A promising Italian rider, Simoncelli advanced just last year to the top-tier MotoGP series after making a name for himself in the feeder classes. He was a force to be reckoned with in the Italian Minimoto Championship in the late 90s, won the European championship (as well as several World Championship races) in the 125cc class for Aprilia and took the 250cc World Championship for Gilera in 2008. He advanced to the MotoGP series last season, riding for the Gresini Honda team, for whom he took a second-place finish just last week in Australia.
Disaster struck, however, on the second lap of the Malaysian Grand Prix today where he lost control of his Honda racing bike and was hit by fellow riders Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi as he slid across the track. He laid there motionless, his helmet having come off in the incident, until an ambulance brought him to the trackside infirmary where he was subsequently pronounced dead. He was 24.
The tragedy marks the first death in MotoGP since the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix where Daijiro Kato, also of the Gresini team, was killed. However Shoya Tomizawa was killed a little over a year ago in the Moto2 race at San Marino.
Our hearts go out to Simoncelli's family, friends and colleagues. Follow the jump to watch the incident unfold.