When I sat down to write this I had absolutely no idea of where to begin.
In Grand Prix racing we’ve become accustomed (thankfully) to riders crashing and then getting up and walking away. Advances in circuit safety, medical treatment and the protective wear of the riders themselves mean that serious injuries are few and far between.
Today, during the second Moto2 practice session Luis Salom crashed at turn 12 of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The session was immediately red flagged while Luis received medical attention at the side of the track.
It’s hard to describe the feeling that descends over the whole circuit when a red flag is waved for this reason. When it’s due to an oil spill or because there’s water on the track, it’s inconvenient. But when a session is suspended after a rider has fallen, it creates a very uncomfortable sense of apprehension that affects everyone.
Of course, everyone still has a job to do; so riders continue talking to their team, their teams continue working on the bikes and the other MotoGP cogs keep on turning. But they do so with one eye on a screen, waiting for any sign that everything is ok.
Sadly that sign didn’t arrive this afternoon. After it was initially decided that Luis would be airlifted to hospital, his condition was deemed too serious for that method of travel so he was taken by road to the local Hospital General de Catalunya. There Luis underwent surgery on the injuries he had sustained in his crash.
But despite receiving the best possible care from an expert trauma team, Luis passed away at 4:55pm local time.
Luis was just 24 years old and had been racing in Grand Prix since 2009 when he made his debut as a wildcard in the 125cc at Jerez. During his short career, he took nine victories and 25 podiums.
When Luis was on track you knew that he was giving every ounce of effort he had, he put 100% into every single move he made and fought hard for every position.
Luis was a man unafraid to show his emotions; whether it was his spectacular display of frustration after crashing in Brno 2014; when he hopped up and down in the gravel, flung himself in the air fence and smacked himself on the head; or when he gave a heartfelt thank you to his family and his mother in particular for sticking by him, when he scored a second place finish at the opening race of 2016 in Qatar.
— Luis Salom (@LuisSalom39) 1 June 2016
Racing is, by definition, a dangerous sport and everyone involved knows the risks associated with it. If you look on the back of your ticket (or pass) you’ll notice there’s a little reminder of motorsports dangers there.
But despite those dangers, or perhaps because of them in some ways, for every race and in every class there is a full grid of riders ready to fight it out until the chequered flag is waved. They give everything they’ve got to achieve their target; whether that’s the race victory or just scoring points. Just getting on one of these motorbikes is an achievement far greater than most people will ever achieve, but still they push for more.
Luis Salom was a lovely young man who was adored by his family, friends, team and fans, just as much as he adored them. Luis’ smile lit up the room and his racing brought a fair few grins too.
With his death today, those smiles have been replaced by tears, as the shock of his sudden loss sets in. I’ll admit I’ve shed a few tears already myself, as have many others.
The dangers of racing will never go away completely, there will always be risks. But it’s important to remember that every single rider is risking their life every single time they go out on track. Their championship position is irrelevant, they are pushing to the maximum. Good weather doesn’t guarantee safety. And heartbreakingly, being a wonderful human being doesn’t safeguard survival, as we found with Luis today.
Perhaps today’s tragedy will give those who have jeered and shouted abuse at MotoGP riders recently something to think about. The facade of bravery would soon fade if the worst was to happen to one of the men they were directing their unacceptable abuse towards.
If you love racing, and if you’re reading this I’ll take a guess that you do, then from today please show respect to every single person on track, no matter who they are or what you might think of them. You don’t have to like them, I’m not asking you to buy a flag or join their fan club. But it’s time to take responsibility for your actions and acknowledge the risks they take to provide entertainment to people like you.
Today MotoGP lost one of their own. Luis Salom will be greatly and sadly missed for many years to come. He had so much potential success ahead of him and it is a true tragedy that this lovely young man has been taken away from us so soon.
Rest in peace Luis, we love you.