Emotional Rossi on Simoncelli 10 years on: “He'd have fought for MotoGP title"

As Valentino Rossi prepares for his MotoGP swansong on home soil at Misano, he pays tribute to protege Marco Simoncelli 10 years after his untimely death

Valentino Rossi, Marco Simoncelli

Valentino Rossi says he is in no doubt Marco Simoncelli would have gone on to fight for the MotoGP World Championship title had his life not been cruelly cut short in an accident during the 2011 Malaysian MotoGP at Sepang. 

A star of the junior ranks, Simoncelli - identified by his mop of shaggy curly hair, tall frame and occasionally divisive aggressive riding style - won the 250GP title in 2008 before making his MotoGP debut in 2010 with Gresini Honda.

Though his unrefined but evident raw talent gave Simoncelli something of a untamed reputation at MotoGP level, he was regarded as a star for the future and after a run of form that saw him take two pole positions and two podiums on the privateer Gresini Honda, he was touted for a factory bike in 2012.

However, a week after scoring his best result yet with a second place in Australia, Simoncelli was killed at Sepang, the result of coming off his bike before being collected unwittingly by the close following Colin Edwards and Rossi.

A desperate loss for the MotoGP community, Simoncelli’s impact in fewer than two seasons in the premier class resonates today with the Misano venue - scene of this weekend’s Emilia Romagna MotoGP - renamed the Marco Simoncelli World Circuit in his honour.

Ten years later, Rossi - who had taken Simoncelli under his wing and was the inspiration for what would become the VR46 Academy - reflects on his sadness each time he comes to Misano, particularly as this anniversary year coincides with his final outing on home soil before retirement.

“I miss Marco a lot, especially as a friend because we had a lot of fun together,” he told MotoGP.com. “It was always fun with him. We miss him as a driver as well, because I think Marco would have had a great chance to drive a factory Honda in 2012 and fight for the title.

“We created the Academy in his honor, because he was the first pilot we helped. It's nothing special and it would be better to have him here with us , but that's what we can do.”

The poignancy of this weekend’s race is also amplified by the more recent loss of Simoncelli’s then team boss Fausto Gresini, who died from complications as a result of COVID-19 in January.

Having competed as part of Aprilia Racing since 2016, Gresini Racing will revert back to a fully independent team from next season with Ducati machinery.

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