Marco Simoncelli dies after crash in Sepang, Malaysia

SEPANG: Italy’s Marco Simoncelli died on Sunday of injuries sustained in a crash that resulted in the cancellation of the Malaysian MotoGP, in the latest tragedy to hit motor sports.

The crash occurred just minutes after the race began when the 24-year-old Honda rider’s bike veered across the track and into the path of riders Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi.

Simoncelli had his helmet knocked off in the ensuing collision, which occurred on turn 11.

MotoGP later announced Simoncelli’s death in a one-line statement on its website.

“Marco Simoncelli succumbed to injuries sustained in Malaysia,” it said.

Motor sports have seen a nightmare stretch recently and Simoncelli’s death looked certain to throw open more questions over safety.

Last weekend, 2010 MotoGP champ Jorge Lorenzo crashed during warm-ups in Australia, severing a finger, while two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon died in a 15-car crash in Las Vegas in Indy Car.

The race at Malaysia’s Sepang track was immediately red-flagged following the crash and organisers later announced it had been cancelled.

Edwards also fell but escaped serious injury, while Rossi was able to return to the pits.

Although there is a final race in Spain still to come, Australia’s Casey Stoner has already secured the 2011 championship with his win last weekend in the Australian Grand Prix.

Tributes from fellow riders

It was confirmed on www.motogp.com that he died at 4.56pm local time.

The organisers cancelled the race when the extent of Simoncelli’s injuries become apparent, having halted it immediately after the accident.

Newly-crowned champion Casey admitted immediately after the crash he had feared the worse.

“As soon as I saw the footage it just makes you sick inside,” the Australian told BBC2.

“Whenever the helmet comes off that’s not a good sign.”

Tributes came in from his fellow riders.

British MotoGP rider Cal Crutchlow wrote on Twitter: “RIP Marco Simoncelli ! A great rider and all round nice guy. My thoughts are with all his family & friends. I will never forget today.” - Agencies
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