As a 250cc rider, Marco Simoncelli struck me as being very talented, but also a grave danger to his fellow riders. In the 250GP races in which Simoncelli participated, he was always the wild card, and one never knew what he might do in his spirited attempts to win. As the list of other riders who’d narrowly escaped serious injury in on-track incidents with Marco grew, I developed a profound dislike for how he behaved on track, and I thought that this behavior indicated what type of person he was.
But as I gained access to the MotoGP paddock, and found opportunities to glimpse the riders’ personalities, Marco Simoncelli was one of the first for whom I recognized that I could not draw such conclusions based solely on what I saw on TV.
On a motorcycle, Simoncelli was ferocious, as the cat on the back of his helmet indicated. In person he was soft spoken, gentle, quick to smile and generous. Always a gracious participant with Riders for Health fundraising events, he courageously faced crowds who spoke no Italian and charmed them in his accented and limited English. He signed whatever people asked of him, and posed for photos with patience and grace.
In addition to his oh-so-rare ability to claim pole position in MotoGP, Marco had a personal charm that some equally fast riders envied. Fans responded to this as they became aware of it, and though his on-track judgment remained a problem, and other riders suffered for it, SuperSic was easy to forgive from the grandstands, if not from the hospital bed.
I’ve still not truly come to terms with the conflicted feelings of criticism for his racing decisions and appreciation for his friendliness and personal warmth. “Tragic” is a word often used to describe fates such as Marco’s, but in his case it is nothing less that he will never have the chance to tame the inner wildcat and become the mature and blindingly fast racer he could have been. I will miss seeing him in the paddock, along with my certainty that he will say “Ciao” back if I greet him. He certainly brought the magic to MotoGP, and we are all diminished by our loss of his presence.
Scott Jones is a professional photographer known for his great action shots and poignant candids when covering MotoGP and WSBK racing events. You may have already seen his work on MotoMatters (they still have more calendars available that feature Scott’s work by the way). Not only do we like Scott’s shots, but he fits right in with our all Nikon-totting office. You can find him on his blog, Twitter, & Facebook.
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Photo: © 2011 Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved