"You live more for five minutes going fast on a bike like that, than other people do in all their life", these words were spoken by a Young lad who was in his early twenties when he was asked about the feeling he had when he rode his San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V Moto GP machine. These words signify the level of passion this young rider had for motorcycle racing, these words tell us about the depth of love and of absolute admiration he had for these motorcycles and this sport. These words were spoken by a young man, who was a champion, these words were spoken by a young man, who is no longer with us!
Marco Simoncelli, the young Italian, to many was a motorcycle-racing hero. Fast, fearless and unforgiving on the racetrack, Simoncelli was a racer in the purest sense of the word. Rock-star hair and a smiling 'gentle-giant' personality completed the image of a timeless motorsport maverick. His manager Carlo Pernat described Simoncelli as "a rider from a bygone era". One glance at Simoncelli indicated he didn't live an ordinary life and the exciting Italian made a close connection with fans around the world, defying those who believe popularity is directly proportional to results. Simoncelli was yet to win in Moto GP, but looked set to one-day inherit close friend Valentino Rossi's role as the sport's most recognisable and perhaps most popular character, especially as his developing English improved.
On track, Simoncelli's heart-on-a-sleeve riding style often grated with the clinical precision and tactical approach rewarded by the easy-to-upset 800cc bikes. Simoncelli preferred to attack each corner like he was trying to go faster than ever before and battled furiously for every position. Nothing was given away and every chance taken. It was a warrior mentality that those who dream of racing motorcycles like to believe they would possess.
Marco Simoncelli was born in Cattolica but grew up and lived in Coriano with his family since childhood. He started racing minibikes at the age of seven in his hometown of Coriano, moving on to the Italian Minimoto Championship in 1996 at the early age of nine. He won the Italian Minimoto Championship in 1999 and 2000 while also became the runner-up in the 2000 European Minimoto Championship. The following year, he stepped up to the Italian 125cc Championship and he won the title in his rookie year. In 2002, he competed and won the European 125cc Championship.
In 2003 he contested his first full season of Grand Prix racing with the Matteoni Racing Team, scoring points in six races and picking up a best result of fourth in the final round at Valencia. The following season he wore the colours of the World Wide Race team and scored some notable results, picking up two pole positions and taking victory in a wet race at Jerez. However, a series of crashes and bad luck left him outside the top ten in the championship at the end of the season. Having stayed with the same team for 2005 he improved his consistency to finish fifth in the championship, picking up six podiums and a victory. His performances earned him a move to the 250cc class with Squadra Corse Metis Gilera for 2006, consolidating his first season in the quarter-liter class with tenth place overall – a result he repeated in 2007.
Despite not having a factory bike for 2008 Simoncelli’s first 250cc podiums arrived early in the season and his debut victory came in his home race at Mugello. Having established his title credentials over the opening nine races of the season Gilera decided to provide him with a factory 250 RSA for the remainder of the campaign. Simoncelli proved unstoppable on the new bike, adding another four victories to the two he already had and wrapping up the championship with a race to spare, clinching the title with third place in Malaysia.
The Cattolica native stayed with Metis Gilera to defend his title in 2009 but bad luck returned to haunt him once more. He again took victory in six of the races but a series of crashes and mechanical problems seriously hindered his progress. However, he kept the title fight alive until the final round at Valencia, where another crash left him third overall.
On 25 June 2009, it was confirmed that Simoncelli would move up to premier class racing for 2010 Moto GP championship after agreeing to ride with the San Carlo Gresini Honda team. Simoncelli got off to a slow start to the 2010 season, having suffered two preseason testing crashes at Sepang; the second of which cracked his helmet. After finishing eleventh on début, Simoncelli improved over the rest of the season, finishing 16 of the 18 races in the points en route to eighth place in the championship with 125 points. His best finish was a fourth place in Portugal, missing a podium by 0.06 seconds to Andrea Dovizioso.
In the 2011 season, Simoncelli was predicted to be the surprise package of the season. He finished fifth in the season opening race in Qatar, before falling from the lead of the wet race at Jerez. He secured his highest starting position to that point of 2nd, before falling on the first lap of the Estoril race. During the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, Simoncelli collided with Dani Pedrosa while they were battling for second. The resulting crash saw Pedrosa break his collarbone and Simoncelli received a ride-through penalty, eventually finishing fifth. Simoncelli initially rejected blame for the crash, claiming he braked no later than normal, and that he left Pedrosa room. Before the next race, however, he accepted that he needed to reflect on his riding style.
Simoncelli was required to meet with race direction before the start of the racing weekend at Catalonia. On the track, Simoncelli secured his first Moto GP pole position, 0.016 seconds ahead of Casey Stoner. However, a poor start saw him drop to seventh managing only to recover one position to finish sixth. Simoncelli earned his first podium in the premier class, with a third place in the Czech Republic. His best Moto GP finish was second place in the Australian GP at Phillip Island.
On 23 October 2011, Simoncelli was involved in a collision with American rider Colin Edwards and fellow Italian Valentino Rossi during the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit. In fourth position during lap two, Simoncelli's bike lost traction in Turn 11 and it started to slide towards the gravel, but the tyres regained traction and his bike suddenly veered across the track into the path of Edwards and Rossi, with Simoncelli hanging down on the right side.
Simoncelli was struck in the lower body by Edwards and in the head by Rossi, in the course of which Simoncelli lost his helmet and Edwards was catapulted from his bike. The race was immediately red-flagged. Edwards suffered a dislocated shoulder; Simoncelli suffered much more severe injuries and was taken by ambulance to the circuit's medical centre, and at 16:56 local time, less than an hour after the accident, it was announced that he had died from his injuries. Later, at a press conference involving members of the Moto GP Race Direction, Medical Director Michele Macchiagodena said that Simoncelli had sustained "a very serious trauma to the head, to the neck and the chest", and was administered CPR for 45 minutes.
His body was flown home to Italy, accompanied by his father Paolo, his fiancée Kate Fretti, and Valentino Rossi. The family were greeted by Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Petrucci, before the body was transported to a theatre in Coriano, Rimini, where it was placed in an open coffin. Fans and visitors were then allowed to pay their respects, in a walk-through memorial that included his 250cc World Championship winning Gilera, plus his 2011 Moto GP Honda. An estimated 20,000 people attended his funeral at the Santa Maria Assunta parish church in Coriano on 27 October 2011.
We will never know what Simoncelli would have achieved in MotoGP, but 1993 world champion Kevin Schwantz believes Simoncelli was one of the sports three future 'standouts', alongside Marc Marquez (Moto2) and Maverick Vinales (125). Certainly, Simoncelli's past history in the 125 and 250cc classes suggests he was far from reaching his Moto GP potential. It was only in his third season in each of the two-stroke world championships that Simoncelli had suddenly begun to shine, putting his two poles and two podiums in his second year of Moto GP into perspective. Simoncelli's best Moto GP result, of second place, came at Phillip Island just one week before his death. Simoncelli holds sixth in the world championship, despite non-scores in four rounds. Although he tended to build-up to grand prix success, it shouldn't be forgotten that Simoncelli also claimed a podium finish on his World Superbike (and four-stroke) debut at Imola in 2009.
Few doubt Simoncelli would have been a Moto GP race winner, especially with a factory-Honda/Gresini contract extension already signed for the start of the 1000cc era, when Simoncelli's physical size would have been less of a disadvantage.
"You live more for five minutes going fast on a bike like that, than other people do in all their life", these words were spoken by a Young lad who was in his early twenties when he was asked about the feeling he had when he rode his San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V Moto GP machine. These words signify the level of passion this young rider had for motorcycle racing, these words tell us about the depth of love and of absolute admiration he had for these motorcycles and this sport. These words were spoken by a young man, who was a champion, these words were spoken by a young man, who is no longer with us! These words were spoken by Marco Simoncelli. He was a True Racer, a True Warrior, a True Champion and a True Hero.....