One of the words I saw perusing my Twitter feed yesterday regarding Michael Schumacher was “invincible,” and it struck me for a few reasons. Schumacher – the most decorated and statistically successful driver in Formula One history – wasn’t supposed to get injured in a skiing accident. One thing I could barely reconcile growing up was when he broke his leg in the 1999 British Grand Prix, and was forced out of action for most of the second half of the season.
But, unfortunately he has been injured, and we can only hope and pray for his full recovery from this accident.
What isn’t disputable is that this is the latest shock to the system in what has been a brutal, cruel 2013 for the racing community. The month of October 2011 was the only time in recent years that could compare, when two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon, MotoGP rising star Marco Simoncelli, off-road racer Rick Huseman and “Iron Man” Michael Wanser, six-year-old son of Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Barry Wanser, all perished within several weeks.
The end of the year usually brings about an “in memoriam” piece, and unfortunately this year’s is longer than most.
Innovator, promoter, and a huge fan of the sport of IndyCar racing, Granatelli passed away at age 90. Our brief recap is here but a much deeper reflection, from Parnelli Jones, Bobby Unser and Mario Andretti can be found here from Robin Miller at RACER.
Paul Walker and Roger Rodas
Actor, star of the “Fast & the Furious” franchise, philanthropist and a part-time racer in his own right, Walker, 40, was killed with his friend Roger Rodas in a road accident earlier this month.
Caselli, 30, was an off-road champion killed in the Baja 1000.
Edwards, 26, was a rising sports car star killed in a private coaching accident in Australia. I got to watch his battle for the GTC class win in the American Le Mans Series race at Austin from the grandstands, which meant more after the accident.
Maria de Villota
The former Marussia Formula One test driver, de Villota died at age 33 after she was found dead in a hotel. She proved an inspiration after her testing accident in 2012.
Simonsen, 34, died at Le Mans this year when his car spun out at Tertre Rouge, and his Aston Martin team carried on in tribute. The hope after his accident is that safety changes come to that part of the circuit.
Seeing pictures of Leffler with son Charlie only moments before his accident at a dirt track was gut-wrenching. Leffler, 37, touched the NASCAR, IndyCar and general racing communities and it was the year’s first real shock to the system.
Jose Froilan Gonzalez
The Argentine driver wasn’t as widely acclaimed as countryman Juan Manuel Fangio, but Gonzalez was Ferrari’s first winner in Formula One. He died at 90 in June.
Legendary short-track racer who eventually won NASCAR’s Rookie-of-the-Year honors at age 48, Trickle died in May of apparent suicide at age 71. A nice piece from NBC’s Joe Posnanski called Trickle “Superman.”
We should also not neglect the loss of the marshal at the Canadian Grand Prix, nor the losses of a handful of other various sprint car and GT racers around the world.