“MOTORSPORTS CAN BE DANGEROUS” it says on the back of my media pass, the hard card I wear around my neck and which gives me access to the paddock and the media center.
It says the same thing everywhere around the circuit: on rider passes, on the back of tickets, on signs which hang on fences around the circuit.
You see it so much that it becomes a cliché, and like all clichés it quickly loses its meaning. Until reality intervenes, and reminds us that behind every cliché lies a deep truth.
Friday brought a stark reminder. During the afternoon session of free practice for the Moto2 class, Luis Salom exited Turn 11 and got on the gas towards Turn 12.
Just before the turn, traveling at around 170 km/h, the rider caress the front brake to help the bike turn through the fast right hander of Turn 12, an engineer told me.
At that point, Salom lost control of his bike, fell off, and he and his bike headed towards the air fence which protects the wall there.
They slid across a patch of tarmac put in to help the cars if they run straight on at that corner, and Salom’s bike hit the air fence and wall, careened off the wall and into Salom, fatally injuring him.
Salom received treatment in the corner, and was then taken to a local hospital where doctors did all they could to save his life. Sadly, they could not. Luis Salom died at 4:55pm on 3rd June 2016, at the age of 24.
The Isle of Man TT and the Dakar Rally are two events we cover here at Asphalt & Rubber where we know statistically we will have to report a racer’s death each year.
Unfortunately, those numbers hold true for the 2015 Dakar Rally, as Polish competitor Michal Hernik died while racing Stage 3 of the course, between San Juan and Chilecito.
Hernik’s body was found at kilometer 206, roughly 300 meters off the course’s path. Tests performed later by doctors suggest that Hernik succumbed to dehydration and hypothermia.
It is with great regret that we have to report the passing of Bobby Goodin, a motorcycle racer at the 2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Finishing fourth in the Pikes Peak Middleweight motorcycle class, spectators say Goodin lost control of his Triumph Daytona 675R after crossing the finish line at the mountain’s summit.
According to our sources and others that witnessed the crash, Goodin’s motorcycle crash occurred where the road transitions from pavement of the race course to the dirt of the parking lot.
A very short transition from our last viewing, Goodin’s accident occurred after the 54-year-old raised him arm to celebrate finishing the 92nd running of the Race to the Clouds, and was then flung into a group of boulders down the mountain’s side.
Motorcycle racing is a dangerous endeavor, something we have been reminded of heavily in the past few weeks. Losing Simon Andrews in the North West 200, as well as Bob Price and Karl Harris at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, the usual debates have once again surfaced, namely that motorcycle road racing should be abolished because of the toll of dangers, injuries, and fatalities it demands.
Despite death’s inevitability, the Isle of Man TT is a spectacular event, just ask anyone who has sat on a Manx hedgerow and watched these two-wheeled gladiators race past. The speeds on city streets are astounding, the atmosphere in the paddock is warm and friendly, and the Isle of Man itself is a picturesque locale that could come from some child’s storybook.
Modern media does a great job of translating the first-hand experience of the Isle of Man TT into an approachable hour-long TV format, but it still falls short of the genuine article.
Through a television set, you can’t breathe the fumes of unbridled horsepower from the racing machines, you can’t see past the riders’ determination through their helmet visors, and you don’t witness the hours of determined work, sweat, and sacrifce that occur in the paddock to get a racer to the starting line.
I would challenge any person, motorcycle enthusiast or not, to lay witness to a TT fortnight, and still walk away unimpressed with the spectacle that they have laid witness to — there is simply nothing else like it on Earth. It’s almost spiritual.
But why is it though? Scratch the surface a little deeper on the idea why the TT is so special, and you arrive at the notion that the Manx road race holds our wonderment in captivity because of how far outside the standard deviation of safety it operates — even under the skewed perspective of risk management that occurs in motorsport — and that forces us to take some major stock in our own mortality.
More sad news in the motorcycle-journalism world today, as we learn that Cycle News Contributing Editor Henny Ray Abrams was found dead at his computer in his Brooklyn apartment, passing from apparent natural causes.
At 57 years of age, Abrams was the longest-serving journalist at Cycle News, and though he worked in virtually every paddock at one time or another, we here at Asphalt & Rubber knew him best for his time in AMA and MotoGP paddocks.
It is our displeasure to report that Saturday’s World Superbike Superpole qualifying event at Phillip Island was cancelled after a fatality occurred during the Australian Superstock 600 support race. In an incident very similar to the one that took Marco Simoncelli’s life last year, 17-year-old Oscar McIntyre collided with fellow ASTK racers Luke Burgess and Michael Lockhart on the second lap of Saturday’s support race. Though McIntyre received immediate medical attention, he succumbed to his injuries, and event organizers eventually cancelled the Superpole sessions. The last time a World Superbike sessions was cancelled was at Donington in 1998 and due to the snow.
Accordingly, this means that Sunday’s racing grid will be determined by the best lap times from the Qualifying Practice 2 session, which puts Tom Sykes at the pole position, followed by Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa. Look for a strong showing from the Kawasaki contingency on Sunday, but the smart bets are still on the Aprilia of Biaggi and the Ducati of Checa, which have been consistently fast all week. Get excited race fans, the first race of the 2012 World Superbike Championship is about to be underway.
It has taken me a week to collect my thoughts and process the passing of Marco Simoncelli, the San Carlo Gresini Honda rider that lost his life during the MotoGP race in Malaysia. I’m not one of those journalists that can belt out some poignant thoughts on an event immediately after it happens, nor did I personally know Simoncelli well enough to offer a comprehensive anecdote on the man’s short but distinguished life. Having only met and talked to Marco briefly a few times, I cannot shed some deeper insight regarding who he was as a man, stripped away of all the pomp, prestige, and PR spin of the premier class.
I’ve heard the MotoGP paddock described as a family or village, so as one of its most recent members, this tragedy both cuts me deeply, but yet also seems like a distant and surreal event. Perhaps it will affect me more as I travel to Valencia this week, or perhaps I will continue to feel as if I am on the outside looking in at cataclysm of grief that has befallen friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Time will tell in that regard, and I’ll leave it to those masters of the pen who are better suited to the task to account for the young Italian’s life and racing career.
Instead my closing thoughts about Marco Simoncelli are a mixed commentary of life, tragedy, and where we go from here.
Marco Simoncelli has tragically died today, after crashing in a horrific accident during the second lap of the Malaysian GP. Trading corners with Rizla Suzuki rider Álvaro Bautista and battling for fourth place, Simoncelli began the race in Sepang with his usual full-of-heart riding style. Certainly a podium contender for the day, the Italian lost control of his motorcycle in Turn 11 after losing the front. Propping the bike on his knee in order to save the slide, Simoncelli heroically but unfortunately stayed upright, cut back across the track, and collided with fellow racers Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi.
While Rossi rode away unhurt, and Edwards injured only his shoulder, Simoncelli suffered the brunt of the impact, and lay helmetless on the track after the incident. Despite the best efforts of the medical staff at Sepang, Simoncelli could not be resuscitated and succumb to his injuries at 4:56pm local time. Accordingly the Malaysian GP has been cancelled. Asphalt & Rubber joins the MotoGP paddock in mourning the loss of one the most beloved riders in series, and send our thoughts and prayers to Marco’s family, friends, team, and loved ones.
Ciao Marco, SuperSic forever.
Photo: © 2011 Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved
Claudio Castiglioni, President of MV Agusta, passed away this morning in Varese, Italy at the age of 64. In a statement from MV Agusta, the company says that Castiglioni succumed from an unnamed illness while attending a clinic in Varese. Over the course of his career, Castiglioni touched such esteemed brands as Ducati, Cagiva, Husqvarna, and of course MV Agusta. His most recent accomplishment was bringing MV back into Italian ownership, in an act of business acumen that saw Harley-Davidson actually pay Castiglioni €20 million to take back the recent refurbished company.
Paolo Giovagnoli, the prosecutor of Rimini, has opened a dossier of inquiry into the death of Shoya Tomizawa, the 19 year-old Moto2 rider who lost his life Sunday in a horrific crash during the San Marino GP. The inquest into Tomizawa’s death is investigating unknown persons, who may have contributed to Tomizawa’s injuries when he was hastily taken off the track via stretcher, which was subsequently dropped in the process. Tomizawa’s body will undergo a full autopsy, which could lead to manslaughter charges being drawn up against the track workers, and possibly track authorities as well.
Clinica Mobile and track officials have drawn heavy fire since the incident Sunday. At the center of the controversy was the decision not to red flag the race, and the brisk removal of the riders, bikes, and debris that occurred so the race could continue unhindered. Race officials have stood behind their decision saying that a red flag was not necessary to safely transport Tomizawa and the other riders, and in fact a red flag scenario would have delayed potentially lifesaving medical help to Tomizawa.
More sad news from MotoGP this weekend, as we have recieved word that Shoya Tomizawa died today during a tragic accident in the Moto2 race at the San Marino GP. Entangling with riders Scott Redding and Alex de Angelis, Tomizawa sustained massive injuries to his chest and back, and later succumbed to those injuries at the hospital in Riccione. Tomizawa was in fourth, battling with the lead group, when he crashed during the 12th lap of the race.
Struck by de Angelis’ bike, Tomizawa was rushed to the hospital via ambulance, where he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. The incident was felt by the entire MotoGP paddock, where riders are still recovering from the loss of Peter Lenz, the 13 year-old USGPRU rider who died at Indianpolis last weekend during the Indianapolis GP, who was memorialized before the start of the 125 GP race.