A picture that says so much about a guy we were just getting to know
I think we'll all be mourning the loss of Marco Simoncelli for a long time yet; his full potential will remain an unanswerable topic of many pub debates for years to come.
But one thing's for sure: he was unique and this year he injected so much energy, plenty of controversy and a whole load of 'what ifs' to the sport.
I must admit, for years I used to sacrifice whatever was happening on a Sunday to make sure I could watch the GP but this year I haven't seen every race, it just hasn't been the same: Stoner has been dominant, the grid has been embarrassingly low on numbers, Rossi has been absent and the battles have - in general - not been memorable.
The exception? Simoncelli.
I was out of my seat at Jerez when he was in the lead ..then he crashed. When he uprooted Lorenzo at Assen I cringed for him, in what looked like an honest mistake, but you just knew he was going to cop a lot of shit for it. Oh yeah and then there was Estoril where he launched himself on lap 1. I bet I wasn't the only one shouting 'OH MARCO YOU MUPPET!' at the TV.
He was raw, didn't appear corporate and was always that unknown factor in a race, I loved watching him hound the Repsol Hondas. I loved the fact Lorenzo looked annoyed to be sat next to him in a press conference.
But it wasn't his efforts in GPs that I'll remember him by; it was his one-off ride in World Superbikes.
Fresh from his GP250 championship, Aprilia offered him the ride on an RSV4 at Imola. He was up against plenty of talent but clearly he was going to clash with one guy: Biaggi. They were on the same bike. Allegedly Rossi texted Simoncelli before the race, telling him to give Biaggi no quarter. Not that he needed a reminder.
SuperSic crashed in race one, I suppose that was predictable. In race two however, it wasn't just the fact he beat Biaggi, it was the way he did it. He had to battle his way through the pack and clawed Biaggi back over a number of laps. You just knew something was going to happen. He was on a mission. When he got close to Biaggi he didn't just overtake him, he stuffed him into the last chicane, to the roars of the packed grandstands. The result? Simoncelli got onto the podium at his first ever World Superbike round, on a bike he hardly knew. Max finished 4th but to give him credit, he spoke highly of Simoncelli and that pass. That says a lot about Max but maybe even more about Simoncelli; it's rare Max sings anyone's praises but his own.
That race had all the hallmarks of the early Rossi/Biaggi battles from the 500 days. When it came to racing, it didn't look like Simoncelli cared about your heritage, what you had done, only what you were capable of doing right there, right then. I love that and that's why the picture above brings a smile to my face every time I look at it.
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