SEPANG, MALAYSIA // Marco Simoncelli, the Honda Gresini rider, died of injuries sustained in a crash today that resulted in the cancellation of the Malaysian MotoGP.
"Despite their efforts, Marco sadly succumbed to his injuries at 4:56pm local time [11.56am UAE]," MotoGP said in a statement on its website. "Everybody involved in MotoGP extends its deepest condolences to Marco’s family, friends and team at this tragic loss."
The Italian rider lost control of his bike on the second lap and appeared to be hit by Colin Edwards and then Valentino Rossi as he slid back across the track.
The 24 year old's helmet came off in the collision and he was taken to the medical centre, where he later died.
"He was already unconscious when the medical team arrived," Michele Macchiagodena, the MotoGP medical director, said. "We attempted to resuscitate him but failed. He died 45 minutes later."
The organisers confirmed that the race was cancelled, having red-flagged the race immediately after the incident.
"You can never guarantee a 100 per cent safe race," Mokhzani Mahathir, the Sepang Circuit chairman, told reporters after Simoncelli's death was announced.
"You expose youself to danger when you race. As professionals, they know MotoGP is dangerous. Believe it or not, that is what they live for. Our condolences to Marco. He will be missed dearly."
Casey Stoner, the new MotoGP world champion, who edged Simoncelli at the previous race at Philip Island last week, said he had feared the worse after seeing the crash.
"As soon as I saw the footage it just makes you sick inside," the Australian told BBC2. "Whenever the helmet comes off that's not a good sign."
Tributes came in from his fellow riders.
British MotoGP rider Cal Crutchlow wrote on Twitter: "RIP Marco Simoncelli ! A great rider and all round nice guy. My thoughts are with all his family & friends. I will never forget today."
Simoncelli, who won the 250cc world championship in 2008, clinching the crown in Sepang, stepped up to MotoGP in 2010.
His death was the first fatality in MotoGP since Japan's Daijiro Kato died from his injuries sustained at the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix.
And it comes a week after British racing driver Dan Wheldon, a former IndyCar champion and two-time Indy 500 race winner, was killed in a 15-car accident at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Officials in Simoncelli's native Italy announced sports events in the country would observe a minute's silence.
Italian football giants Inter and AC Milan were among the first sports clubs to offer their condolences.
"AC Milan offers a hug to the family of Marco, a huge rossonero fan, and we want to offer the most sincere and heartfelt condolences in this sad moment," the club said on its website.
Inter added: "The president Massimo Moratti and everyone at Inter Milan, together with [coach] Claudio Ranieri and the team, shares in the pain of the Italian sports world and indeed the sports world for the loss of the rider Marco Simoncelli.
"Remembering a young and passionate champion, Inter offers a hug to the family and friends of Marco Simoncelli."