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Analyzing the crash of Marco Simoncelli

Marco Simoncelli’s death was one of the rare cases of death happened in MotoGP’s history. Today on the 8th death anniversary I thought of doing a crash analysis to understand what we can learn as a track rider and also specially for motorcycle racers.

Marco Simoncelli’s crash happened during 2011 MotoGP Race at Sepang International, Malaysia. It was the 2nd lap and Marco was at P4 at that time. Starting at P5 on the grid, he had a good fight with Bautista for the 4th position.

Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia

At the exit of Turn 11, it looked like he lost his front and was about to have a low side crash. Low side crashes are relatively safer since the motorcycle and the rider slides off to the outside of the track to the gravel. Depending on the speed at which the crash happens, gravel trap slows down and stops the motorcycle and rider to reduce damage and injuries.

Marco Simoncelli Sepang Crash Video
Marco Simoncelli about to crash on exit of Turn 11
What happens in case of Low Side Crash?

Let us try to understand the physics behind such a crash to get better idea on what happens usually and how this specific incident is different.

Consider every corner on a race track as part of a circle and let us see how and where a motorcycle travels in case of a crash.

When a crash happens in a corner the vehicle will travel through a line parallel to the line from mid-point of the circle to outer circumference. In the diagram you can see it travels through the line marked in red color. This is what was supposed to happen in the case of the above crash as well. If this had happened, Marco and his motorcycle would have gone outside the track and would have lived to race another day.

Low Side crash illustration to show what happens in normal circumstances
What is different in this crash then?

In a competitive sport like Motorsport, a crash in the race means you loose points, a 4th place in the race and also misses out on the experience you gain in the 20+ laps competing with other riders.

Trajectory of normal low side crash denoted by green lines

What Marco tried to do is to save from the crash by using his body to control the bike. Doing so the rear tyre which is already spinning due to the speed at that moment, gained traction on the track and thus pushed the motorcycle towards the inside of the track.

Watch how the motorcycles spin in circle since one of them have rear tyre traction on the track

Unfortunately behind Marco was both Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi both of whom didn’t have enough time to react to save from crashing into Marco.

What do we learn from this unfortunate incident?

When a motorcycle crash happens at the corner its less risky to leave it rather than recover after a certain point. Risk is very high when you try to save the crash in such circumstances, specially if you get stuck on the vehicle, due to the mass of the vehicle and speed, it can result in serious injuries.

Now everyone would ask, why not be a Marc Marquez. Well in my opinion he is very prone to the same issue Marco went through both of them being aggressive and also wants to save every crash.

This article is to point out, its not a good idea to hold on to the motorcycle during a low side crash. I have seen a lot of riders doing that which brings the crashing bike back to the track and in front of other riders

I conclude hoping that we don’t see such incidents leading to death in the sport in future.

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