Mokhzani: Tricky Sepang track not to be blamed for Simoncelli’s death


  • Other Sport
  • Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011

KUALA LUMPUR: Sepang International Circuit (SIC) chairman Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir said they will take a hard look at safety after the death of MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli, but the notoriously tricky raceway was not to blame for the tragedy.

The rising Italian speedster’s death in a crash on Sunday in the Malaysian MotoGP sent shockwaves through motor sports, which was already reeling from the previous weekend’s death of IndyCar’s Dan Wheldon in a race in Las Vegas.

Simoncelli’s death will likely add fuel to questions being asked about the dangers of racing, and Mokhzani said the track’s first-ever fatality would prompt a new look at safety.

“Sepang race organisers have to re-look at safety from every angle again,” he said.

Mokhzani said the International Motor­cycling Federation (FIM) would investigate the crash, which occurred early in the race and resulted in its cancellation.

“We will see from it (the investigation) if there is anything we could have done differently,” he said.

The Sepang circuit is considered a challenging track due to the intense heat, humidity, and frequent rain.

However, despite the usual sweltering tropical temperatures, conditions on Sunday were dry.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the crash. In footage of the accident, Simoncelli’s bike veers in from outside the frame, with the 24-year-old Italian appearing to be sliding off.

With his head at track level, Simoncelli ploughed into the front tyres of racers Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi.

The horrific collision tore Simoncelli’s helmet off and left him lying motionless on the asphalt.

Doctors fought for nearly an hour to save him before pronouncing him dead of severe head, neck and chest injuries.

Despite the tragedy, Sepang, which also hosts the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix and other races, was “a safe track”, Mokhzani said.

“It is a sad and unfortunate racing accident but the circuit is designed to the highest safety levels,” he said, adding it was inspected by motor sports’ governing bodies.

“Yesterday’s (Sunday’s) accident was beyond anybody’s control or expectation.”

Simoncelli’s death occurred on the same day as a memorial service in Indiana for Wheldon, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, who died of severe head injuries in a crash on Oct 16.

An investigation has also been launched into that collision.

That same weekend, 2010 MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo crashed during warm-ups in the Australian MotoGP, severing a finger that was later surgically reattached.

Mokhzani said the sport’s highly competitive nature would lead to occasional tragedies.

“They (riders) are professionals who are trained to compete and they have safety in mind all the time. But sometimes something tragic happens and reminds us how dangerous it can be,” he said. — AFP

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