Marco Simoncelli arrived into the MotoGP class in 2010 and made quite an impression on some riders. However: who was he? How did he come to be at the pinnacle of motorcycle racing, and how do we remember him today?
Simoncelli was born in Cattolica, on January 20th 1987. He was raised in Coriano. He started racing minibikes aged 7 amd became Italian Minimoto Champion in 1999 and 2000. He also competed in the European Minimoto Championship in 2000, finishimg the championship as runner up.
Simoncelli always struggled with his height, so when he had the opportunity to step up to a 125cc in the Italian Championship in 2001 he thrived. He became champion in his rookie season. The following year he raced in the European 125cc Championship. He dominated, earning himself a wildcard to the World Championship with Matteoni Racing. He finished 27th in his first GP at Brno, Czech Republic. From 2003-2005, Simoncelli raced in the 125cc class of the World Championship. With 50 starts, he managed 7 podiums and 2 wins. His best championship finish came in 2005, when he placed 11th in the world.
Simoncelli naturally progressed on the 250cc motorcycle, his height and weight suited this larger bike much better. He spent 2006 riding for Metis Gilera team, fighting for Rookie of the Year. However this accolade ultimately went to Shuhei Aoyama. He continued with Metis in 2007. On the 1st of June 2008, Simoncelli scored his first win, at Mugello. This was a controversial win, as he leaned to block Hector Barbera, who crashed. A verbal warning was issued on June 7th by the MotoGP Riders Safety Commission. Once he started to win, it seemed he couldn’t stop, he went on the win the Catalan Grand Prix, German Grand Prix and the Australian Grand Prix. On October 19th 2008, Marco Simoncelli was crowned the 250cc World Champion. In 2009, Simoncelli made a one-off appearance in the World Superbike Championship, for Aprilia, racing at Imola. Despite crashing out of Race 1, Simoncelli went on to finish 3rd in Race 2, after a battle with teammate Biaggi.
Simoncelli was confirmed to MotoGP with San Carlo Gresini Honda Team. He finished 11th in his début race. He finished 16 of the 18 races in the 2010 season, en route to 8th in the championship. His best finish was 4th at Estoril, Portugal. In 2011, Simoncelli was promoted to ride a Factory spec Honda as part of the San Carlo Gresini Honda team. He was tipped to be the surprise package of the year by many around the paddock. The 2011 season opener in Qatar looked promising,. Simoncelli finished 5th, showing he was ready to put his Factory Honda to good use. Simoncelli secured his first MotoGP pole position 0.016s ahead of Casey Stoner, at the Catalan Grand Prix. His best ever MotoGP finish was 2nd in Australia.
On October 23rd 2011, Simoncelli was involved in a collision with Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi during lap 2. Simoncelli was in 4th position when his bike lost traction, them appeared to grip again and veered him across the track, onto the racing line. He sustained fatal injuries. His body was flown home to Italy accompanied by his father, Paolo Simoncelli, his fiancée Kate Fretti and Valentino Rossi. His body was placed in a theatre in his hometown of Coriano, in an open coffin, where fans were invited to pay their respects in a walk-through tribute to a much loved idol and hero for many. This walk-through memorial included his 250cc World Championship Gilera, and his 2011 MotoGP Honda. It is estimated that around 20,000 people attended his funeral at the Santa Maria Assunta Parish Church.
Marco Simoncelli was a lovable rouge, a man who came to race for himself and loved every second of his life. He was loved by millions, and adored by those who knew him well, fellow competitors, family and close friends alike. On November 3rd 2011, the Misano World Circuit announced plans to rename as ‘Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli’ as a mark of their respect and remembrance. Dorna themselves, advised by the Simoncelli family, held a tribute lap at the final race of the season at Valencia. Riders from all 3 classes were invited on track for a lap of reflection. 1993 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz rode Simoncelli’s bike. On September 12th 2013, in Coriano, a tribute took place with a flame and a monument called “Every Sunday”. Each Sunday as night falls over Coriano, the flame burns bright for 58 seconds.
Simoncelli was inducted into the MotoGP Hall of Fame on February 3rd 2014. He became the 21st ‘MotoGP Legend’. On September 8th 2016 Dorna announced at Simoncelli’s icon ’58’ would be retired from all classes in Grand Prix Racing.
Simoncelli’s legacy lives on through the tireless work of the ‘Marco Simoncelli Foundation’ and it’s volunteers. This is a non profit organisation founded by the Simoncellis, in Marco’s memory. They have raised approximately €2,500,000 to date, financing 4 projects, as well as having another underway. The Foundation supports and promotes projects of solidarity and cooperation for the disadvantaged. Marco is thought of every day by each volunteer, as they fondly remember the kind, giving, caring person he was.
Marco, you undoubtedly left your mark all over the MotoGP world, ruffling feathers wherever you went, and continuing to race as hard as you knew how. We remember you every single second, for how unapologetically and authentically yourself you always were. Happy heavenly birthday SuperSic, we miss you always.