On the 23rd October 2011, Marco Simoncelli’s career and life were cut short in a freak accident at Sepang, the image of him lay on the track is burned into the minds of MotoGP fans across the globe
The question is asked a lot, what could Marco Simoncelli have done in MotoGP? The Italian was making headlines left right and centre, whether it was for his easily distinguished hairstyle or his crazy on-track antics, he was loved and adored by many and his loss left a huge hole in the sport.
Simoncelli was the 2008 250cc champion, he won this title at the ‘SIC’ Circuit, the Sepang International Circuit, credited to having the same nickname as the beloved ‘Sic 58’, it was the track he got his first pole position on, his title on and sadly the track which took his life. His father Paulo said it was ‘fitting’ for Marco to at least have passed at a track which shared his nickname and held a special place in the heart of the rider.
Marco Simoncelli made his MotoGP debut in 2010 on the Gresini Honda, racing against faces he has known all his career. Mainly Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi, Dovizioso a foe, Rossi a friend. Dovizioso and Simoncelli’s rivalry goes back to when they were children with Dovi being the first rider to truly test Simoncelli and beat him, Simoncelli at a young age had gotten accustomed to being fast and beating every rider in his path, so, when he turned up for a race expecting to win as he did every weekend and this Andrea Dovizioso was giving him a run for his money, it was not very well received. As the years went on their rivalry turned into a friendship and even now in 2020, Dovizioso sports a ’58’ under his suit on his cooling undersuit.
Valentino Rossi and Simoncelli were very good friends with a friendship like no other; they used to race cars together on fields in between race weekends, often injuring themselves in the process to the dismay of Paulo Simoncelli and Graziano Rossi.
Following the death of Simoncelli Valentino Rossi tweeted “Sic for me was like a youngest brother. So strong on track and so sweet in the normal life. I will miss him a lot.”
Dovizioso celebrating at Jerez with the 58 peeping out
The 2010 season was a solid rookie season on the Honda, Marco finished in the points for every race he finished with twelve top 10 finishes which included a best result of fourth place and eighth overall in the standings, he missed out on his first MotoGP podium by just 0.059 at Estoril behind non-other than Andrea Dovizioso. 2011 was hotting up to be a fantastic year for the Italian.
He started the year in fine style with three top 5 finishes in the opening 10 rounds but suffered 4 DNF’s, this included crashing out of the lead at Jerez and sparking controversy in France. At Le Mans, Marco made a move on Dani Pedrosa which resulted in Pedrosa crashing and breaking his collarbone which ruined Dani’s title chances for the 2011 season, Pedrosa had a lot of anger towards Marco following this and even refused to shake the Italians hand when he tried to apologise, however when reflecting upon this declination of the handshake Pedrosa has said he regrets not forgiving and forgetting, stating that life is too short to hate people.
Simoncelli was known to be rough on track, taking out Jorge Lorenzo at Assen, many riders agreed that Simoncelli was ‘dangerous’ and Marco was summoned to race direction at Catalunya regarding his conduct, he agreed to change. At the same race weekend during Saturday’s qualifying session following death threats from Spanish fans, Marco put his Honda on pole position for the race, angering the Spanish fans even further.
Marco would take his first MotoGP class podium at Brno with a fantastic third place behind Andrea Dovizioso and Casey Stoner, signalling his promise and skill. He followed this up with a 12th place finish at Indianapolis before taking three 4th places in a row. At Phillip Island, the Italian took his career-best result yet of 2nd place behind Casey Stoner, tragically just a week later Simoncelli would lose his life in Malaysia.
Simoncelli was rumoured for a move to the Ducati team alongside Valentino Rossi for 2012, a small rumour but still enough to gain some traction which could have been a raging success for all we know.
In his final few races we saw a new revitalised Marco Simoncelli, a Simoncelli 2.0 if you must, he didn’t race as hard, he didn’t make moves causing others to crash and was a much safer rider which gave the riders around him confidence that he would not cause an incident, this made for some great racing and this change really could have pushed him forwards into becoming a MotoGP World Champion.
Following from Marco’s consistent progression including scoring his best result just a week before his death it leaves people with a lot of questions. What could have been? Many people say Simoncelli could’ve been a MotoGP World Champion even putting up a fight to Marc Marquez, he was a consistent podium finisher and there was no doubt a race win was on the cards.
Sadly these questions will never be answered, Marco’s memory lives on forever and his home track was renamed to ‘Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli’ after the Italian.
Marco stuck true to his words of “You live more for five minutes going fast on a bike like that, than other people do in all of their life,” originally said by Burt Munro. Simoncelli lived a fuller life and faster life than any of us could dream of.
Featured images – www.motogp.com