The body of MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli has arrived back in Italy following Sunday’s fatal accident in the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Simoncelli’s father Paolo and fellow rider Valentino Rossi were aboard the flight that arrived at Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci airport on Tuesday. They were greeted by Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Petrucci.
Devastated: Marco Simoncelli’s father Paolo (left) is embraced by Italian Olympic president Giovanni Petrucci
Petrucci ordered a minute’s silence before all football matches Sunday and players wore black armbands as a tribute to the young rider.
‘On Sunday when we held a minute’s silence there was a total demonstration of how much this kid was loved,’ Petrucci said. ‘We’re here to demonstrate the love and affection for this kid.’
Simoncelli died of chest, head and neck injuries after he lost control of his Honda and swerved across the track, straight into the path of American rider Colin Edwards and Rossi.
Rossi, the seven-time world champion, was a good friend of Simoncelli’s. A public viewing of Simoncelli’s body is planned for Wednesday in the city theatre of his hometown, Coriano, with the funeral scheduled for Thursday.
Tribute: A biker pays homage as the car with the body of Simoncelli leaves the airport in Rome.
Rossi led the tributes for Simoncelli after he became the second high-profile death in motorsport in a week.
Simoncelli was killed exactly a week after British star Dan Wheldon died at the IndyCar 300 in Las Vegas.
The Gresini Honda rider lost control of his bike on the second lap of the circuit in Sepang and was hit by Edwards and Rossi.
The 24-year-old’s helmet came off in the collision and he was taken to the medical centre for treatment, but died from his injuries.Simoncelli suffered ‘serious trauma’ to the head, neck and chest in the accident.
The organisers cancelled Sunday’s race as soon as the extent of Simoncelli’s injuries became apparent.
Gresini Racing has now withdrawn its teams from the season-ending races at Valencia. Team boss Fausto Gresini also confirmed his riders would miss the end-of-season tests which follow on from the November 6 races.
Shattered: Marco’s girlfriend Kate at the Fiumicino Airport in Rome as his body returns home
‘The only certainty is that my team won’t participate in the upcoming Valencia Grand Prix and in the tests programmed after the race,’ Gresini told Corriere dello Sport. ‘Everything happened so fast. I’m lost for words. I know our job is dangerous, that risk is part of the game, but you always hope nothing happens.
When it does happen and you find yourself in the middle of it, everything changes, it’s difficult to accept it.
‘The crash was caused by a sequence of incredibly negative circumstances, the bike that moved towards the inside of the turn instead of the outside, being run over on the widest track of the season.’
Hero: Fans laid flowers in Cattolica after the death of Marco Simoncelli.
Rossi said: ‘Marco was a star and I’ll never forget him. There are a lot of memories that I’ll hold onto. We were together everyday, we trained together and racing was our passion. We already knew that this was something that can happen.’
Rossi, who is struggling with Ducati this season, dismissed speculation that he might retire in the aftermath of the crash. ‘I never said that. It was probably made up just to sell newspapers,’ Rossi said.
Spanish rider Dani Pedrosa had a dispute with fellow factory Honda rider Simoncelli earlier this season, but news of his rival’s death left last season’s championship runner-up reeling.
Repsol Honda’s Pedrosa said: ‘In a tragedy like this there is not much to say. I just want to give my condolences to his family and all the people who love him.
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