It’s been nearly two months since the passing of Marco Simoncelli, and the loss of the popular Italian motorcycle racer is still ever-present in the minds of MotoGP fans. Nothing proves this point better than a moment at our premiere of Fastest in San Francisco last week, where a collective “Marco!” could be heard as SuperSic’s face filled the big screen of the theater. The holidays surely must be tough for Marco’s family, so perhaps it is appropriate that Ciao Sic, an official coffee table tribute book to Marco Simoncelli, has been released in time for the holidays.
In September Asphalt & Rubber suggested you check out the stylized artwork of Rich Lee, and since then he and I have teamed up to create this tribute to the late Marco Simoncelli. While we were already working on the project before Simoncelli died at Sepang, the illustration seems to have a more poignant meaning now that SuperSic has passed.
Based on several of my MotoGP photos from the 2011 MotoGP Championship season, Rich Lee has been able translate them into the latest addition of Rich Lee Draws’ portfolio. Prints of the the illustration are available for sale, and in honor of the late Super Sic, Rich and I are donating a portion of the proceeds to Riders for Health in Simoncelli’s name. To read more about the print or to order a copy, click here.
Illustration: Rich Lee Draws
With every bike from the three GP classes out on the Circuit de Comunitat Valenciana, the sight was one that had to be seen in person to be truly appreciated. Lead by former-World Champion Kevin Schwantz, who rode Marco Simoncelli’s San Carlos Honda Gresini RC212V race bike, MotoGP, Moto2, & 125GP riders made their way around the 14 turns of the Spanish track, stopping short of the finish line. Watching two minutes of Valencian fireworks, MotoGP riders stood with the Simoncelli family, honoring the loved Italian one more time.
The entire event was somber, and as the fireworks subsided, the clamorous noise was contrasted with an eerie silence on the track and in pit lane. Riders walked back to the paddock with solemn & grim faces, barely saying a word to each other, if saying any words at all. Similarly, team members carried rear stands and walked race bikes back to pit lane in complete silence, perhaps reflecting on Marco one more time. Thirty minutes later, noise returned to Valencia, as the final 125GP race ever commenced.
Perhaps none of the MotoGP riders have been affected by the loss of Marco Simoncelli more so than Valentino Rossi. Not only was Rossi “like a brother to Marco,” but the Italian was deeply shaken over his involvement with Marco’s accident at Sepang. With both Edwards and Rossi putting on a strong face publicly, the rest of us can only imagine the thoughts and grief that most be occurring internally. Everyone processes their grief differently, and one of Rossi’s more cathartic endeavors this weekend is to honor Marco with a special helmet for the Valencian GP. More photos after the jump.
With MotoGP riders at Valencia debuting their own personal tributes to Marco Simoncelli today, back in Italy an entirely different tribute has been undertaken, as the Misano Circuit is set to change its name to honor the fallen Italian motorcycle racer. While not one of Simoncelli’s favorite tracks, Misano was the Italian racer’s home venue, and hence forth it will be renamed from the Misano World Circuit to the Marco Simoncelli World Circuit in honor of the fallen rider.
One way you can gauge the life of a competitor is to talk to his rivals, and for Marco Simoncelli, there was no greater rival than Andrea Dovizioso. Racing against each other since the age of eight on pocket bikes, Dovi and Simoncelli have come through the GP ranks battling one another throughout every turn of their 125, 250, and MotoGP careers.With that on-track rivalry coming to a head this season, as both Italians were on factory-supported Honda RC212V race bikes, Marco and Andrea found themselves battling not only on the track, but off the track as well, as Both riders looked to secure the third and final factory bike from Honda for the 2012 season.
With Simoncelli winning the bid for a factory Honda seat, and such a fierce adversarial story brewing between the two racers, you would expect Dovizioso to have hated his counterpart, but nothing could be farther from the truth. As Dovi explained to A&R at Valencia this week, while the pair of Italians were rivals on the track, they were also colleagues who respected each others once the helmets, leathers, and gloves came off. Speaking solemnly to a small group of journalists, Dovizioso talked about a man who perhaps defined his own career more than the contrary, and while the Italian was clear to point out that he and Simoncelli were not friends, they both had a professional relationship of mutual respect forged out of two-wheeled combat.
The MotoGP paddock has reconvened in Valencia for its final round of the 2011 season, and percolating at the top of everyone’s mind here is the passing of Marco Simoncelli. While the Italian’s death has been talked about non-stop the past week or so, with the MotoGP community together again for the first time since SuperSic’s passing, the emotions here are still very raw (A&R is coming to you live from Valencia, Spain this race weekend).
With the riders unanimous on the importance of racing, and everyone honoring Simoncelli in his or her own way, the final official tribute to Marco will come on Sunday at 10:15am local time. In a more fitting manner to honor Marco Simoncelli, over the course of MotoGP’s tribute there will be a minute of noise, in lieu of the usual minute of silence. Suggested by Marco’s father, Paolo Simoncelli, the celebration of SuperSic’s career will be a boisterous affair, with presumably all the bikes in the paddock revving their motors to honor the Italian racer.
Immediately following the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli, Fausto Gresini of the San Carlo Honda Gresini team was quoted saying that he wasn’t sure if his team could finish the Championship in Valencia without Simoncelli. With an outpouring of fans at Simoncelli’s funeral, and words of encouragement from around the world, the Italian team has decided that it will honor Marco’s memory and race in Spain this weekend.
While the #58 bike will sit in the pit box in memorial, Hiroshi Aoyama will ride the lone Honda RC212V for the Gresini team at the Valencian GP. Gresini’s Moto2 riders Michele Pirro and Yuki Takahashi will also race, as the trio will try to honor their teammate’s memory.
At the inaugural GP of India for Formula One, a moment of silence was observed for Marco Simoncelli and Dan Wheldon, and while I wondered how many among the F1 audience had ever heard of Marco, it was a fine gesture and certainly appreciated by the MotoGP community.
This week has been largely about trying to move on after the accident at Sepang, but that has proved very difficult to do for me and my colleagues, friends, and as yet unmet fellow MotoGP fans. I continue to receive requests for Simoncelli photos from increasingly obscure connections, in addition to those from close friends who want something with which to remember Marco.
I ran across this image from Catalunya, which helps put the loss in a proper context. The translation, provided at the time by a linguistically gifted friend on the Dorna staff, was something like: You gave everything because you loved. Certainly a 58 will appear beside the numbers of Shoya Tomizawa and Daijiro Kato if this fellow redoes his banner next season. And in all three cases, we are left to wonder what excitements and triumphs we might have witnessed had fate allowed 74, 48, & 58 to contest more Grand Prix races.
It has taken me a week to collect my thoughts and process the passing of Marco Simoncelli, the San Carlo Gresini Honda rider that lost his life during the MotoGP race in Malaysia. I’m not one of those journalists that can belt out some poignant thoughts on an event immediately after it happens, nor did I personally know Simoncelli well enough to offer a comprehensive anecdote on the man’s short but distinguished life. Having only met and talked to Marco briefly a few times, I cannot shed some deeper insight regarding who he was as a man, stripped away of all the pomp, prestige, and PR spin of the premier class.
I’ve heard the MotoGP paddock described as a family or village, so as one of its most recent members, this tragedy both cuts me deeply, but yet also seems like a distant and surreal event. Perhaps it will affect me more as I travel to Valencia this week, or perhaps I will continue to feel as if I am on the outside looking in at cataclysm of grief that has befallen friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Time will tell in that regard, and I’ll leave it to those masters of the pen who are better suited to the task to account for the young Italian’s life and racing career.
Instead my closing thoughts about Marco Simoncelli are a mixed commentary of life, tragedy, and where we go from here.