DUBAI // A service was held yesterday in memory of Pascal Grosjean, the 39-year-old motorcycle champion who was killed in an accident at Dubai Autodrome last Friday.
About 150 family members and friends attended the service at Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa, some flying in to pay their respects.
The reigning UAE Sportbike 600cc champion from Switzerland had been completing a warm down lap after winning the Sportbike Championship, Race 1, when he was involved in a high speed collision with the bike of Tony Jordan, a fellow competitor. The British rider was seriously injured in the accident and remains in the intensive care unit of Rashid Hospital.
Mr Grosjean's family had prepared a speech before the service, which was read by a close friend. In it, they expressed their grief and said their hearts and prayers went out to Mr Jordan's family. In the speech, Mr Grosjean's mother spoke of her son finding his passion for riding when he was five years old, describing him as a loving man who was always in high spirits.
His sister said she had always looked up to her brother. Mr Grosjean's mother, younger sister and brother had flown from Switzerland earlier in the week after hearing of the accident. They decided to stay longer to attend the service and meet those who had known him.
Following the speech, a moment of silence was held, after which a song Mr Grosjean had recorded with a friend was played. A slideshow of photographs that showcased his character was displayed on a big screen while his mother spoke a few words in French.
Jason Burnside, the British rider who finished second to Mr Grosjean in last weekend's race, spoke highly of the man he described as his biggest and most respected competitor. He was the last person to communicate with Mr Grosjean before he died.
"We had just passed the finish line and nodded a congratulations to each other and we were side by side. We had just shook hands when all of a sudden he was hit," said Mr Burnside. "I know Tony as well and this is a terrible tragedy that has left a big hole. It will be very hard to continue."
As he looked up at the slideshow showing pictures of them together, he said working with Mr Grosjean had been an amazing experience.
"He was just as committed and fun off the track," he said.
An investigation into the incident has been launched, details of which are yet to be released.
According to accounts last week, Mr Grosjean and Mr Burnside had slowed down after passing the finish line when Mr Jordan, who was in third place, collided with Mr Grosjean.
Mr Jordan's speed was estimated at 200kph when, despite trying to brake, he crashed into Mr Grosjean's bike 300 metres after the finish line.
Both men were thrown from their vehicles and suffered multiple injuries. Mr Burnside was not injured.
After being airlifted to Rashid Hospital, Mr Grosjean died from his injuries a few hours later.
It was the second fatal accident at the Dubai Autodrome this year following the death of the 29-year-old Belgian driver Christophe Hissette on April 23 during the qualifying session for the final round of the GulfSport Radical Cup.
Carissa Crowley, a close friend of Mr Grosjean and the public relations and marketing manager for his racing team Gros Gros in Dubai, said the memorial service was the perfect way to say goodbye.
"He had a great sense of humour and was an all round champion," she said. "He was unbeatable and set the bar so high for everyone who wanted to be like him. He was so interested in the UAE motorbike culture and had big dreams."
These dreams included bringing popular European riders to the UAE during the winter to boost the industry.
He had opened a riding improvement school in the city and trained other motorcyclists in the region including Abdulrahman al Shamsi, the Emirati racer.
Mr Grosjean's father was a director of motorcycle races in Switzerland and his mother was a competitive motorcyclist.