Today in Italy, the late Marco Simoncelli became the 21st rider inducted into the Hall of Fame as a MotoGP Legend. Super Sic was a personal favorite among the ZLA Army, maybe because his spirit as a rising racer trying to make his mark at the highest levels reflected some of the same feelings felt in what was then a much smaller TeamZilla.
Because he was one of our favorites, his untimely death hit harder than the passing of most public figures. Today he's officially a legend, but to many Zillans he'll always be the enthusiastic, happy, surprisingly approachable kid with the big smile and the bigger hair.
See the RevZilla Facebook album of photos with Simoncelli and read Anthony Bucci's tribute below.
Remembering Marco, #58
I remember the first time I saw Marco Simoncelli in person. I was standing in the paddock at the 2009 Indy GP and here comes this unforgettable character — casually walking around on race day, greeting fans and industry folk, sporting a raucous afro and smiling interminably. He was just having so much fun and being himself. I remember thinking, "It's nice to see athletes at this level so approachable. Good for you, dude." I was immediately drawn in.
I had not watched a ton of him at that point in his career, but it was fun to see him battle for the championship in 2009 following his 250cc Championship in 2008. It also made it really easy to become a bigger fan when he entered the premier class for the 2010 season.
Since then he’s been my guy. The one that got me out of bed at 8 a.m. on Sunday for GP when so much of the the last two years’ races have seemed like forgone conclusions. What a breath of fresh air. Clearly a maturing talent with his best riding in front of him — to me he was the most exciting guy on the grid. A pure racer.
Sometimes his ambition got him into trouble, but when I heard him speak it was always forgiven. I could just tell he was a humble kid who wanted to win. That was it.
At all of the GP races my co-founders and I have attended since Indy 2009, we’ve always made it a point to find him on or around race day to offer as little as a kind word, or to let him know that RevZilla was rooting for him. We always bumped into him one way or another.
One time at Laguna in 2010 we even sat one table over from the Gresini Team at dinner in Monterey. We had to laugh as it took us 35 minutes to get our check that night. The Gresini team had their waitress splitting the bill in what had to be 18 ways, which completely crushed the terminal for the rest of the restaurant. They were all smiling. I think they also realized how ridiculous it was. It was understandable. Satellite teams have budgets like any other up-and-coming operation.
This past summer we had the pleasure of taking the entire RevZilla staff to Indy GP as a reward for their hard work in the spring. We had more access than probably should have been allowed, and all of our team, including myself, found Marco at some point. He was one of the highlights of the whole trip. He took pictures with all of our guys and I even managed to grab him for a helmet signature which now permanently sits behind my desk in my office. There were pictures of that weekend with Casey, Dani and Vale and some others behind the scenes, but the pics with Marco were the best. Some goofy poses, smiles punctuated by light confusion when one of our guys asked him to take a picture holding a “ZLA” sticker. It was all good. We were just fans that weekend. Marco was always good to his fans.
For me though, the most special time was on the Dainese Italian Legendary Tour, this past September. Five of us Zillans went to ride Italy and document the four-day trip on video for Dainese. Simoncelli spent two days on a Honda riding twisties right alongside us with his girlfriend, Kate, two-up. My most memorable moment was having the chance for our team to interview him. He was personable, warm and real — even speaking outside of his native tounge. We joked with him that they need to increase the size of the Bridgestone podium hats moving forward. We also, to the ire of our hosts, asked him on camera to choose only one: Pirate, Cowboy or Ninja. Just as Agostini did, Simoncelli chose “cowboy.” For a motorcycle racer, it seems there is really no choice there. It’s the only option with a “horse.” We all had a laugh.
When the news of his passing hit me yesterday, I could not believe the immediate sense of loss I felt for this public figure. It was something unexpected to me and it was felt equally by some other members of TeamZilla. We only had the chance to rub elbows with him for a short time during his professional career, but we were always made to feel welcome. We felt like we knew him. It felt like losing a friend.
I am not sure if I will ever watch another GP without being reminded of the spirit of Marco and the joy of watching him compete at the highest level. His career and life ended too soon. He will surely be missed by his friends, family and hundreds of thousands of fans. There are 30 people under the RevZilla roof that are missing him as well.
Sic was a hero on the track and a gentleman off, something that can’t be said about many professional atheletes these days. He let it all hang out and rode each GP with his hair mane on fire, pressing for the podium. It was a joy to be a fan for those races. No disrespect to Vale, Casey and Jorge, but it’s been a while since anyone else has delivered like that and I am sure it will be a long time before we see it again.
Ciao, Marco. Grazie per tutti.