Marco Simoncelli: Crowds at MotoGP rider's funeral

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Media captionThousands gather for Simoncelli funeral

The small Italian town of Coriano has filled with mourners for the funeral of MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli, killed on Sunday at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Simoncelli, 24, suffered chest, head and neck injuries after he lost control of his Honda and swerved across the track, into the path of other riders.

In 2008, he won the 250cc class world championship.

Such were the numbers expected at the funeral, that big screen TVs were erected in two of its squares.

Flowers and messages were left in the town centre, many bearing the number 58, which he wore on his helmet, or the abbreviation "SIC", which was used for his name onscreen during races.

The hashtag #CiaoMarco (Bye, Marco) was trending on Twitter in Italy.

Young mourner Ilaria Sandri was among those who had come to the north-eastern town.

"We are here because we've been following Marco since the very beginning, and aside from being a great rider he was a true person, fame did not change him at all," she told Reuters news agency.

Another fan, Rossella Fornasari, said: "We have come from Parma, we got up at 04:30 to be here.

"We felt we had to come because we had the honour, not the luck, to know him. He was a great person, a genuine person, on and off the track."

'Call it fate'

Image caption Simoncelli won the 250cc class world championship in 2008

Simoncelli died after being struck by fellow riders Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi. Mr Rossi, who was a friend of Simoncelli's, attended Thursday's funeral.

"Everything happened so fast," Honda Gresini team chief Fausto Gresini told Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport on Tuesday.

"I'm lost for words. I know our job is dangerous, that risk is part of the game, but you always hope nothing happens...

"The crash was caused by a sequence of incredibly negative circumstances, the bike that moved towards the inside of the turn instead of the outside, being run over on the widest track of the season."

Speaking from India, seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher said he was "touched" by the death of Simoncelli, as well as that of English IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon, who was killed in the US this month.

However, he insisted motorsport safety had been "hugely improved".

"If something has to happen, that is something I would call fate, and fate is something we are all faced with," Schumacher said ahead of this weekend's inaugural Indian Grand Prix.

"I am touched by what happened to both drivers but unfortunately we have to say that is life."

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