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Motor racing will never be 100 percent safe

Italian rider dies in Sepang
/ 11:00 PM October 25, 2011

Unless people find excitement in machines that run 30 kilometers per hour, then we will never be able to avoid fatalities in motorsports.

Let’s face it, our body is a fragile creation that it could only take so much. Subject one to a force 20 times earth’s normal gravity for about a minute and the person dies. Even wearing the most advanced helmet, body suit, straps or being ensconced in a safety cage won’t protect from a one-of-a-kind freak incident.

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The death of 24-year old MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli in the Malaysia GP in Sepang, Malaysia, last Sunday and last week’s demise of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon in Las Vegas, USA, only highlight the danger that always lurks in a sport where excessive speed and aggressive driving is part of the competition.

Despite the huge advancements in track safety, much-improved medical facilities at the tracks, enhanced cockpit protection and the like, such freak accidents are a sad reality of motorsports.

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Here are some of the deaths which were among the most shocking, unexpected if not tragic.

1.) Of course, this person is best known for having established Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd. in 1963, a team that we know today as Team McLaren.

Though Bruce McLaren never won a Formula One Championship (his closest was finishing second in 1960 season), the New Zealander never failed to astonish the crowd in all his 100 races, where he won four times and finished podium 27.

McLaren died in 1970, when he crashed while doing a test for a new body style in his car.

2.) Regarded as one of the greatest F1 drivers in its history, Brazilian Ayrton Senna is a three-time champion, six-time winner of the Monaco Grand Prix six times and held the pole position record from 1989 until 2006.

He was leading the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola in 1994 when his car left the track and slammed into the retaining wall at 217 kph. The wheel housing of his car was pushed backwards and slammed into his helmet, causing fatal skull fractures.

3.) In the world of United States’ National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, no one family has had more success than the Pettys. In their collective Nascar careers, Lee, Richard and Kyle Petty won 262 races and 10 championships.

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When Kyle’s son Adam announced his entry in the 2000 season, fans and rivals alike certainly took notice. Unfortunately, while practicing at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, his throttle jammed causing him to hit the wall head-on at speeds estimated at nearly 185 kph. He died instantly.

4.) The death of seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt is another Nascar tragedy.

The accident happened during the last turn of the last lap of the Daytona 500. After he lost control of his car, hit the outside retaining wall wherein his left lap belt got separated during the impact and subsequent blunt force trauma to the head he suffered, resulted in a ring fracture to the base of the skull.

Earnhardt’s death was arguably the biggest safety-related wake-up call. In the years following his death in 2001, tracks have installed impact-absorbing barriers along their concrete walls, new helmets and restraint systems been introduced and the car itself has been redesigned to better handle high-speed crashes.

5.) He was not only known the son of José P. Laurel, the President of the Philippines during the Japanese occupation but Arsenio “Dodjie” Laurel was also the first two-time winner of the Macau Grand Prix, winning it consecutively in 1962 and 1963.

In the 1967 Macau Grand Prix, his car skidded out of control and hit a wall. The crash caused his car to burst into flames, leaving him trapped inside, becoming the first casualty of the premiere touring car event in the Asia-Pacific region.

6.) Jovy Marcelo would have been the first Pinoy to race in the Indy 500.

The 27-year-old phenom already passed his rookie test in 1991 and got permission to begin practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But during the practice, he spun and hit the outside wall and died of a blunt head injury.

7.) Twenty-two-year-old Maico Greg Buncio is already a four-time national superbike champion when he died in May 2011 due to massive injuries suffered in a crash during a time trial at the Clark Speedway Racing Circuit.

He was running at an estimate speed of 220 kph when he figured in a freak accident, wherein his bike skidded off the track and hit a bar protruding on an unfinished barrier.

A month prior to his death, Buncio was chosen by Team Suzuki Pilipinas to be among the country’s first representatives in the 2011 Asian Road Racing Championship, where he was supposed to join in the SuperSports 600 cc category.

To most of us, the idea of putting your life at risk for one stab at glory is ludicrous. And yet, the list of famous and not-so-famous sportspeople who have died or seriously hurt themselves doing what they love is getting longer.

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TAGS: Motor Racing, motorsport, road safety
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