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MARCO SIMONCELLI DIED ON 23RD OCTOBER 2011 AT THE 
MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX / THE SEPANG INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT

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Early career

Marco Simoncelli was born in Cattolica but grew up and lived in Coriano with his family since childhood.[1][2] He started racing minibikes at the age of seven in his hometown of Coriano,[3][4] moving on to the Italian Minimoto Championship in 1996 at the early age of nine. He won the Italian Minimoto Championship in 1999 and 2000 while also became the runner-up in the 2000 European Minimoto Championship. The following year, he stepped up to the Italian 125cc Championship and he won the title in his rookie year. In 2002, he competed and won the European 125cc Championship.[5]

[edit]125cc (2002–2005)

After a successful European 125cc campaign, in August 2002, Simoncelli made his first Grand Prix appearance with Matteoni Racing, replacing Czech rider Jaroslav Huleš who stepped up to the 250cc class.[6] Simoncelli, riding an Aprilia bike with the number 37, managed to finish in 27th place in his first race at Brno.[7] In the following race at Estoril, he scored his first championship points by finishing in 13th place.[8] However, he failed to score any points in the next four races and finished the season with three points from six races.[9]

He continued with the Matteoni Racing Team for his first full season in 2003. That season, he also started to use the iconic number 58 on his bike.[10] He managed to score points in six races with a best result of fourth at Valencia, the last race of the season.[11] Overall, he scored 31 points and ranked 21st in the final championship standings.[12]

In the 2004 season, Simoncelli switched to WorldwideRace team under the name of Rauch Bravo, which also run an Aprilia bike.[13] In the second race of the season at Jerez, Simoncelli recorded his first pole position.[14] In the race, which was held in wet conditions, Simoncelli was in second place when race leader Casey Stoner crashed out with three laps remaining, handing Simoncelli his first victory.[15] However, the victory was his only podium finish for the season. He managed to score points in seven other races with a best result of sixth. He ended in 11th place in the final standings with 79 points.[16]

Simoncelli continued to ride for WorldwideRace in 2005, this time under the Nocable.it Race banner.[17] In the opening race at Jerez, he qualified first and then won the race for his second successive win at Jerez.[18] Despite failing to add another win that season, Simoncelli finished on the podium on five other occasions. His consistency earned him 177 points and a fifth place in the final standings.[19]

[edit]250cc (2006–2009)

Simoncelli at the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi

In 2006, Simoncelli stepped up to the 250cc class, becoming the only rider from the top eight in previous year's 125cc class to make the step up.[19][20] He joined the Metis Gilera team, an Italian motorcycle manufacturer who returned to the intermediate class after a lengthy absence.[21] His first season saw him finish most races he finished between 7th and 10th place. His best result was 6th place in the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai. He fought for the "Rookie of the Year" title until the end, finally losing to Shuhei Aoyama by seven points, finishing 10th overall.

In 2007 he continued with the same team. His season was similar to the previous one and he was again 10th in the final standings, without a podium finish.

He had his first 250cc win at the Italian Grand Prix held at Mugello on 1 June 2008 in controversial circumstances when, with one lap to go, he leaned to the left on the long straight, possibly to block off Héctor Barberá. Barberá then crashed into him and Simoncelli won the race by 3 seconds. Barberá was lucky to emerge unscathed. Some people called for sanctions but Simoncelli escaped without penalty: on 7 June he received a verbal warning from the MotoGP Riders Safety Commission.

On 8 June 2008 he followed up his Italian victory at the Catalan Grand Prix after overtaking Álvaro Bautista on the last lap after Bautista ran wide with 5 corners of the race left. Simoncelli obtained his third 250cc GP victory at the Sachsenring in the Gran Prix Deutchland on 13 July 2008 when he beat Bautista and Barberá by approximately 2.5 seconds. He also won in his class at the 2008 Australian motorcycle Grand Prix held on 3–5 October 2008, narrowly defeating Bautista.

On 19 October 2008 he clinched the 2008 250cc World Championship after finishing 3rd in the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.

He made a one-off appearance for Aprilia in the World Superbike round at Imola in 2009. He qualified on the second row and was one of three riders to crash out of race one at Tosa while running fifth, before fighting through to third in race two, making a forceful move to overtake team-mate Max Biaggi to get onto the podium.

On 25 June 2009, it was confirmed that Simoncelli would move up to premier class racing for 2010 MotoGP championship after agreeing to ride with the San Carlo Gresini Honda team.[22]

[edit]MotoGP

[edit]2010

Simoncelli got off to a slow start to the 2010 season, having suffered two preseason testing crashes at Sepang; the second of which cracked his helmet.[23] After finishing eleventh on début, Simoncelli improved over the rest of the season, finishing 16 of the 18 races in the points en route to eighth place in the championship with 125 points. His best finish was a fourth place in Portugal, missing a podium by 0.06 seconds to Andrea Dovizioso.[24]

[edit]2011

In the 2011 season, Simoncelli was predicted to be the surprise package of the season.[25] He finished fifth in the season opening race in Qatar, before falling from the lead of the wet race at Jerez.[26] He secured his highest starting position to that point of 2nd, before falling on the first lap of the Estoril race.[27] During the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, Simoncelli collided with Dani Pedrosa while they were battling for second. The resulting crash saw Pedrosa break his collarbone and Simoncelli received a ride-through penalty, eventually finishing fifth.[28] Simoncelli initially rejected blame for the crash, claiming he braked no later than normal, and that he left Pedrosa room.[29] Before the next race, however, he accepted that he needed to reflect on his riding style.[30]

Simoncelli was required to meet with race direction before the start of the racing weekend at Catalonia.[30][31] On the track, Simoncelli secured his first MotoGP pole position, 0.016 seconds ahead of Casey Stoner.[32] However, a poor start saw him drop to seventh managing only to recover one position to finish sixth. Simoncelli earned his first podium in the premier class, with a third place in the Czech Republic.[33] His best MotoGP finish was second place in the Australian GP at Phillip Island.

[edit]Death

Simoncelli, with a towel on his head, on the grid at the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix, his incomplete final race.

On 23 October 2011, Simoncelli was involved in a collision with Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi during the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit. In fourth position during lap two, Simoncelli's bike lost traction in Turn 11 and it started to slide towards the gravel, but the tyres regained traction and his bike suddenly veered across the track into the path of Edwards and Rossi, with Simoncelli hanging down on the right side.[34]

Simoncelli was struck in the head and neck by Rossi, in the course of which Simoncelli lost his helmet and Edwards was catapulted from his bike. The race was immediately red-flagged. Edwards suffered a dislocated shoulder; Simoncelli suffered much more severe injuries and was taken by ambulance to the circuit's medical centre, and at 16:56 local time, less than an hour after the accident, it was announced that he had died from his injuries.[35][36][37] Later, at a press conference involving members of the MotoGP Race Direction, Medical Director Michele Macchiagodena said that Simoncelli had sustained "a very serious trauma to the head, to the neck and the chest", and was administered CPR for 45 minutes.[38]

His body was flown home to Italy, accompanied by his father Paolo, his fiancée Kate Fretti, and Valentino Rossi. The family were greeted by Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Petrucci, before the body was transported to a theatre inCoriano, Rimini, where it was placed in an open coffin. Fans and visitors were then allowed to pay their respects, in a walk-through memorial that included his 250cc World Championship winning Gilera, plus his 2011 MotoGP Honda.[39] An estimated 20,000 people attended his funeral[40] at the Santa Maria Assunta parish church in Coriano on 27 October 2011, which was broadcast live on Italia 1 and Rai 2.

[edit]Legacy

On 3 November, the Misano World Circuit announced plans to rename itself in honour of Simoncelli.[41] At the final Grand Prix of the 2011 season in Valencia, Spain, a tribute lap on race morning was held in honour of Simoncelli, with riders from all three Grand Prix classes taking part along with 1993 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz, who rode Simoncelli's bike.[42]

Tributes were made in Formula One with Jenson Button dedicating his performance in the 2011 Indian Grand Prix to Simoncelli and IndyCar Series driver Dan Wheldon, who died at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the weekend before, during the2011 IZOD IndyCar World Championship.[43] A minute's silence was held at the Grand Prix in memory of Wheldon and Simoncelli. At the 2012 Malaysian Grand PrixFerrari drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, along with other members of the team paid tribute to Simoncelli by returning to turn 11 and having a group photo with a banner in remembrance.[44]

On the same day of the accident, all Serie A football matches in Italy held one minute of silence in remembrance of Simoncelli as instructed by the Italian National Olympic Committee President Gianni Petrucci.[45]

On 20 January 2012, the anniversary of Simoncelli's birth, it was announced at a ceremony in his home town Coriano that the town's sports area would be renamed "Palazzetto dello Sport Marco Simoncelli", and that one of the town's tram routes would be re-numbered 58 in his honour.[46]

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