Race Director to allow an ambulance on the track, which the Race Director can then give permission for and arrange. Ambulances at a MotoGP race must be able to reach a fallen rider within 2 minutes.

It is conceivable that because of those 2 minutes, the doctors attending fallen riders are quicker to decide to move the rider to the medical equipment waiting at the medical post (usually at or close to every corner post), rather than wait for an ambulance to arrive on track to attend to the rider. Injuries sufficiently serious to require the equipment at the medical posts or in the ambulances generally need to be treated as fast as possible. The doctor attending at the scene has to make an immediate call on the best course of action: take the rider to the post or bring out an ambulance.

To the untrained observer - something which I freely admit I am - it seems that the best course of action is to wait for the ambulance to attend. The problem is that by then, it may be too late. Especially if they have been hit by another bike, an injured rider may have multiple, life-threatening injuries. They are likely to have both spinal injuries and blunt force trauma, including injured internal organs and internal bleeding. The best thing to do in the case of a spinal injury is to immobilize the rider and move them only with the utmost care; in this case waiting for an ambulance is the best thing to do. But if they also have massive internal bleeding, no pulse and no breathing, then getting them to equipment where they can have breathing passages cleared and heart massage or resuscitation becomes paramount.

This is a process in the medical profession known as triage, which entails prioritizing injuries by their seriousness, and dealing with the most dangerous first. But the energies involved in racing crashes mean that riders often have several injuries which are all life-threatening. A doctor has to make a split-second decision as quickly as possible, and only that doctor ever knows exactly what state the injured rider was when they arrived at the scene.

However, this kind of decision is common for the doctors and paramedics at the race track, all of whom have to have experience of emergency medical care, and used to dealing with seeing seriously injured patients. We have no way of knowing what their thought processes are in a particular decision, but it is likely that the speed at which an ambulance can be present is likely to be a factor. If they judge that 2 minutes is too long to wait for equipment on the track, they will call for riders to be stretchered off the track, where ambulances can reach them much more quickly, having only to use the service roads and not wait for the track to be cleared of bikes before traveling to the scene.

So there may be a case for tightening up this limit. In the BSB series, a decision was taken some time ago to reduce this amount to 90 seconds, this time including the amount of time needed to start delivering the treatment once help has arrived. In practice, this means that an ambulance has to be able to arrive by a stricken rider and start administering treatment within 90 seconds of being called. The difference may not seem much, but those 30 seconds are vital in the case of critical injuries.

What was perhaps more significant in the BSB series was that a number of emergency response drills were put together and the medical staff then practiced carrying them out. In situations such as the one on Sunday, it is not just knowing what to do which is important, but having practiced it several times beforehand.

This, then, is one area where MotoGP may be able to learn from BSB. Dropping riders from a stretcher should never happen, but it may perhaps be put down to a lack of regular practice by the stretcher bearers - usually trained paramedics, and distinguished by a red vest instead of an orange one worn by the ordinary marshals. Several training exercises carrying a weighted stretcher through the gravel may help to prevent such a situation from happening again.

One fact, however, has also been overlooked. The fact that both Tomizawa and Simoncelli were dropped suggest that it is one thing to handle a stretcher, but quite another to handle a stretcher on which a badly injured rider is being carried. Adrenaline may overtake reflexes, and cause stretcher bearers to stumble and fall. There has been a lot of criticism from fans about the handling of the situation, but without having been in that situation yourself, faced with the fear, panic and urgency to try to help as quickly as possible, it is a little unfair to suggest that you would have handled it better.

Certainly, Paolo Simoncelli, Marco's father, who saw the crash happen right in front of him and saw the way his son's body was handled, had no complaints. Speaking to Italian TV he said he knew his son was gone as soon as the accident happened.

There is perhaps a case for at least part of the staff of corner workers to consist of permanent staff employed by Dorna. They could coach and assist the local staff, and run them through the practice drills necessary to ensure the best possible care on track for the riders.

This, and many other questions, will no doubt be discussed at Valencia, when Race Direction will meet with Dorna and the FIM to discuss the handling of the situation. As they did after the death of Shoya Tomizawa, lessons will be learned from what went wrong, in the hope of handling a similar situation better in the future. It would be better if such a situation were never to occur, but best of all is to be prepared for it anyway.

The internet chatter about Simoncelli's handling was not the only speculation. Just a few hours after Simoncelli's death had been announced, rumors started emerging that Valentino Rossi would retire. The rumors appears to have started after Steve Parrish speculated that Rossi could retire in his tribute to Marco Simoncelli. From there, they took on a life of their own, at least until Rossi's manager Davide Brivio woke up to find his Twitter feed ablaze with questions about Rossi's retirement. He, and Rossi's close friend Alessio "Uccio" Salucci immediately issued a denial, and expressed their anger at the rumors. Rossi himself dealt with the situation with his typical humor, facing a crowd of reporters when he landed in Italy, and denying that he ever said anything about retiring. It was probably someone writing that just to sell some newspapers, he quipped.

But to even suggest that a rider might consider retiring after Simoncelli's death is to fail to understand the mind of a motorcycle racer. Racers race, that is what they do, that is what they love, and that is what they would have others do. On the Sunday night at Misano last year, the night after Tomizawa was killed, we reporters asked Nicky Hayden whether he thought it was the right decision to run the MotoGP race, which took place after Tomizawa had been fatally injured in the Moto2 race. "Was it right to do the race? I don't want to get into that, but I've always been taught you race, almost out of respect," Hayden said. "It's tragic, but we are motorcycle racers. In some ways, if it was me, I would want the show to go on, I wouldn't want them to hold up the race on my account".

The riders know and fully understand the risks, accepting them, though believing that the worst will never happen to them. "We know stuff can happen," Hayden said at Misano, "But it's racing and we choose to do it." Speaking to Italian television on Tuesday, Simoncelli's girlfriend explained that his attitude was always that risk was a part of racing. "At every race where someone got injured, he would say 'hey, that's racing, if you don't want to get hurt then you should stay at home.'"

So to suggest that any rider might retire after this, even Valentino Rossi, a close friend to Simoncelli and directly involved in the accident in which his friend was killed, is to completely miss the point. To suggest that the Valencia MotoGP race should be canceled in Marco Simoncelli's honor is to utterly misunderstand what Simoncelli would have wanted. Racers race, and to deprive Marco Simoncelli's friends and rivals of the one thing that he loved passionately enough to risk and give his life for does not honor him, it goes against everything that Simoncelli loved and lived for.

Back in September 2010, Marco Simoncelli raced at Misano, knowing that Shoya Tomizawa had been seriously injured in a crash, learning that Tomizawa had died while he was out racing in MotoGP. Two weeks later, Simoncelli stood in line with the rest of the paddock at Aragon, holding a minute's silence in memory of Tomizawa. And then he climbed aboard his Honda, and he did what he knew Shoya Tomizawa loved, lived for and died doing: he raced.

And so shall I, in my own way. From tomorrow, I will return to writing about the world of racing, the world that Marco Simoncelli loved so passionately despite the risks, the world that I love so passionately despite the risks. I know that before I retire, I will be writing about the death of another young star, a talent taken before his time, before he had realized his potential. I will try to write about it with the passion that Simoncelli showed so spectacularly on track. There is much to write about, not least the painful question of who will take Simoncelli's place at Gresini next year.

Writing about this sport, supporting this sport, promoting this sport, that shall be my tribute to Marco Simoncelli. Keeping his memory alive, and keeping the sport which he loved alive are the best way to honor the wild man of MotoGP. I know that many of you are grieving at his loss, but I invite you to join me in living out the passion which you shared with Marco for motorcycle racing. Marco lives on through his friends, his family, and his fans, and perhaps most of all, Marco lives on in racing. His bike may be missing from the grid, but his spirit races on.

Update - I have updated the number of deaths on this page, as the Wikipedia pages I linked to missed out on four riders who died. I have updated the Wikipedia pages to add their deaths too.

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I'm sorry but I beg to differ. It must stop.

What's the point of MotoGP again?
To research new tech? Yeah, like carbon brake and pneumatic valves will ever come to production bikes. To entertain us? We put young people in danger to entertain us? And isn't it just a parade?

"in the same period, just nine motorcycle racers died."

JUST is a strong word there. Like, it's OK, JUST nine lives. It worth the show. No big deal.

You shouldn't die at age 24 just for a race -- Italian Olympic Committee President Gianni Petrucci.

If you believe that motorcycle racing must stop because it is dangerous to its participants, then we must also stop the following activities and sports as well, which have also seen participants die:

  • Cycling
  • Marathon running
  • Rock climbing
  • Rock fishing
  • Paragliding
  • Gliding
  • Hang gliding
  • Skydiving
  • Soccer
  • Rugby
  • American football
  • Canoeing
  • Diving
  • Golf (the most common place to get struck by lightning is on a golf course)
  • Ice Hockey 
  • Sailing
  • Skiiing
  • Luge and bobsleigh
  • Horse racing
  • Surfing
  • Swimming

And that's just the sports. We shouldn't be hiking, cycling, walking, driving cars, sitting in buildings. Nobody should be living around the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire stretching from New Zealand, through Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan, and down the west coast of North and South Amercia - too many fatal earthquakes, volcanoes, mudslides.

Where do you draw the line at acceptable risk?

All that anyone can ask in making a decision is to have all of the facts, have a fair assessment of the risk, the dangers and the potential return on that decision. There isn't a motorcycle racer in the world, or a race car driver, or a football player, or a hunter, or a hiker, or a rock climber that doesn't fully understand the risk associated with the passion they choose to pursue...as a matter of fact, that risk is part of the appeal, part of what separates them form the main stream. To rob anyone of the free pursuit of such passions would represent yet another tragedy.

I chose to race short circuits, but deemed the I.O.M a risk too far from a racing perspective, and whilst I've done a far few road bike laps of the Isle I wouldn't even ride on Mad Sunday (probably even more dangerous than the races!). But again others enter the fray at the Isle fully knowing its record. It is not for you, I or anyone else make risk assessment decisions for a competitor.

Motorcycle road racing might be gladitorial in nature whilst providing a fantastic spectacle, but don't ever delude yourself into thinking the riders are competing (& risking life and limb) for your entertainment. That is a mere by-product of their fierce desire to prove themselves to themselves against their peers, whilst indulging in the most pants on fun to be had. Nothing more than that.

cuz life is about living without passion, passion that you would give your life for. We can stop racing when the racers want to stop racing. What a sad meaningless life you must live. If there is anything Sic has reminded me is that if I am not waking up everyday to do what I love, what I find is my sole purpose, what I sacrifice everything for (whether it is being a racer, a teacher, a lawyer, an artist, a parent, etc), then I'm as good as dead. If you can't understand this, you have never truly been in love with anything or anyone. No one should die, but for those who do, it marks how passionate they were about what they were doing. And how dare you criticize it's just a race. It's not just a race to anyone who loves this sport. Should I criticize that maybe one day you risk your safety for something or someone you love and think it's stupid you would hold something above your own life? No I would respect the passion and love you had for something so much that you did risk it all for it.

just when I thought I stuffed it away deep inside and out of my visibility. Thanks for the thoughtful remarks and encouraging the strength to look it straight in the eye and keep going.

Just have to let go of all of the sadness and anger about it all happening.

There was another similar incident at the Indianapolis GP in 2010. 12 year old Peter Lenz was killed during the warmup lap of a support race when he fell off his bike and was hit by Xavier Xayat. Such a shame. He was a very talented young man, and I had the pleasure of meeting him at Laguna Seca in 2009.

A fitting tribute to an awesome racer, and I echo every one of your sentiments.

I just hope the Gresini squad can find the strength to come to the grid on Sunday, and do Marco proud.

Godspeed Marco.

While this situation is utterly unavoidable, I have had a keen interest in seeing the issue of fallen riders being hit addressed since my friend and leading ASBK race Judd Greedy was killed while leading a Supersport race in 2009 ( http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/797862/one-killed-at-tasmanian-super... )
While Simo was hit by riders immediately behind him, Judd was hit by mid pack riders who could have theoretically avoided him- were there a system in place.
My idea that I would like to see in MotoGP (and then trickle down to national series etc) is a technology based system that uses high vis dash mounted orange LED with an option ECU component.
In the event of a critical incident, a flag marshal (or assistant) will hit a critical issue button. This will trigger a red flag notice to all flag stations and trigger the bright orange screen/dash mounted warning lights.
As a further measure, the system ought also be able to reduce power on the bike after a set amount of time.
I know there are pitfalls here, but I know the tech exists as well as the people to work out the details, procedures and rules for such a system. In a sport where most of the infrastructure related injuries have been removed (in GP anyway!), riders hitting other riders remains the most common way in which death occurs. Yes there will be unavoidable crashes like Simoncelli- but we owe it to all current riders to develop a method to try to mitigate this obvious and horrendous risk.
For it is not only the riders injured/killed, but those who hit other riders that we need to protect.

That's an interesting idea about using on board lights to help warn the riders immediately of red flag circumstances. I think both a flashing dash light and "tail" light could help. I know that many racers don't look for flags and some ignore them when they do see them.

Great article David. Salient points throughout.

I agree that fallen riders pose the greatest risk to their safety on track and this is an area that needs addressing. It would be easy to dismiss as just the nature of racing, but I believe out of tragedy and necessity innovation springs. Technology exists, or there is an opportunity for it to be created by brilliant minds, to prevent or minimize death in the event of a fallen rider.

The first things that came to my mind were having official Dorna employed medics on scene to carry out the track side care. They need to be trained in attending to motorcycle riders specifically. I know as a rider (and many GP fans are not so may not appreciate it) I dont want anyone messing with my fallen, stricken or prone body unless they know absolutely what they are doing. More injury can occur from moving a rider with a helmet on, or attempting to remove the helmet, by someone not trained in these areas.

The other thing that came to mind was having a system in place whereby an approaching riders engine is retarded if within a given distance of a fallen rider, using GPS or some radar alert system. If a fallen rider gets hit at 80mph rather than 120mph it could be the difference between injury and death.

Formula 1 has made great strides in driver safety over the years and the monocoque protection driver compartment has allowed drivers to live after seemingly impossible crashes, the rest of the car disintegrating around them. Motorcycles are obviously inherently different beast, but technology and progress is there to be made.

Well written article David, and brings to light the decisions the medical staff have to make in seconds. Hopefully your words will bring criticism of the marshalls/medical staff to a logical level where improvements can be made where possible without wrongly vilifying staff who made the best decision they could and did what they could to save a fallen rider.

Once again you have articulated what so many of us are likely feeling, yet are ill-equipped to express in such an intelligent and eloquent manner.

Life does go on, as does racing. We can thank whatever god/spirit we believe in for that.

As Marco's father said in the article at autosport.com "They say God summons the best to heaven. I don't know. I wish that's how it is."

I agree that Simo would not want the next race cancelled in his honor - to do so would be disrespectful IMO because, as Nicky Hayden stated, he knows they're racers.

RIP Super Sic

Beautifully written, David - and completely in keeping with the spirit of racing. Thank you.
On this day of the Indian festival of lights, Diwali - may the lights that Marco Simoncelli lit continue to shine brightly and long inspiring other racers to continue racing.

I don't like to wax emotional about a person I never met. On the other hand, Simoncelli's death makes me deeply sad. Motorcycle racing will go on, but I don't know that I'll ever feel quite the same about it, and I'm not sure I want to. Simoncelli was a racer's racer. It's hard to let go of that.

My thoughts are for his friends, family, and fellow riders.

Thank you for the article.

Pardon me for my harshness, but it is obvious to me that the race organizer's priority is to get the bodies off a hot track in order to keep the show going. In club racing there are no such priorities. The downed rider lays there until the ambulance crew can remove him properly. Probably because there is no TV revenue at risk, but I can't speak to that. Even in this case, the race was red flagged, but the trackside staff still moved to get the body off the track as fast as they could. They aren't medical people. They work for MotoGP to keep the show going.

MotoGP has demonstrated themselves to be a bad company for decades. They have avoided governmental inspection because they are a nitch sport. Marco probably changed that. I hope so.

Sorry I don't agree in this case. The race was red flagged within seconds, and there was never any real suggestion that it would be restarted. I would think that most people who really follow and care about motorsports would have known instantly what that impact meant. The race officials clearly knew. Marco's father and girlfriend explained in an interview that they knew as soon as they saw the accident that Marco was probably killed instantly. His father went immediately out to the trackside and held Marco's hand and said "Ciao Marco". That is deeply moving to me. There is so much love in Marco's family, his father, his mother, his sister, his girlfriend, it is just heart breaking.

The medical staff, including the paramedics at trackside, are there to save riders' lives, not to keep the show going. Of course we should always be looking for ways to improve, but I thought on the whole the incident was handled very well by the officials, certainly much better that the Shoya Tomizawa accident last year. I do wish that the race announcer at the track had explained a bit more clearly to the crowd why the race was cancelled. But I thought the way Carmelo Ezpeleta spoke to each MotoGP rider was very dignified and decent.

rholcomb  wrote :
Pardon me for my harshness, but it is obvious to me that the race organizer's priority is to get the bodies off a hot track in order to keep the show going. In club racing there are no such priorities. The downed rider lays there until the ambulance crew can remove him properly. Probably because there is no TV revenue at risk, but I can't speak to that. Even in this case, the race was red flagged, but the trackside staff still moved to get the body off the track as fast as they could. They aren't medical people. They work for MotoGP to keep the show going.

I'm not sure where you get your information but you are absolutely wrong. Neither the turn marshals nor the medical response people work for MotoGP/DORNA. I'm sure your first question will be to ask how I know this. It's because I am a cornerworker for the USGP and I know what's told to the medical staff who is also not hired by nor do they work for MotoGP/DORNA. Again, you might ask how I know this. It's because I also am on the board of directors for USARM, the group that supplies the cornerworkers for the USGP. We work directly with the medical staff, who as David stated are Doctors & Paramedics at all corners who are trained in trauma medicine. I can assure you that if anyone, whether it be DORNA, FIM folks or anyone else even hinted at removing riders "to keep the show going", that would cause the defecation to hit the rotary oscillator big time. If a rider appears to be injured so that he can not be safely move or be moved out of an impact area either on his own or with only minimal assistance, the race/session is stopped. Again, I know this from personal experience as one of my duties over a very busy race weekend is to work in race control with DORNA race direction. As for how incidents are handled at club races. Not every injured rider causes a red flag and an ambulance being sent as many times that's not necessary. I also know for fact that sometimes it doesn't matter how fast the red flag falls or how fast the ambulance is dispatched at a club race or any other race, death happens there too. For the last time, I know this because of personal experience. I responded to a down rider during a practice session at a club event for which a red flag had been thrown immediately. I was to the rider with 10-15 seconds of impact yet it was already too late. When I got to him he visor was up and he was trying to talk and move around. I asked him to stay still and relax, suddenly he did just that and it wasn't because of my request. I reached down and checked his pulse and he was gone.  I looked up to see the ambulance parking and the medics jumping out. I hollered that he'd just stopped breathing so they grabbed the appropriate gear and were immediately working on him. They performed life saving measures, CPR, etc. and got his heart going again, etc. long enough to get him on a helicopter. I heard later that they lost him several times on the way to the hospital. They managed to keep him going on life support till the next day when the family chose to stop the artificial measures keeping him alive due to severe brain damage and trauma. A red flag and ambulance dispatch doesn't necessarily save someone when they have extreme trauma which obviously Marco suffered.

Please do not make claims about things which you have absolutely no knowledge. It does very little for your credibility.

How do you explain the behavior of trackside medical personnel then? Simo, Tomizawa, Kato? You must've seen those too. Regarding Indy, from what I understand, CW's are unpaid volunteers. Somehow, I doubt you have access to the organizor's priorities beyond your specific instructions.

My point is that there must be a priority of clearing the track of bodies and wreckage. It must have something to do with the broadcast is all I can think. That's what the videos have been telling us for a long time. It's inexplicable behavior in my opinion and must be driven by orders and training that originate with the organizors. Dragging Kato off, dropping downed riders...Inexplicable.

I spoke with a physician about the incident. His view was that if the injured rider is obviously in cardiac arrest (no pulse), the priority is to speed him to the location that has the equipment to attempt re-starting his heart. This probably looks like man handling to us on the monitor, but it has everything to do with attempting to save the rider's life and nothing to do with TV time. Sorry for my earlier posts.

I cant agree with this either, when a rider is in cardiac arrest on the track, immobilising the head or putting him onto a stretcher properly is a secondary concern. i'm not saying every medical intervention has been perfect, but personally i think the medical staff and marshalls do a great job almost all of the time.

in club racing riders are left on the track because there arent any marshalls with stretchers or medical staff at every flag point, there is no choice but to leave them until the ambulance gets there. i know ive been there.

David - I would caution you to decide what is the highest priority when dealing w/ traumatic injuries. In a situation such as Simoncelli's any delay that slows getting the victim to real emergency room level care is just increasing the risk of death. C-spine considerations do need to be considered, but not in such severe trauma situations. Transportation time to "definitive care" is probably the single most important factor in saving anyone's life during any major medical incident. Also note that CPR in a trauma situation is essentially doing it on a corpse with only a few rare exceptions:

see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardiopulmonary_resuscitation - medical uses

The fact that people get dropped is unfortunate, but lets remember the forces involved that got them into this position. Is being dropped from a height of maybe 3 ft going to make any measurable difference in their condition? Definitely no.

I think there are some situations where injured riders are rushed onto the stretcher instead of being properly backboarded. I would guess that the medical folks involved have decided that getting the rider off the track is seen as a priority. It's very important to remember that while C-spine precautions are important, the VAST amount of the time, the damage has already been done by the initial trauma.

Regarding safety... while it was obvious that poor Marco was dreadfully unlucky I wonder what others think of Agostini's comments about the tyres used in motogp. He essentially questioned the safety aspect of using tyres that maintain great performance for the entire race at the expense of being less than predictable before they are properly warmed up.

The greatest danger for a rider has always been to make contact with something at speed. With the high standard of track safety these days that something seems most likely to be another bike.

Races starts obviously combine close rider proximity and cold tyres. It's also the easiest time to make up places so riders will generally ride as hard as they dare. I don't know how many falls Marco himself had this season in the opening laps of races but I know it was a lot. Unfortunately his luck ran out. I don't know enough about motogp tyre technology to know if Agostini is barking up the wrong tree but I would be interested to hear what others think. If he's right his idea might both reduce the risk to riders and provide fans with exciting racing as tyres drop off towards the end of a race.

We have had too many crashes and injuries, now most tragic the lost life of Marco. I haven't liked the direction the tires have gone. The riders have been complaining all season about the tires not heating up quick enough in the opening laps. As a consequence we have seen the early crashes from riders trying to make up positions, being more agressive than the tires would allow.

I personally liked the old days when the tires would slowly wear out and the last few laps we saw more sliding. It also brought another aspect of rider skill in managing the grip.

Too many low sides and a terrible year for Elias, all because of the tires...


Very good article and I agree, of course Marco would like the show to roll on.


My thoughts on the tires. First off, I don't get the sense that the initial off was caused by a cold tire. But regardless of a cold tire or not, this was an unavoidable incident given the current state of the sport.

The start of this incident to me is the fact that Marco worked hard to save the bike from the low side he was dealt. Had he saved it, the announcers would only have remarked that he "had a moment" and the show would have gone on, as saving a low side in GP in 2011 is somewhat common place.

My opinion is that as the tracks, chassis, suspensions, power delivery and tires have evolved and become so good, it has allow lean angle to increase to insane levels over time. I think that those lean angles lead to "low sides" that are sometimes recoverable because the rider is already so close to the track and in a perfect position to keep the bike moving through the turn. I remember many post race interviews with Stoner and several other riders mentioning how they would prop the bike up with a knee multiple times before deciding to slow the pace and give up the chase of whomever they were after. The opportunity to "save" the low side seems much greater now than ever before, IMO.

With current technology and his high level skills he made an attempt to save the bike from a low side. Unfortunately he only managed to recover the slide enough to keep the bike up but not gain full control before veering onto the race line. The result was violent and tragic.

So with regard to tires, the sense I have is that they are too good at allowing deep lean angles. It sure makes the bikes awesome to watch but I think it hurts the safety of the sport in some ways. The lean angle may lead to more saves of low sides but also might lead to more low sides to begin with because the tires give the confidence to push so hard through the corners.

As far as marshalls and corner workers, my memory of it is that this incident was handled much better than Misano in 2010 and for that I give those involved much respect. Marco was DRT. As obvious as it was to those closest to him (his dad and gf) I think it is fair to assume that it was obvious to atleast some of the medical staff who initially attended to him on track. When dealing with a person in that condition, the only hope is for a miracle, and methodically plodding along wasn't going to produce one. 40+ minutes of CPR, again hoping for a miracle. Sometimes accidents are simply too severe and their is no chance of survival. This was one of those times.

RIP Marco, you were loved by many and will be missed by all.

People have been saving them on their knee for as long as we've been using knee sliders.

Riders will push to the very edge and sometimes beyond the provided performance envelope whether tyres are harder than kryptonite or softer than putty.

Agostini's comments seem to be more regarding the overall 'show' and riders ability to adapt to deteriorating rubber than any actual safety considerations.

i think if you start 'blaming' the tyres you might as well blame casey, jorge or dani for being too fast in the opening laps, forcing everyone else to push too hard to catch up.

I think a point not brought yet is about tires but the fact that Marco and RdP were the only two riders with the harder compound rears on. That being said Marco had ran slightly different tire choices than others in the field all year so maybe he just felt better on the hards. I just wish like crazy we could have seen him put another couple laps of heat into them to see if his gamble payed off in the final laps. Marco lived as a racer and he died as a racer. Hopefully Valencia will be the start to closure for everyone.

Just before the race the BBC commentators were saying that Sic was one of only 2 riders with RdP to choose the hard tire, and they were hoping that he would not push too hard in the opening laps since it already caused him issues in the past.
How awfully right they were...

I, like all of you I am incrediably sadden by this accident. It sucks.

It's hard to belive that I find myself a bit misty eyed when I think about it - I never got pleasure to meet Simo, likely never would have either. But he was flamboyant so fun to watch on and off the bike. Truly larger than life.

But, Marco got to ride the fastest most beautiful bikes on the planet and travel the world doing what he loved around those who he loved.

When asked if he was afraid of dying in an accident, Simoncelli responded: "No. You live more for five minutes going fast on a bike like that, than other people do in all of their life."

after sitting in a cubicle all day I have to agree. Race in peace Marco and thanks for the show.

David - great piece. I don't know whether you've ever raced, but clearly you've spent enough time with racers to truly understand how they think. What puzzles me is why Steve Parrish, with his racing background, would say something like that (about Rossi and retirement). Mind you, I'm not terribly impressed with SP as a commentator or his BBC cohort, Charlie Cox. Seems like sensationalist journalism to me.

RIP Marco.


On all your points. Particularly Steve Parrish who is sensationalist and populist.

Yet more evidence of how utterly irrelevant, and out of touch, anything from Steve Parrish or Charlie Cox is. It really is beyond me why the BBC keep renewing their contracts.

Not having a go at you ajsilver but just a somewhat alternative take on that.

I'm no fan of Parrish but to be fair to him he only aired his thoughts he didn't claim to know Rossi's mind on the matter and in fact highlighted that he didn't in the same article.

He's allowed an opinion and based it on the idea of this tragedy being a last factor. Added to age and the disappointing Ducati experience.

My thoughts didn't agree with his notion but a voiced notion was all it was. He didn't take it any further that I know of didn't chase answers.

It seems that others took that notion and ran with it.

Thank you, David.

It's true. Tragic moments like this are never fully understood by folks that don't follow this sport like we do...make it one of the primary parts of daily life. Growing up my hero was Bubba Shobert, I had a little motorcycle kit (with a haul van and everything!) that I painted to match the RS750 Shobert raced on the Mile in Springfield...even as a 9 year old, I can vividly remember finding out that he had been hurt, and hurt badly in Laguna. I didn't know what Laguna was, or where it was...or what a GP was...but I did know I had lost my hero, not in his case to a death (thankfully) but his career was ended. From that time on I've watched more heroes pay a similar if not worse price...it's a terribly unfortunate part of our love, but at the same time those risks are what make these riders heroes. It's what separates them from everyone else...and what bonds us to them, as motorcyclists, all at the same time.

Godspeed Marco, we'll not forget you.

I've been having a very bad time dealing with this incident and was struggling to get my head wrapped around it. I've seen & dealt with extreme incidents myself but this one really struck something with me. Thank you for this great write-up, it's really helped me gather myself, my thoughts and get back on focus.

I've commented many times that it would be wonderful to see some full time marshals in both national and international series. I never thought that day would come but I'm not sure that's the case now.

We must always review and check what was done, how it was done and determine what, if anything, needs to be improved. It's something that I've always tried to ingrain into the minds of all the marshals I've trained over the years. It's one of the keys to getting better at being a marshal. We're not necessarily looking to lay blame as much as we are trying to learn and improve.

Thanks again for another excellent article that simply focuses on the racing.

I think it's good to get things somehow "back to normal". There's no other choice really, and I don't think it will collide with any of our thoughts or memories of Simoncelli.

There have been other casualties but I don't recall being so impressed or touched. He was one of my favorites and, watching the whole tragic thing, live, being worried about his condition, and then everything that followed... It's been almost as I lost a friend, yet I never met him.

Maybe that's why seeing the images of the marshals in panic carrying Marco felt so shocking to me, even if those guys didn't do anything that could have made a difference, for better or worse.
In anycase, I really think there should be more specialized personnel on the tracks, with the marshalls, to assist the riders whenever necessary.

Meanwhile, there's a whole grid out there to be prepared, for the last time in this season. Valencia is two weeks away.
The sport is currently facing a situation of crisis, especially echonomical-wise but also regarding competitiveness. Things are to be changed, once again, for next year. The 1000cc, the new Moto3 class, etc.
We've seen now that Marco was the kind of guy that would celebrate racing at every chance he would get.
Everybody in here loves racing and these series, we love to talk/discuss and to know about everything that surrounds it. So, indeed... let's carry on, please.

provided a nice insight to Simoncelli that was appreciated and would have been appreciated more if Schwantz hadn't allowed his eternal dislike of Pedrosa and Stoner to intrude. The suggestion that only two riders on the grid count(ed) for anything in the sport is a reflection on Schwantz's own relevance displacement envy and ends up diminishing Simoncelli's star as more a bright light in a sea of dross than a sincere talent and outstanding personality in a stellar company.

I think what Schwantz wanted to make clear in his message is that, no matter how much skill and domain of technique all these guys have, some do stand out, for passion and panache in their riding and atitude. If his choices of names (to ilustrate it, I presumed) were somehow uncalled for, it's open to discussion.
Personally, I agree with him.

Agree with you Oscar, I thought Schwantz's comments regarding Stoner and Pedrosa were unnecessary and inappropriate. Also wrong in my opinion. Other people have also lumped Lorenzo in the same category, as if these guys somehow lacked passion for racing. It's nonsense of course. People have their likes and dislikes of course, but disparaging other riders at a time like this is in poor taste. Not everyone was a fan of Marco Simoncelli the rider, that ought to be obvious. The other riders also have their passionate fans. Every one of the riders is part of the MotoGP family, and every one of them adds color and excitement to the sport in their own way. Just wish people could mourn the loss of Marco with belittling other riders.

if he continues with the drivel that so often comes forth from him these days.
I *had* nothing but massive respect for Kevin as a rider - and rightly so, imho - but the time has come for him to fade away.
Agree with you Oscar, he can't help but have a dig at certain riders as if to emphasize his own 'legend' further. This was neither the time or the place for that crap. Not cool, Kevin.

MAJOR cred's to Paolo...that guy has incredible intestinal fortitude, I really don't know how he's kept as calm as he has. Respect!
RIP Marco...

relax... some say the italians have racing in their blood... maybe thats what he meant by Rossi and Simoncelli... dont blow it out of proportions cuz thats his view...

In speaking about marshals and medical staff. Lets go back to 2003 and talk about Kato and the accident report:

The Investigation Committee noted : "According to images broadcast during the race, four rescue workers took hold of Kato, who lay collapsed face up in the middle of the course, held him by the right shoulder, the torso and both legs, and moved him sideways just a few dozen centimeters onto the stretcher. It certainly appears that sufficient care was taken to immobilize his head and neck area. However, when the stretcher was moved Kato's head drooped markedly, and it cannot be denied that this might have additionally injured his neck." [3]


See also:


He seems like such an amazing guy. I feel like his head was so level even when touching his dead son. His remarks are really quite touching in their depth but also really lucid for a guy that just watched his kid die. Props to him and hope he knows all the good thoughts the world is feeling for Marco right now.
Like a lot of other people, this hit me much harder than I would have thought.
Good to get some perspective though, second guessing right now is really kind of useless. Thanks as always David.

It would be nice if DORNA, in Valencia, will show the on-board camera footage from Marco's bike of his last battle with Bautista on the first lap of the Malaysia GP, so we can all have Marco's view of a good race for one last time. Just fade it out as he crosses the start/finish line....

One of your greatest write ups for one of the greatest shining lights of motorbike racing. Thanks David and Thanks Marco, RIP mate.

My sincere thanks for your article David, it's very much appreciated at this time.
As regards rumours of Valentino retiring I feel the need to share something with everyone.

We've been to Italy several times to watch MotoGP. Most times we've started and ended our stay in a small, family owned hotel in Cattolica. The owner is an avid race fan!
Shortly after the sad news came out I emailed them to express our sorrow and recieved the following mail in reply:-

Hi David and Jean,
as you can imagine here all speak about the death of Marco Simoncelli.
We are very sad because he was one of us.
I also heard on television that Valentino Rossi could stop running after this incident.
Thanks for your email.

Best Regards and see you soon in Cattolica

Right there you can see where these rumours began -- Italian TV!

David, very good and timely piece. Thank you for that.

However I wish to make two comments on points within your article, and I do so as a Paramedic with 20 years experience.....my career is mentioned so you won't think I am a total armchair expert.

First, the issue of moving him to the ambulance or vice versa. The priority is, someone mentioned earlier, is getting an injured rider to definitive medical care, in this case it would be the Clinca Mobile.
Given that the Clinic should be about two or three minutes away, the interventions should be kept to a minimum basically life saving interventions. Those interventions would be minimal for a rider able to move themselves off the track, but for an unconscious rider, they would/should be helmet removal, ensuring the rider is breathing, attending life threatening bleeds, CPR if needed, body splinting long bone fractures, and perhaps a few others. But perhaps very few.

Which leads to getting the rider to the ambulance for transport, again, given the proximity of the Clinica, the ambulance should only be for transport. So why was there a need to carry him off the track?
Why was it not possible to have an ambulance alongside him within two minutes of the accident?
It is not, and should not be necessary to remove all bikes from the track before an ambulance moves onto the track, I have seen it elsewhere, and been a part of it.
So that's one issue. Why was it necessary to carry him a lengthy distance.......CPR cannot be performed when he is being carried like that. (although as someone else said, CPR post trauma is almost always a case of delaying the inevitable.)

The issue is the photo of the Medical staff dropping the stretcher.
I find it hard to believe that those people are supposed to be medical staff. The piece of equipment is called a scoop stretcher. They are designed to be split into a left and right half, so the halves can be slid under an injured person then locked together.
The foot end has not been locked in place, so it is hingeing from the head end.
Scoop stretchers also have a hinge in the middle so they can be folded over for easy storage. When unfolded, the hinge section is slid into the top half to ensure rigidity. This hasn't happened, which explains why the second pair of workers is holding it at waist level, and the hinge point is clearly visible.

Whether these factors contributed to the stretcher being dropped, or just clumsiness from the workers I cannot say, but I believe it re-inforces the importance of getting the ambulance to the patient.

But for anyone to blame the dropping of the stretcher, or the incorrect assembly of the stretcher on panic by the on scene staff is incorrect.
Trained medical staff should have ensured the stretcher was assembled correctly.
There is no place for panic or emotion in the face of such an incident, and if people cannot function at such an incident without panic or excitement, then they should not be there.
Yes, there is a need to work promptly, rapidly. But there is no place for those who work with feverish haste and emotion.

Sorry if this is going on a bit, but it is beyond belief that this has happened before.
While it probably made no difference in Marco's case, one day it will......and if you read the earlier post by another reader, then it may have had an impact on poor Dajiro.
I could go on.....but that's enough....other than those so-called medical staff should be thoroughly ashamed, embarrassed, and banned from ever working at another race.

Thanks Rod and thanks David. We made similar comments when Tomizawa left us. The medical procedures should be reviewed not because they did not work but to asses whether they need to be refined or they can be improved. Not doing it would be plain stupid.

The handling of the stretcher was clearly not professional. We have among the best professionals in the world working in MotoGP. Engineers, riders, mechanics, managers. Why we should not want the same professional level when handling injured riders?

Safety is not a fixed target. True, it is now much better than 10 years ago but we have to keep working. In 2021 we need to be able to say: it is much better now than 10 years ago. Refining and improving procedures and infrastructures, adopting new technologies, enacting new policies but also do proactive research to discover new ways to make our beloved sport safer and safer.

This is what Marco deserves too - alongside to keep riding.

Or: strong stuff, those Fisherman's Friends. A touching piece and I totally agree: not racing/quitting/what more would so not honor Simoncelli. Although Steve Parrish was not the only one, and just shared his gut feeling, I think that was not a very bright thing to write down. But it was the spur of the moment and by now, I think he himself would agree.
Keep writing and fueling our passion, David, so the passion of Marco, Shoya, Craig, and the ones who preceded them will live on.

A life unfulfilled but doing what he loved.
He could always have been rock fishing, which is by far the most dangerous sport in Australia. According to the Royal Life Saving Society: Seventy-four people died while rock fishing between the years 1992 and 2000, in New South Wales alone.

I look forward to the findings of the review of the incident and hope it makes for safer racing.
It's never good to see a helmet come off. I believe that Marco used a helmet one size up to cater for his hair. It would be awful to think that this had contributed, however unlikey, to his demise.
Ride on Marco.

as much i thought marco was rather rash in his incidence with dani and misjudged him for it, i noticed that he still enjoyed lots of support from fans and the media. and so i decided to look a bit more closely to why this was. and there, behind the aggressive racer i found a soft, sweet and funny character with a lovely smile i could really identify with. then my love for simoncelli could only be on the up and up and ive found myself shed a tear or two several times just thinking about him and reading the many tributes to him. i remember sitting silently in front of my TV and waiting for news after his crash, hoping and praying for the best. but alas!!!
marco, from a race fan to another, may you go in peace and know we will support this sport till the end...for you.
and thank you david for the article...

Thanks to everyone, your kind words are much appreciated.

A couple of things I would like to add: Firstly, I've had to edit the number of deaths in motorcycle racing, as I missed a few. I have updated the Wikipedia pages to add them, each one deserves to be rememberd.

Secondly, thanks to everyone who has responded with information about the procedures for dealing with injured riders. The point that I was trying to make was that it dealing with stricken riders is much more complex than it would appear. Medics have to decide in a split second what is the main threat to a rider, and decide how to treat that first, before going on to face the next problem. That process of prioritization is one of the most horrific and difficult tasks that face first responders in such cases, and I do not envy the choices they face.

David, I just wanted to let you know that apparently some Wikipedia nazi reverted your changes to the article.
In a lot of German newspapers, there was a list of the 47 riders that died since 1949 in Grand Prix, apparently the list was provided by the DPA and was referred to as "official statistic".
It seems that this list includes a few names that aren't yet included in the Wikipedia article, for example
1993 Noboyuki Wakai (Japan) Jeréz

Here is one link to the list (Simoncelli not included in this instance):

I don't know where the list really comes from and if it is complete or correct, but maybe there are still more riders missing from the article.

Thank You David, a great and balance article as always. Perhaps the first responders did not execute the extraction to perfection. Maybe this is the first time they were faced with such an emergency, attending to a star rider, under the microscope with the whole racing world watching. Lots of perhaps, lots of maybes. Could they have done better? They must. If Paolo can find it in his heart not to blame them, then perhaps we should all cut them some slack. Most important is that their action were carried out without malice, and that they learn from their mistakes. I am not a paramedic nor am I ever a first responder. But I have been in the aviation industry for 2 decades and I have seen, even the most well trained, well drilled pilots hesitate and fumble when faced with a real situation for the first time, and that was within the confine of a closed cockpit, and not on the world stage. 20 years of experience starts with Day 1 on the job. If we are to be so critical of others that once a mistake was made that they are to be excluded from future participation, then very soon, there will be nobody out there to do the job. Yes such mistakes can lead to dire consequences, but such consequences can sometimes be the best teacher. It is not a perfect world.

David, "more complex than it would appear", this is true if the person is untrained or inexperienced.
As a doctor I found the initial management of the situation appalling. I do not blame the marshals as it is obvious that they do not have the training nor the experience behind them. Yes it is difficult to think clearly and weigh up options if you have not faced this sort of emergency before. However if there was an experienced paramedic or an experienced trauma doctor there on the spot as the same time as the initial group of marshals arrived, he or she would be able to call the shots. I can assure you with knowledge and experience the choices are simple and not complex.
I agree with all the points that Rod has posted recently in particular that the injured should not be moved till it is safe to do so and if it is necessary the equipment and personnel should be brought to him. When things appear complex go back to basics ie airway, breathing, circulation, neck and remove from danger. The last item is perhaps a contentious one, do we leave the rider on the track where he and the marshals may get run over or should he be moved away from that danger ie away from the race line before instituting resuscitation. However they certainly do not have to move him across the paddock, only far enough to avoid the risk of being run over.
I believe that the marshals need further training but there also needs to be an experienced paramedic or trauma doctor with each group of marshals to take control of such situations.
I agree that nothing could have saved Marco's life but that is not the point. Sometime in the future there will be a scenario where it does make a difference how the injured rider is handled at the track. Now is the time to change not after that event

Thanks for your reply, having the input of trained doctors and paramedics is incredibly important for a better understanding of the situation.

The marshals in the red bibs are the medical responders, and the person who would have authorized Simoncelli to be moved would have been either a doctor or a paramedic. It is the responsibility of a doctor or paramedic to assess the injuries and decide the best course of action. Ordinary marshals have no authority to move a rider if he is not moving of his own accord.

Because of the force of the injury, being struck at the base of the skull and in the back and chest, it is likely (though I stress that this is speculation on my part, based on conversations with people who have been involved in similar situations) that Simoncelli had neither circulation nor breathing, and given that he had blood removed from his lungs at the medical center, there is good cause to believe he had blocked airways as well. Simoncelli's father said that he arrived by his son's side 10 seconds after the incident, and that Simoncelli was "already gone".

This is what I mean by "more complex than it would appear". If you go through your checklist and find no pulse, no breathing, massive head trauma and suspected blocked air passages, what do you do? Wait for the ambulance and risk losing him while you wait, or get him to the medical post, where he can be taken to the medical center much faster, and risk further injury by carrying him? It's a tough call.

Again, I really appreciate the input of people with knowledge and experience of emergency medicine, because I think they are in the best position to explain the dilemmas which face first responders when they arrive at an injured rider.

I hope this doesn't go too far off topic, especially today of all days, but I must say I think the horrific extent of Marco's injuries do miss the point a little.

If Marco's situation hadn't been a lost cause, wasn't quite so tragic and there was a small chance of saving him - would that chance have been lost because the procedures in place don't allow for the people and equipment to give that treatment to be there at the scene quickly?

Maybe it is just an image thing - but from the outside looking in it just doesn't look good.

If Marco's situation had not been a lost cause, then the medic attending the scene may have made a different call. We don't know, because it was immediately clear that Simoncelli was very, very seriously injured. We will only know how the medics and Race Direction handle the situation when a rider is hurt badly enough to require removal, but not so badly that he is either dead or dying.

This is my objection to so much of the criticism of the medical team that responded and their decision. We, mere observers, are not in possession of all the facts. And we are extrapolating their behavior to conclude that the medical team will always respond in the same way, whatever the situation of the rider. As I understand it, a judgement call is made in each individual case; sometimes that call will be to wait for an ambulance, sometimes it will be to get the rider to an ambulance at the service road as fast as possible.

This could be another key point that people are missing: Simoncelli (and Tomizawa) were not being transported AWAY from the track, they were being transported TOWARDS an ambulance and better medical care. How you feel about an incident can depend on the way you perceive it. There is an outstanding advert for the British newspaper The Guardian which illustrates this point.

I believe is an important matter too. One side of the problem is to make the choice to move the injured rider, another is that he/she is moved in the safest possible way. I believe we both agree that MotoPG should have better trained, professional people carrying the riders on the stretcher. About this issue, I found Rod's comment quite informative. Marco probably had already left us but for the next injured rider it could make all the difference to be moved following a proper procedure.

Professionals lose their footing too.

I believe the problem is.. The tracks solicit Volunteers to operate the corners.. They may have credentials to an appropriate level, but a lot of them lack any experience on a RACE TRACK.. you are faced with a downed rider with massive injuries, thousands of people watching YOU and everything you do, potential for highspeed passes of motorcycles at any second..

Anything can happen, and it will never go perfectly. I have worked at several tracks, road courses, drag strips ect. and people get amped up.. even professionals, WE ARE HUMAN

Gymnasts with excellent balance on even ground lose their footing, guys carrying a injured rider can misstep and fall. Communication and deliberate movements help... but that comes with experience and experience as a while crew... that the corner works sure do not have.

More can be done, permanent crews trained to high levels of competency with practice runs.. but that is very expensive.. and in todays global economy, tracks will stick with mostly volunteers and a few paid staff.

I know paramedics and docs who have worked at the Australian GP and other races, as well as "ordinary" flaggies. They all have things to learn off each other and they all admit to fallibility.

What I don't know is if there is a practice session for carrying someone through a gravel trap on a stretcher. There should be. No one could be expected to get that right first time.

GrahamB29 wrote :

I know paramedics and docs who have worked at the Australian GP and other races, as well as "ordinary" flaggies. They all have things to learn off each other and they all admit to fallibility.

I haven't had the chance to go to PI to marshal but I have had the pleasure of working with a variety of Aussies over the years, from "flaggies" and response/handlers to a gentleman that came in to be the clerk of the course back when Laguna Seca first got MotoGP back 20+ years ago. All have been good marshals and excellent folks.

As for having things to learn off each other and all being fallible, doesn't that about cover all of us? I try to learn something new every day, whether it's in my regular life or when at the race track. If I don't, I feel I've missed something.

While I've never had to try and help carry a stretcher through a gravel trap, I have a bike. Even if the wheels are rolling free and not locked up, it's definitely no easy task and I'd agree that some practice is a very good idea.

While I can't necessarily speak for all the other MotoGP tracks, I can for Laguna Seca and I can assure you that while not every one of the 340+- corner marshals there have 23+ years of experience like I do. More than just a few have more, some much more, while many are somewhere in 5-15 years of experience range and then of course, there's some who only have a couple years or maybe none. Many of our marshals as well as many at other tracks aren't inexperienced nor do they just work the MotoGP race once a year when it comes in. Many work the amateur club races as well as regional & national series in their area/country. Experience at the lower levels can be invaluable because amateur, regional and even national riders fall down more frequently than those at the pinnacle do so they get more actual experience responding to incidents.

We have marshals that travel from all over the world to come help staff our event and we also have marshals that do the same. For an example, a good friend of mine worked the Assen race. He then spectated the next weekend at Mugello. He hopes to do the same next year, switching which track he works.

I know it's different at each track as to whether the marshals are given guest passes, t-shirts, posters, hats, etc. meals, free camping, or maybe a small stipend for their services. But even those where the workers are "volunteers", that doesn't mean these folks aren't experienced and good marshals. Marshals are a lot like racers, it takes a bit of a different soul to be a marshal. It's not for everyone and not everyone is for it.

The key to all of it is training folks correctly and teaching/reminding them to work together. That can be everything from reading about how to do things, studying hand signals, flagging & response manuals, having training seminars where folks are shown how to flag, pick up bikes, properly use a fire extinguisher, etc. However, on the job training is best. Not unlike many other things, the best way to learn is to do.

You are absolutely right, those that work at the track are just like the racers and everyone else, all capable of making mistakes. We're not perfect, I've had some, none major gratefully. I've also worked different tracks and types of racing, road & dirt, road courses, ovals and straight and fast, even slow & calculating like Trials. The one thing that I've learned is true for all of these disciplines, expect the unexpected at any time, any place. Crap sometimes happens when & where you least expect it. And to be quite honest, as I'm sure you know, the adrenaline rush hits and suddenly you are instantly in overdrive. Controlling it can be critical in situations and not always easy.

As for permanent crews, I'd love to see at least a core group of marshals that travels to each MotoGP/FIM event to oversee & help train the local marshal groups. I'm sure some groups need more training and help than others but I also know that this would at least be a start. With todays economy I'm not sure we are going to see that happen soon but in my view, it needs to. The sooner, the better.

David, could you advise the level of training that the medical staff on the circuit is required to have. It could potentially be someone with a basic first aid certificate or a metropolitan family medical practitioner who has not resuscitated a major trauma case since his first year internship 20 years ago to a full time highly trained paramedic or trauma doctor (A&E, anesthesiologist etc) who are able to intubate, insert IV lines or chest tubes etc and who have utilized these skills on innumerable occasions.
Why should the medical equipment be left at the control posts? There are specifically designed back packs to carry all the emergency resuscitation gear including intubation gear, IV lines and fluids, defibrillator, portable suction etc.

"If you go through your checklist and find no pulse, no breathing, massive head trauma and suspected blocked air passages, what do you do?"
Option 1 - this person is dead, cover him with a sheet and transport him with dignity
Option 2 - small chance this person might be salvaged, Start resuscitation immediately.
no pulse, no breathing - clear oral cavity of debris, give 2 breaths and start CPR.
massive head trauma - ignore as nothing can be done, starving the brain of oxygen by delaying CPR adds to the brain injury.
blocked air passages - attempt to clear with portable suction equipment after CPR has commenced. These equipment can be and should be carried with the first wave of marshals rushing to him.
Once CPR has been commenced and established then the patient is physically stabilized and protected and transported to the medical center whilst CPR is continuing unabated. All this will take longer hence giving time for the ambulance to get next to him on the track.

I would like to stress that I'm not being critical of the marshals on the track. It is clear that they were out of their depth. I'm critical of the organization that put them there without adequate support.
I timed the marshals from the moment that Marco was lifted from the place he fell to his arrival at the ambulance was 45 secs, this does not take into account the time that the marshals needed to get to him or the time it took to assess him and get him onto the stretcher. All this time his brain is being starved of vital oxygen. If there was a small chance of saving him or any other rider who might be less injured and potentially saved, the opportunity would be lost on those first few minutes.

Thanks again for your insights, Tara. Medical qualifications are defined in the FIM rulebook. You can download the PDF of the rules here, the medical code is laid out in chapter 5. Here's the necessary qualifications: Qualification of doctors
Any doctor participating at an event:
  • must be a fully registered medical practitioner.
  • authorised to practice in the relevant country or state.
  • qualified in and able to carry out emergency treatment and resuscitation. Qualification of paramedics or equivalent
Any paramedic or equivalent participating at an event:
  • must be fully qualified and registered as required by the relevant country or state.
  • must be experienced in emergency care.

Basically, these are people who are experienced in emergency care.

It seems to me the only barrier to getting all the necessary equipment and personnel to a fallen rider quickly is organisation and money.

The fact that Marco's father (who I understand witnessed the horrific accident via the live TV feed in the team pit box) was able to jump on a scooter and get to the scene himself before any paramedics were there with necessary equipment giving treatment speaks volumes to me.

I think the outrage is not the emotional shock of "someone must be to blame" after witnessing and realising the loss of Marco, but is down to people being so shocked and surprised that in this day and age, and with the professional "F1 of motorcycling" image that MotoGP projects, the emergency response procedures and the initial management of the situation we all witnessed appear to be so chaotic, panic stricken and unprofessional. The thought that it might just be because they are is, well, shocking.

It is interesting to compare the handling of the crash of Marco Simoncelli with that of Axel Pons in Moto2. Pons crashed directly in front of Kenny Noyes, and Noyes could not avoid him and hit him, knocking him unconscious. The medics arrived at the scene, called for the race to be red-flagged (which it was), then set out hay bales and started treating Pons at the track. He was not moved until he was properly secured and stabilized.

I suspect that the difference in the way that it was handled is directly attributable to the relative seriousness of the injuries each man suffered. Pons "only" suffered a concussion, and was therefore breathing and had a pulse. He flies home tomorrow after being kept in hospital for a few days to monitor his condition. Simoncelli was clearly fatally injured, as we know now, and may already have been in arrest or dead. That situation may require a different approach, but without having been on the scene, I think it is hard to judge whether the right call was made or not.

In F1 the doctor is always on standby in the medical car. In the case of a serious accident the medical car will bring the doctor directly to the site of the accident in a matter of seconds. The driver is only moved under the direct supervision of the doctor. Also an ambulance will follow the medical car, or sometimes a chopper will fly directly to the accident site. I wonder why MotoGP doesn't do the same. Then we wouldn't see marshals and paramedics moving a seriously injured rider without proper medical supervision. I am sorry to say that it seems that MotoGP is rather amateurish in the way it handles these issues, which is surely unacceptable for the premier motorcycle series.

about this afternoon. At Laguna Seca we have several cars staged at various turns around the track with a Dr. and another medical person (very probably a Dr. or trauma specialist) that are in cars with drivers with who have race experience and are quite familiar with the track. All are in direct radio contact with us in race control and can be dispatched instantly. They can be, and have been occasionally, dispatched onto a hot track. They have trauma bags and equipment with them also. I'd need to completely review the regs to see if these are even mentioned. I don't believe they are but it's something to be considered as often these cars can get there almost as quickly as the medical folks stationed track side, depending on where the incident is and what you have to through (gravel trap, over/through catch fencing, etc.) to get to the rider.

There is another development that worries me a bit. It seems that there are only two sources of severe injuries with all safety measures in place nowadays: being hit by other riders, or being hit by the own bike (after a high-side for example).
It seems that more and more tracks have asphalt run-off areas instead of gravel traps, because the tracks are used for car racing as well.
In a car, it's obviously much preferable to be able to get to a halt on asphalt, instead of getting stuck in the gravel.
With a bike it's different. A gravel trap will stop the bike very soon, whereas it may bounce one the asphalt run-off area. I remember either the moderators or a rider complain about this (don't know where&when), because it diminishes the chances of picking the bike up and continuing the race, because the bike is likely to have been more severely damaged after bouncing/sliding on the asphalt.
This makes me wonder whether the asphalt run-off areas also increase the possibility that a falling rider is hit by his own bike.
Maybe I'm wrong, and there probably isn't much that can be done about this. And the FIM will certainly take this into account when sanctioning tracks.
But maybe this is one area where the safety could be increased another fraction.

because the bike is likely to have been more severely damaged after bouncing/sliding on the asphalt.

You've clearly never experienced the joy of the Philip Island's "gravel" traps.

In general, a bike will tend to slide on asphalt. In gravel, it digs in and often flips. That's a legitimate compromise if the option is hitting a barrier or sliding across another part of the track, but if these are not issues, asphalt is definitely better. All the more if the rider is still upright when he runs off, since he can use the brakes.

Also, flat asphalt will not "bounce" the bike back onto the track, except in extraordinary circumstances.

I didn't mean bouncing back on the track, but rather following the fallen rider. Like when Marquez crashed in Sepang, and the bike tumbled in the same direction and then stopped in the gravel:

I don't have first-hand experience in crashing on a race-track, i guess round-abouts don't count?! :P
If you say asphalt is better, then i will trust in your experience.

I watched this race in horror with my morning coffee. 5 Minutes after the crash, I turned it off, checked the internet to see the news. At that point it wasnt unexpected. I tend to think everyone who saw it knew he was gone.

5 Minutes after that I jumped on my bike. I couldnt think of another or better way to pay tribute to both him, the other racers as well as everyone else who rides. It helped.

Not since 1973, when as a 16 year old i heard on the radio the deaths of Saarinen and Pasolini have i been so saddened by a riders passing away.
After saying that, it makes me feel im being callous about the other hundreds
[including IOM riders] that have paid the ultimate price of doing what they love.
So to giants like Simoncelli,Saarinen,Pasolini, Rayborn and Dunlop, through to the humblest clubman who have passed away on the track--Rest in Peace

The comparison between the incidents is relevant but how have things improved in those 12 months?
The race was red flagged ..Yes thats good for me although many argued the Tomizawa race should not have been and sided with race officials
Marco was moved immediately ..same as Shoya..same arguments and still dont accept them .I speak as a 30 year emergency services first responder just to qualify that
You dont take the casualty to the emergency equipment its the other way round.Keep them alive then to a trauma centre.Very basic principals
Not saying it made any difference to the tragic outcome but those basic procedures seem wrong and did 12 months ago.
Competence of the trackside officials/medical staff..look at how Scott Redding was treated in the same race and wonder why people question it!

RIP Marco..Special rider... thanks for the fantastic memories

It is not a time to grieve Super Sic, it is a time to celebrate the man!

Great piece. I've been involved with two fatalities at race tracks here in Canada (by "involved" I mean I was working as an official at the time) been around three others as a writer/photographer, and saw one from a grandstand while "taking a weekend off." All nasty, all awful, all the dreadful things you think about ... but in all cases the racing weekends went on, as I believe the riders would have preferred. I think the worst was standing up at the rider's meeting one Sunday morning and announcing that a very popular and nice guy had died after what should have been a relatively minor incident, then spending half an hour talking with his best friend, who was in tears and in "whywhywhy" mode.

Then we all went racing.

And was the accident Simoncelli's fault?

From the video, it appears that Marco loses control of his bike in the outside of the corner, and the bike hits the deck, with the rear wheel momentarily losing contact with the tarmac. Then, one of two things happens - and it is not clear which:

1: Marco attempts to recover the bike by applying the throttle, but in doing so drags it back across the track into the path of Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi.

2: When the bike hits the deck, Marco loses all control of the bike, but the rear wheel stays engaged, and regains momentary contact with the asphalt, which then causes the bike to lurch across the track.

It is useless speculating, but there is one clear solution. It should be made a regulation that if the bike falls on its side (lean sensors can tell), the engine automatically cuts off. This in some specific cases at least, would ensure that the bike goes skidding way off into the run off area, rather than back onto the track. I can't see any potential harm in adding such a regulation. And it would be simple to implement.

So if a rider comes off their bike and he and their machine are fit to carry on, tough luck.

My two cents.

RIP Marco. What an awesome rider, what an awesome sport.

Race direction cameras and analysis of data will probably shed more light in due course, but i can't agree with the idea that engine cutout would necessarily have saved him. The bike was carrying loads of momentum - who knows what would have happened, engine on or off. The bike swerved back onto the racing line when the tyres regained grip. The bike doesn't have to be putting power to the ground for the tyres to grip - in fact traction control restores grip by _cutting_ power.

As i said, let's hope an analysis of the data and different camera angles comes up with something.

When i say cut-off, I mean turning off the engine completely. Traction control cuts ignition for a fraction of a second, depending on how much the power needs to drop to retain grip.

A free-spinning wheel would probably not have enough energy to push the bike back on the track as far as Simoncelli's bike went back, but that is just a pure guess. Maybe it would.

But, I agree - more analysis is needed.

but that seems a really bad idea. Basically you are proposing a tip-over switch, as all road-going injected bikes have, but one that kills the engine before the bike has finished crashing. The result would not be a free-spinning wheel, but a locked one: that's what happens when you turn off a high compression, large capacity engine.

Unless you can come up with some sort of clairvoyant electronics, I think you risk
a) converting a lot of near lowsides into certain lowsides;
b) converting some lowsides into highsides.

His words are incredibly gracious in the circumstances and the man is holding it together remarkably well, publicly at least.

However, if this accident is to be analysed and lessons learned for the future, his comment that Marco was 'already gone' should not simply be accepted at face value as absolving the process by which Marco was removed from the track and treated. I'd say plenty of untrained people might look at a seriously injured person and think 'he's gone' when in fact life might still be present and resuscitation possible.

Like most people I'm extremely doubtful myself that Marco would have survived for more than a few seconds afterwards. In the confused TV coverage immediately after the crash there was talk of him having regained consciousness briefly in the Clinica Mobile. But who knows. In the cold analysis of this situation that is ultimately required for future safety's sake, we should be looking to coroners and pathologists for their determinations.

I'm piling on panz here, but risk-taking moves the whole human race forward. Yes, even sports do.

If you eliminate all risk-taking you rob much of what it is to be human. Would you prefer a society where everything is safe and a virtual facsimile of real experiences? If you do, you may get your wish soon. We are quickly becoming a people who sit idle in front of glowing screens, deluding ourselves that watching and clicking digital buttons is living.

We should be thankful that there are still some people on this planet who will push the limits.

The wiki article does not show the name of Noboyuki Wakai who died at the Spainish GP in 1993.

Can you add his name in?


The changes I made to the list previously were rejected. First you have to create the article about the riders who were injured. I will be doing that over the winter, and will add Wakai in there as well.

I was very surprised to read your comment on Steve Parrish. "But to even suggest that a rider might consider retiring after Simoncelli's death is to fail to understand the mind of a motorcycle racer." Parrish had a very successful career racing motorcycles between 1971 and 1985. During this time he saw several of his peers die or get seriously injured whilst racing.
May I suggest Mr Emmett that your comment clearly displays that it is you that fails to understand the mind of a motorcycle racer as Mr Parrish might just be a tad more qualified to make his comments than are you to judge them.

To make a comment about Rossi's future, without talking with VR was just plain irresponsiable and wrong. Irrregardless of what kind of a Racer he was and for how long.

End of story.

You are absolutely correct that Parrish has far more experience of racing than I ever will have. The reason I was surprised about Parrish' comment is contained in the very long career which you highlighted. He did indeed see several of his peers killed and seriously injured. And yet he kept on racing. So why he would suggest that Valentino Rossi would retire after this incident is a bit of a mystery, especially as it took less than twenty-four hours for Rossi and his circle to deny any such intentions. I can imagine that his own, understandable feelings of shock at the death of Simoncelli made him forget what his younger self would have done, and did in the circumstances.

And perhaps I worded that a little awkwardly. I did not intend to imply that Parrish failed to understand the mind of a racer, but meant it instead as a general point.