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Simoncelli, 24, fell from his bike at turn 11 and skidded into the path of Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi, losing his helmet in the ensuing collision.
The race was immediately red flagged as Simoncelli lay motionless on the track and then cancelled altogether once the extent of the Honda rider’s injuries became clear.
After being transported to the circuit’s medical centre by ambulance Simoncelli was pronounced dead due to “a very serious trauma to the head, to the neck and the chest”.
“Everybody involved in MotoGP extends its deepest condolences to Marco’s family, friends and team at this tragic loss,” read a statement on the official MotoGP website.
BBC MotoGP presenter Matt Roberts reported that when the track medics got to him, Simoncelli was in cardiac arrest. “They tried to resuscitate him in the ambulance and the medical centre,” Roberts said. “Both riders collided with him and the impact corresponded to him losing his helmet. The saddest thing is that Valentino [Rossi] and Marco were very close friends.
“Colin [Edwards] has a dislocated shoulder and is in a lot of pain. He and Valentino are absolutely devastated.”
Simoncelli’s death came exactly a week after Britain’s IndyCar champion Dan Wheldon was killed in a 15-car pile-up at the season-ending Las Vegas 300.
And as with the aftermath of that crash, tributes immediately poured in from around the world; from Simoncelli’s fellow riders in Malaysia to Italian football giants Inter and AC Milan whose players wore black armbands yesterday.
“AC Milan offers a hug to the family of Marco, a huge rossoneri fan, and we want to offer the most sincere and heartfelt condolences,” the club said on its website.
Simoncelli, who won the 250cc world championship in 2008, clinching the crown in Sepang, stepped up to MotoGP in 2010. His death was the first fatality in MotoGP since Japan’s Daijiro Katoh died from his injuries sustained at the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix, although Shoya Tomizawa died in a similar crash to Simoncelli in a Moto2 race in San Marino last year.
It takes the number of recorded deaths in MotoGP to 47 since it was founded in 1949.
Unlike the aftermath to Wheldon’s crash the previous weekend, however, Simoncelli’s accident was largely treated by the motorsport community as just that rather than a tragedy that could have been avoided had race conditions been different.
MotoGP race director Paul Butler pledged to investigate the incident but warned that “you can never guarantee a 100 per cent safe race”.
“We had our standard operating procedure ... this is one-of-a-kind freak incident where the helmet came off and I am sure [motorcycling body] FIM and MotoGP will be looking into this,” he said.
“It is a sad back-to-back weekend for motorsports. We try our best to avoid incidents and prepare for the worst. You see, 99 per cent of the time, riders falling and walking away. Only one per cent do not.
“You can never guarantee a 100 per cent safe race. You expose yourself to danger when you race. As professionals, they know MotoGP is dangerous. Believe it or not, that is what they live for. Our condolences to Marco. He will be missed dearly.”
Hundreds of mourners, meanwhile, gathered for the funeral of Buckinghamshire-born Wheldon at his adopted home of St Petersburg, Florida, on Saturday. Another memorial service was held on Sunday in downtown Indianapolis, the scene of Wheldon’s greatest triumphs.