Motorcycle racing is the ultimate adrenalin rush for many, the pinnacle of its heights only ever reached by a handful. From club racers to MotoGP aces, the personal risks and emotional rewards are the same each time they slip on their leathers, fasten their crash hat, and release the clutch when the lights go from red to green.
Whether it’s gathered few at a club meeting at Lydden, or a full house crowd at Suzuka , it doesn’t matter. The fans will cheer their man on whether they know him personally or not.
You form a bond with your hero for many reasons. It might be the brand of bike he’s racing, his sponsor’s products or even because you think he’s the bee’s knees. But unfortunately motorcycle racing is a dangerous sport. Thankfully it’s rare these days but every now and then a rider won’t get to see the chequered flag…
As much as we wish this never happens, we have to accept that it does.
Certain numbers can transport you directly in your head to a particular rider, 7 (too easy) Sheene, 10, (bit tougher) Grant, 19, Spencer, 34 Schwantz, 58 Simoncell. In the motorcycling lottery of results 58s number came up all too soon.
You all know the story, most of you probably watched it live on TV, and some of you may have actually known the guy personally.
His untimely death was a shock to everyone, but also a reminder why on the back of even a spectators ticket it clearly states ‘Motor sports are dangerous’.
I will be honest with you from here on in, those of a nervous disposition, or people who believe what PR linked publications tell you best – look away now, sometimes we need to remove the sugar coating applied by others and look at what actually happened.
I hadn’t heard of Simoncelli, I’d seen his picture here and there, he looked a likeable chap and obviously he could ride a motorcycle fast, in short he wasn’t on my radar. I know no facts about him because I wasn’t a fan. To me he was a guy on the grid, I could if I wanted quickly Google his career and sit here with Wikipedia open, and copy and paste stuff to make myself look like I’m a hardcore fanatic, but I won’t insult your intelligence.
Until that fateful day I was blissfully unaware of the guy really, and his race number 58.
That all changed, suddenly the motorcycle world and press went into over-drive. If Simoncelli had been a singer his songs would top the charts for weeks.
Before you reach for the comment button and call me names, let me make it clear I’m not trying to make light of his loss of life, I’m trying to understand why after 2 years, there’s still such a massive attachment to a guy who’d won a single 250cc world championship, it’s not like he’s the only motorcycle racer to ever be taken cruelly from us.
In the past, fatalities within a racing season were sadly the norm, a combination of poor run off areas, badly designed circuits and sometimes the organisers that promote the sport would insist races took place in weather conditions you wouldn’t throw a dog out in, then of course there was the safety equipment, crash helmets, leathers etc.
We now live in a bubble of a world; we know things sometimes before they even happen thanks to news channels doing their jobs properly. But when we hear bad news we haven’t been prepared for the basic human instinct is to be shocked, I get that. I personally was a bit shocked when it happened, for a little while, and then like they say life carries on.
Thanks to social media there were public outpourings, again all very healthy in principle, then it was like motorcycling as a whole didn’t quite know what to do next, instead of rest in peace it was more like a circus.
Subsequent Moto GP rounds saw the usual minutes silence and stuff like that, then more creepy tributes started to gather pace, things like seeing on Facebook an image of Simoncelli on his bike heading into the clouds (guessing they meant heaven), with a huge 58, what was even more awkward was seeing it had several thousand ‘likes’, what exactly are people liking?
So, as the Moto GP season continues in 2013, I’m guessing I can expect to see more cheesy tributes, more corporate alignment from product companies. This isn’t me being awkward or antagonistic, human nature is to follow the herd, obviously a crucial gene I don’t have in my DNA make up, but I surely can’t be the only person who thinks that Marco should actually be allowed to just Rest In Peace?