Today, 23rd October 2012, marks the first anniversary of the passing of the Italian motorcycle racing superstar, Marco Simoncelli. His death was without question the singular most upsetting event in recent race history and any race fan will be able to tell you exactly where they were when news broke that he'd lost his fight for life and their immediate feelings thereafter.
I was at a swimming gala in East Yorkshire with my daughter, it was her landmark first competitive race away from our home pool and I was following events on twitter. The story unfolded before me, text messages started arriving from as far afield as Australia asking if I was watching the tragic news developing.
I was sat on my own at that swim meet, as we didn't know many people in the swimming club at that point, and I went through the whole range of emotions as I sat there looking across at Emily having a great time with her team-mates blissfully unaware that 'Marco Lemonjelly', as she called him, had lost his life. It was hard to hide the sadness from one so happy, and in such a proud moment, as she took to the block for her race.
Loss of life is accepted by spectators and competitors alike as part of racing, it's always happened and will continue to do so - it's the nature of our sport - however, it is becoming increasing less and less common. Freak accidents still happen though and there is nothing that can be done to prevent them. Shoya Tomizawa and the brilliant Craig Jones to name but two where a second of time either way would've possibly seen a different outcome. I still wonder today what Jonesy would've done on a Moto2 bike, it was absolutely built for him.
I've read lots of tributes and remembrances about Marco today but this observant and openly honest piece from @GuyHAnderson on twitter sums up the whole picture of Marco better than I ever could and I whole-heartedly agree with every word...
Simoncelli’s death was possibly one of the most significant deaths in premier bike racing for years. Others have died and although their death had an awful impact, none has lingered longer that the impact of Simoncelli’s.
But talking about his death is no substitute to talking about his life.
Simoncelli wasn’t the best rider in MotoGP; that would be Stoner. He wasn’t the most polished PR-guy in the paddock either; that would be Rossi. But he was a sum that was greater than his individual parts. He was a lightening fast rider, a fantastic personality, and a young man having the time of his life. He was a euphoric whirlwind that appeared to catch hold of everyone who met him, and just about every bike race fan who saw him. Undoubtedly he was too much of a good-time nightmare to have been in F1, and MotoGP seemed to be perfect for him; he was an Italian where both F1 and MotoGP vie with football to be the sport of passion. Only Spain has arguably a greater passion for racing on two wheels.
The thing is, he was good on a bike. He may have been influenced by his fellow countryman Rossi in trying obscure and downright weird lines through corners and often this got him into trouble with the more orthodox lines the rest of the riders took, but his lines would work. For him. Sometimes. And that was a major fascination in watching him, and why it used to be wonderful to watch Rossi too. They both tried ‘another way’ to get around the strip of tarmac faster than anyone else.
I never met Simoncelli so for me to comment on his personality is unfair to everyone. But those who met him just once gave to him a little bit of their heart that he has carried with him to his grave; a small part of everyone who met him died when he died as the piece of heart he stole from them died too. Those who met him often or worked with him seemed to be swamped by his good nature, his perfect manners and no doubt his unstoppable joie de vie. How they and his family feel must be indescribable.
He wasn’t the best rider on a bike and his “remove brain before putting helmet on” style didn’t endear him to everyone; his antics in an effort to win the last ever 250cc World Championship that went to Aoyama were best described as mis-guided and at worst dangerous. Also the incident with Dani Pedrosa in 2011 at Le Mans was one of the most controversial moments in past years. For Simoncelli the incident was put behind him within hours; for others though the incident lingered and festered in the same way as the Rossi/Gibernau at Jerez in 2005.
Simoncelli’s legacy is a strange one. He was a World Champion once in 2008 on the Gilera, but had been correctly identified as a shining star by HRC, and riding the San Carlos Gresini bike Honda did their best to give him a full works, factory bike in all but Repsol colours. Where he would have gone in coming years is a moot point and from some angles he would have caused team managers and DORNA a very big problem in finding a full-fat factory bike for his talents at the expense of others. Others who may have been more boring to watch, but who would have been more consistent? One thing is apparent, and that’s how far the effect of his death spread; understandably he was well known throughout motorbike racing, but exceptionally his death affected motorsport across the world from F1 to NASCAR to WRC; Simoncelli’s character transcended MotoGP.
Would he have drawn Aprilia back to MotoGP earlier? Would they have come back with a prototype bike for Simoncelli instead of the CRT bikes? Or would he have been a Ducati rider that gave them two riders with equal and realistic chances of winning a championship? There is no answer to those question and I merely ask them to show how deep the loss runs.
For me, a massive MotoGP fan who looks at WSBK occasionally, Simoncelli’s WSBK ride at Imola was one of the best I’ve seen. It was an incredible idea executed perfectly, and probably confounded his rivals beyond irritation.
Simoncelli died a year ago. I never met him. But I miss seeing him on my TV. I miss reading about him on the web and in magazines. I’ll leave the last words to man I’ve also never met, Lao Tzu, Te Tao Ching
“The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.
Thanks Guy, a most fitting tribute to a man sadly missed by so many.
Thanks for reading and Ciao Marco #58