Reactions were varied to the cancellation of Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix. The riders knew immediately that Marco Simoncelli’s condition was grave; some even changed out of their leathers and into street clothes shortly after returning to the garages. Most of the record 67,112 spectators ringing the 3.447-mile Sepang International Circuit, however, were apparently unaware of the critical nature of the second-lap accident.
According to eyewitnesses, some fans were actually angry. They’d paid a premium for their tickets and felt shortchanged. They threw bottles of water and trash onto the racetrack, and in the accompany photo, track marshals can clearly be seen running for cover. By the time Simoncelli had been pronounced dead, most of the crowd had gone home.
Some wondered if the race would be restarted and Simoncelli’s death announced later in the day, as has happened before in motorsport. But anyone who saw Colin Edwards’ reaction immediately after the crash and, later, that of Valentino Rossi, knew those two would not be able to continue racing that day. All of the other riders would have had to pass Simoncelli lying on the track without a helmet and surely were badly shaken, as well.
SIC chairman Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir told the New Straits Times that the reactions from the fans were “unfortunate, but understandable. At the time of the cancellation, the official announcement was that, due to medical staff being fully involved in efforts to save Simoncelli, and without sufficient medical personnel on standby, the race could not be continued.
“There was a delay in the transmission of information from the medical center to the public. Simoncelli’s family had to be notified, then the organizers and the public. Under those circumstances, it was unavoidable, but I’m sure when the fans find out what happened, they will understand why the race had to be cancelled.”
Edwards’ injuries were more severe than initially thought. On his Facebook page, the Tech 3 Yamaha rider thanked his fans for their support. “I’m holding up okay mentally; it was a very tragic accident. Physically, besides a dislocated shoulder and ligaments involved, [I] think both wrists and [my] left heel have fractures, too. I feel sad for the whole MotoGP community. My heart is heavy for everyone affected, from family to fans. Godspeed, my friend, [you] will be missed.”
Edwards is not expected to compete in the season-ending round in Valencia, Spain. Factory Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo’s participation is also questionable. The outgoing MotoGP world champion badly injured the ring finger on his left hand in a crash during Sunday morning warm-up for the Australian Grand Prix. And his teammate, American Ben Spies, missed the last two rounds due to injuries.
Simoncelli’s team, San Carlo Honda Gresini, will be present at Valencia, but team owner Fausto Gresini has not yet decided if Hiroshi Aoyama and Moto2 riders Michele Pirro and Yuki Takahashi will take part in their respective races.
Thursday’s funeral for Simoncelli was held at the Santa Maria Assunta church in Coriano, the fallen rider’s hometown. The ceremony was broadcast on large television screens outside the church and also at the nearby Misano World Circuit.