Singaporean racer killed in Sepang
S'porean racer killed in crash in M'sian Super Series in Sepang
He was an experienced motorcyclist and a careful racer.
So careful that when news broke on Sunday that Singaporean biker Milton Poh Kim Seng, 41 , had crashed, his family couldn't believe he had died.
A close relative, who declined to be named, told The New Paper yesterday: "It was a freak accident. I was shocked when I found out about it."
Mr Poh, who was a leading steward with Singapore Airlines (SIA), was killed in an accident at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) while racing in the Malaysian Super Series (MSS).
He was involved in a crash with Italian racer Leonardo Sacchetto, 42, shortly after the race flagged off at around 12.30pm. He was riding a BMW S1000RR at the time.
It was the four-day event's second fatal accident.
Malaysian rider Amaludin Abd Rahman, 42, was killed at a practice session last Friday.
The SIC said that Mr Poh suffered head injuries, while the Italian injured his leg. Both were taken to Putrajaya Hospital, about 30km away.
Malaysian police are investigating, following a police report made by the race organisers.
"It was an unfortunate week for all those involved in the MSS, and the SIC extends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased," said the SIC.
Online news portal Utusan Malaysia Online reported that the police chief of the area, Superintendent Mohd Yusoff Awang, said Mr Poh was pronounced dead at the hospital at around 2.30pm on Sunday. He is believed to have died from head injuries.
His close relative, aged 55, told TNP at Mr Poh's Ang Mo Kio flat yesterday that Mr Poh used to race in the region about five times a year for the past decade or so. He added that Mr Poh, who was single, came from a family of bikers.
He was hooked on bike racing shortly after getting his riding licence more than 20 years ago.
"Milton's elder brother, Martin, is a rider and their father used to be one too."
They have no other siblings.
"Martin was in Malaysia at the event when the accident took place," said the relative.
"I was at home on Sunday when he phoned me about the tragedy. I was the one who told their parents about it. He did not want to tell them the bad news over the phone."
The relative said that the siblings' parents, who are both in their 80s, are "quite calm for now".
He added that Mr Martin Poh had arranged for his younger brother's body to be brought back to Singapore and it was expected to reach here last night.
Sighing, he said: "He was a very likeable and helpful person. We were very close. I will definitely miss him."
One of Mr Poh's colleagues said Mr Poh started flying about 20 years ago.
The flight stewardess, who declined to be named, said: "He was a very nice guy and was always talking about racing. I'm glad that we had crossed paths."
Deaths on tracks rare compared to on roads
Scrapes that leave scars, bruises and maybe some cuts.
At worst, bikers who race on a track may get a broken collarbone.
But experts say that deaths on the track are rare because of the safety procedures that are strictly followed on race days.
In contrast, there were at least 23 fatal road accidents involving motorcyclists and pillion riders in the first two months of this year.
Mr Joseph Lee, who started SBR Trackdays - a company that organises events exclusively at Sepang International Circuit - said accidents do occur during races, but are seldom fatal.
He said: "It happens all the time. But it's just injuries to their collarbones or arms when they break their falls. The last time I lost a friend to an accident on the track was back in 1980."
Mr Lee, 57, who has been in the business for 48 years, mentioned that while speed limits cannot be controlled, bikers who register with SBR Trackdays would be pitted against riders of the same calibre so as to avoid accidents.
The bikers are divided into three categories: Advanced, Intermediate and Novice.
They are also given safety briefings on the first day before they get on the track - a compulsory procedure.
Bike racers will then have to ride with full face helmets and visors, back protectors and full leathers - leather jackets and pants that zip together securely, and protect most parts of the body.
There is a good reason for being sticklers for safety on the track: Riders going full tilt can hit speeds of up to 280kmh during races.
Despite the high speeds, the safety precautions help minimise injuries to just scrapes and a broken collarbone at its worst.
"It is 100 per cent safer racing on tracks compared to roads. (Roads) might not be conducive enough, with cars, trees, oil and dirt," Mr Lee said.
Mr Mah Kin Wai, 33, a sales executive at a motorcycle accessories shop, who was a bike racer for seven years, said: "The race tracks do make me feel safe to a certain degree, but the danger factor is there. The circuits have been made to increase safety for riders, but ultimately it is all up to us."
OTHER SEPANG FATALITIES
May 16, 2014
Malaysian rider Amaludin Abd Rahman, 42, was killed during the Malaysian Super Series at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) last Friday.
He was taking part in a practice session when he reportedly lost control of his bike and hit a tyre wall. He was taken to Putrajaya Hospital where he later died.
Sept 21, 2013
Veteran safety marshal Satish Suppiah, 44, was killed when a bike ploughed into him during a practice session at the SIC.
He was waving the chequered flag at the finish line when the accident took place.
Oct 23, 2011
Italian MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli, 24, was killed in a crash at the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang.
He crashed in the second lap and was hit by riders Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi as he slid across the track on his Honda.
His helmet was knocked off in the incident.