Simoncelli (left) had some controversial on-track incidents with both Jorge Lorenzo (center) and Dani Pedrosa (right), including a very public disagreement during a pre-race press conference.
After enduring serious scrutiny and unofficial warnings from MotoGP management from his incident with Dani Pedrosa at Le Mans, Simoncelli unfortunately did his cause no good by crashing out on the first lap at Assen and taking out Jorge Lorenzo.
Simoncelli’s 250cc Grand Prix World Championship in 2008 aboard the Gilera (basically a factory Aprilia development bike) was clinched at Sepang, the circuit where he would die three years later.
Simoncelli was never afraid to mix it up in close combat, as shown during the 2009 season with two other riders who graduated to MotoGP: Alvaro Bautista (19) and Hiroshi Aoyama (behind Bautista), who won the 250cc championship that year.
When Simoncelli took his first MotoGP podium at Brno, the crowd and paddock was very happy for the Italian, and he genuinely enjoyed the moment.
Although his height was somewhat of a disadvantage in the 125cc Grand Prix class, Simoncelli was still able to run with the leaders and win. Here he’s seen in the 2003 Valencia Grand Prix chasing more graduates to MotoGP: Hector Barbera (80) and Casey Stoner (27).
Off the track, Simoncelli was a friendly and genuinely accessible person, but once on the track, he took no prisoners.
When San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli was killed in a freak racing accident on the second lap of the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang circuit in October, it unfortunately cut short the rapid rise of a growing star in MotoGP. The hard-riding Italian had his share of on-track controversies and disagreements with other riders over the course of his career, but his honest demeanor and accessible character off the track won him a growing legion of fans around the world. In an increasingly sterile world of shielded riders emitting press release sound bites, Simoncelli’s sincerity — perceptible even through his limited English — was a breath of fresh air. His amiable personality and strong family ties endeared him to the Gresini team as well, making the 24-year-old’s loss all the more tougher on them, including team owner Fausto Gresini, himself a two-time 125cc World Champion.
Here’s a brief pictorial retrospective of Simoncelli’s Grand Prix career. Ciao ciao, Marco…riposi in pace. SR