At the San Marino GP today, MotoGP officially retired the use of #58, giving honor to Marco Simoncelli, who died almost five years ago while racing in the Malaysian GP at Sepang.
Of course, this weekend’s stop on the MotoGP Championship calendar actually takes place at the Misano World Circuit, which changed its official name to the the “Misano World Circuit – Marco Simoncelli” in order to honor the fallen racer.
This makes the San Marino GP a fitting venue for Simoncelli’s number to be retired, and of course the weekend’s events take place in front of a home crowd, with Simoncelli born just a few miles away on the coast, in Cattolica.
The MotoGP Championship is in Sepang this week, for the first of its pre-season tests ahead of the 2014 season. Making an announcement at the site where Marco Simoncelli tragically lost his life during the Malaysian Grand Prix back in 2011, MotoGP has come up with a fitting way to tribute the popular Italian rider.
Simoncelli will thus join Grand Prix racing’s hall of fame, and officially become a “MotoGP Legend” — the 21st rider to receive the sport’s high honor — with a ceremony that will be held at the Italian Grand Prix in Mugello.
With MotoGP returning to Mugello for the Italian GP, the San Carlo Gresini Honda team is reverting back to its customary white livery scheme, a decision made by both Fausto Gresini and the Simoncelli family. Hoping to invoke some memories of Marco Simoncelli lapping around that famous Italian track, Gresini Racing’s time of mourning for its fallen Italian rider appears to be over as it retires its all-black livery, and has painted Alvaro Bautista’s Honda RC213V in the team’s customary all-while livery for this weekend.
Well, 2011 as a year is finally over, and for the motorcycling community it was quite a year. As we begin 2012, we here at Asphalt & Rubber are of course not immune to the desire to summarize and highlight the passing of 2011. So we accordingly assembled 11 of the most important events that shaped motorcycling this past year and changed the way the sport, the industry, and the community will grow in the years to come.
Picking only eleven moments in a single year is no easy feat, though some of the events in our selection are obvious choices because of their magnitude. However, some of the less obvious picks (and we are sure there will be suggestions for alternatives in the comments), stem from the theory that 2011 saw moments whose importance has yet to be fully appreciated at this point in time. Enjoy and a Happy New Year to our loyal A&R readers.
Talking to some friends the other day, who had recently watched Mark Neale’s latest MotoGP documentary Fastest, it was clear to me that the loss of SuperSic still runs deep with fans and the GP paddock alike. Gearing up for the 2012 MotoGP season, it would appear to be a done-deal that Rossi will use his Simoncelli Tribute helmet at least one or more times next season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Italian included a special tribute to SuperSic on his bike somewhere (along with his dogs of course).
While it will take sometime for the wounds of his passing to heal with his closest friends and family, the efforts to immortalize Marco Simoncelli have progressed well so far in this off-season. After the untimely death of Marco, it was announced that the non-profit Marco Simoncelli Foundation would be created to honor the lovable MotoGP racer. At the time, details of the organization, and its mission were vague, but now with its official formation, details about the charity are starting to come together.
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
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.
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.
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.
Marco Simoncelli has tragically died today, after crashing in a horrific accident during the second lap of the Malaysian GP. Trading corners with Rizla Suzuki rider Álvaro Bautista and battling for fourth place, Simoncelli began the race in Sepang with his usual full-of-heart riding style. Certainly a podium contender for the day, the Italian lost control of his motorcycle in Turn 11 after losing the front. Propping the bike on his knee in order to save the slide, Simoncelli heroically but unfortunately stayed upright, cut back across the track, and collided with fellow racers Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi.
While Rossi rode away unhurt, and Edwards injured only his shoulder, Simoncelli suffered the brunt of the impact, and lay helmetless on the track after the incident. Despite the best efforts of the medical staff at Sepang, Simoncelli could not be resuscitated and succumb to his injuries at 4:56pm local time. Accordingly the Malaysian GP has been cancelled. Asphalt & Rubber joins the MotoGP paddock in mourning the loss of one the most beloved riders in series, and send our thoughts and prayers to Marco’s family, friends, team, and loved ones.
Ciao Marco, SuperSic forever.
Photo: © 2011 Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved