Leading MotoGP riders said thoughts of Shoya Tomizawa's death at Misano were still weighing heavily on them as the Aragon Grand Prix weekend got under way today, but they accepted that they had to put such feelings to the backs of their minds while racing.
The MotoGP community was thrown into mourning when Moto2 star Tomizawa was killed two weeks ago. Valentino Rossi admitted that while he was not thinking about the loss of Tomizawa during the practice sessions, the events of Misano still dominated the paddock mood.
"It's difficult. When you go on the track and you're riding, no [you don't think about it]," said the world champion. "But before you go on the track and during the normal day, the feeling is quite sad."
Misano winner Dani Pedrosa agreed that he had tried not to think about Tomizawa's death when he was riding, but that it had been difficult.
"It sounds hard, but otherwise you cannot do it," said Pedrosa. "After the race at Misano I was shocked, and everybody around was shocked. It's not like you could say, 'Now it's OK', because when you saw the faces of the people, everybody was shocked. When I got home, all my neighbors and friends asked how [it happened] and why and this and that, so it's not easy."
Ducati's Casey Stoner said that while no one wanted to see fatalities in the sport, the element of danger was part of the attraction.
"To be honest, it's something that every rider knows – or should know – that there's a risk involved in this," he said. "It's not the first time it's happened, unfortunately, and it's not a completely safe sport.
"So I think it's something that we live with. It's bad to say, but it's part of what gives you the adrenaline, it's part of why guys especially like to do it, because it gets your heart racing and your blood pumping. It's that slight bit of fear that's what keeps you interested in this. Unfortunately, when it happens, it's not what we want. But if there was no fear involved then there would be no real want or need to race, and there wouldn't be the passion that you see from young riders like that to try and pursue their dreams. I think that's what keeps us all here, to be honest."
The Australian emphasized that while Tomizawa's death had been a terrible shock to the riders, they should not forget that safety standards were now much improved. Tomizawa was the first rider to lose his life in a crash at a MotoGP meeting since Daijiro Kato died as a result of injuries sustained in the 2003 Japanese GP at Suzuka.
"I remember speaking with Jim Redman at Goodwood some years ago, and he was talking about how you didn't know whether your friend on the grid next to you was going to finish the championship or not," said Stoner.
"Those days were a lot harder than these days. It's something they had to accept – they had to console the wives and girlfriends of the riders and things like that. Things were a lot worse in those days. But at the same time they continued to do it because it's what they loved and it's what made their blood pump. The fact that you can leave doing something that you love and that you dreamed about your whole life, I think it can be in some ways maybe a nice way to go - doing something you love rather than something that you dislike."