Motorsport is in a state of shock for the second time in a week following the tragic death on Sunday of Honda Gresni rider, and MotoGP superstar in the making, Marco Simoncelli.
At just 24 years of age, Marco was tipped as a future world champion. He clocked up a decent tally of wins in the lower formulae, won the 250cc MotoGP world title in 2008 and, after a slightly crashy start to his 800cc MotoGP career, the mop-haired Italian was starting to make real progress in the top category with two podiums to his name in the 2011 season.
But the figures don’t really tell the story with Simoncelli, and certainly don’t give an accurate picture of why he had become a firm fan-favourite since he graduated to the top class at the beginning of 2010. He had a sort of goofy riding style that was hugely enjoyable to watch. A big bloke anyway, in the world of motorcycle racing he was practically a giant, and always looked slightly out of place on a MotoGP machine; like a kid riding a push bike that he was a couple of years too old for. It was strangely endearing, but underneath this lanky, all-elbows-and-knees surface was a proper old-school, balls out, win it or bin it rider. He always looked like he was absolutely on the limit, wrestling the bike into submission. I don’t think he has ever left a single tenth on the track. As a fan of racing, and Simoncelli, watching him ride was a cruel combination of heart-stopping thrills and heart-breaking what-could-have-beens.
People who die on the race track are not being killed in the name of sport, as the bull in the ring, but killed in their own personal pursuit of greatness. It’s a small, but crucially important distinction.
His death was yet another cruel demonstration of the fact that, despite the constant efforts to make it as safe as possible, motor racing is an extremely dangerous sport and freak accidents like Marco’s are just a part of it. Of course, this will lead to usual calls for motor sport be banned; claiming that it’s outrageous for people to be killed in the name of sport.
But those people would do well to remember a very important point: no one forced Marco to take part in this sport. He made that choice and, every time a racer straps on his helmet and climbs aboard he knows that the race he’s about to take part in might be the last thing that he does. Perversely, that’s part of the thrill – the idea of putting your life on the line; taking the idea of controlling your own fate to its absolute limit is the ultimate adrenalin rush, and a huge part of what makes motor racing such an exciting sport. People who die on the race track are not being killed in the name of sport, as the bull in the ring, but killed in their own personal pursuit of greatness. It’s a small, but crucially important distinction.
Instead of calling for the sport to be banned (already happened on The Daily Mail webshite) we should applaud people like this for pushing the boundaries, exploring and breaching the limits and laud them for putting everything on the line to do something they love. Yes, Marco Simoncelli was ‘just’ a motorcycle racer, but Sir Edmund Hillary was just a beekeeper, and the world without people like them would be a very dull place indeed.
I, for one, will miss Super Sic hugely and his memory shouldn’t be tarnished with blaming him or anyone else for what happened and his legacy certainly should not be as the catalyst for the demise of the sport he clearly adored.
I’ll leave you with a quote by C.S. Lewis (yeah, the bloke who wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe):
“…those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be 'cured' against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
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