Thursday, 27 October 2011

About #58

I woke up just before 10am last Sunday morning, and it dawned on me as I went downstairs that I had forgotten to set my alarm for the MotoGP, even though the evening before I had made a mental note to do so.

When I switched on the TV, it didn't even register that BBC2 was showing something other than motorbikes; I just assumed I'd got the times wrong and it was long over.

Then I went onto Facebook and saw a friend's status update. 'RIP Marco Simoncelli'. My heart immediately starting beating ninety to the dozen and I could barely get my fingers to work as I went onto Twitter to scroll down my timeline. It's stupid but my first thought was that he'd been sick or been involved in something away from the racetrack – in the immediate shock it just didn't occur to me that it had happened during the race in Sepang.

I haven't seen the crash, nor do I want to. Thanks to everyone's least favourite newspaper, the Daily Mail, I've seen photographs, and that was more than enough for me. The Mail has built its readership on acting like a bastion of morality, yet deems it acceptable to print photographs of a young 24 year old man losing his life at the side of a racetrack.

The fact I won't watch the crash somewhat contradicts the claims of one Jill Singer, a 'journalist' who spews out brain vomit in a column for Australian newspaper The Herald Sun. According to her, motorsport fans are ghouls who 'get off on the carnage'. She ends her insulting diatribe by accusing us all of having 'specks of blood' on our hands.

I disagree completely. Jill Singer doubts that motorsport fans' shock and grief over Marco Simoncelli and Dan Wheldon in the past fortnight is genuine. As motorsport fans we're all aware of the risk the sport we love brings, but that doesn't mean that we can't still feel stunned and shocked when something so incredibly tragic happens. Having lost a close family member in a motorbike accident just over 3 years ago, I know that the horror of a bike crash is something that's very difficult to comprehend, and I think that's what everyone in the motorsport community has been trying to deal with for the past 4 days.

I really don't feel like any genuine, true fan watches motorsport for the crashes. They may watch for the risk, but not the actual crashes. It's the great saves that we all admire; kissing the wall instead of hitting it – not the accidents. If you're watching drivers or riders every other weekend it's very easy to start caring about their welfare – they are the ones risking their lives doing something for our entertainment so why on earth would we want them to potentially get hurt? There's nothing entertaining about that.

Motorsport safety has been targeted a lot by the uneducated mainstream media lately which is completely unfair. I have friends that scuba dive, and a quick google has shown that as a sport, that's far more dangerous than racing. Yet when scuba divers die (and I know there has been at least one tragic death in the past few weeks in the UK/Ireland) it doesn't get the same accusations thrown at it. I'd never dream of suggesting to my friends that they get off on the risk of it, because unlike Jill Singer, I'd never be ignorant enough to make such an unfounded assumption.

I was in work today when Marco's funeral was taking place but I watched some of the footage when I got home on the MotoGP website. Just like on Sunday morning, I was reduced to tears. This has really floored me and I'm actually shocked how much. I enjoy MotoGP a lot but for me it's always been very much second best to F1. I know that if anything ever happened to an F1 driver I'd be devastated (and I was scarily given a glimpse of what that might be like with Felipe's accident in 2009) but even I underestimated the reaction I have had to the events of the past few days.

I won't sit and pretend now that Marco was my favourite rider in MotoGP – in fact I had a good rant about him after the accident with Dani Pedrosa at Le Mans which left Dani with a broken collarbone. But once that died down, it was impossible not to like him – between the gangly frame, the hair (oh, the hair) and his ability to shake things up at the front and challenge 'the aliens', he was pure entertainment and I shall miss his charisma on the track very, very much.

If this is what being a ghoul feels like, quite honestly – it's shit.

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