Relive Marco Simoncelli maiden MotoGP pole at Catalunya MotoGP

Could Marco Simoncelli have been today's biggest rival to Marc Marquez?

Marco Simoncelli

HOW different things could have been...

With his trademark curly mop of hair, so vast even a helmet couldn't contain it all, and active riding style - one that earned him as much of a fearsome reputation amongst rivals as it did fans across the world - for many Marco Simoncelli was the youthful 'reboot' of Valentino Rossi.

It's an exclusive title but one even the 'GOAT' gave his blessing to, making his tragic death in an accident during the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix all the more poignant.

The evidence was there though, not least on 4th June 2011 at the Circuit de Catalunya - scene of this weekend's Catalunya MotoGP - when Marco powered to his maiden MotoGP pole position aboard the San Carlo Gresini Honda. 

On a weekend that had been dominated by Casey Stoner on the factory Repsol Honda right up to that point, most expected the Australian to follow suit in qualifying but was instead upstaged by his satellite counterpart by a mere 0.016s. Stoner was visibly disappointed, Simoncelli - and the majority of MotoGP - was emotionally ecstatic. 

While sixth place in the race didn't quite live up to lofty expectations (hopes), it was the start of a strong run of form for the Italian right up to his career-best second place at Phillip Island later in the year, alas only a week before his passing.

Could Marco have led the 'next generation' of title contenders? Marc Marquez was still two years from turning his first MotoGP wheel and Simoncelli had the right people on his side, including Honda who could have plausibly shuffled Dani Pedrosa aside in favour of a Simoncelli - Marquez factory partnership that could have been electric!

Of course we'll never truly know but we can dream...