Yesterday I went to the MotoGP race at Sepang as I have pretty much done the last 5 or 6 years, but this time disaster struck and as a result one of my favorite riders – if not my absolute favorite – lost his life.
For the past year or so, I have been joking that the moment Marco Simoncelli learned to stay ON his bike he would become a world champion. Obviously those jokes now leave a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth, but then again – that is how MotoGP is isn’t it?
I still remember back int he late 90’s when Garry McCoy started riding the 500cc bikes. The guy was completely mental and he went sideways through every bloody corner, pushing the bike to the absolute limit. At the end of the day, Garry McCoy had so many crashes that he never really won anything (if I am not mistaken he won 3 500cc races in total), but damn – he is to this day the most fantastic rider I have ever seen. In the 2003 movie “Faster”, another MotoGP legend Mick Doohan had this to say about McCoy’s riding style:
Normally, a remark like that wouldn’t mean much, but coming from Mick Doohan it does mean a lot. Doohan himself was “a little bit looser than a lot of people”. In 1992, Doohan crashed in a practice session before the Dutch TT. He was inches from losing his leg, but a few month later he showed up again, looking like this:
Doohan went on to win the 500cc championship (it wasn’t called MotoGP back then) no less than 5 times on a custom built bike (since he couldn’t use a foot operated rear brake).
In 1993, I remember watching Wayne Rainey’s crash at the Italian Grand Prix. Rainey broke his spine and the crash rendered him permanently paralyzed from the chest down. Still, the following year, he showed up, in a wheel chair, as team manager for the Malboro Yamaha team and to this day he still enjoy Superkart racing, driving a custom build hand operated kart.
At this point you might think: “what on earth is he rambling about”. Well, I guess my point is that it is this very madness that makes a good MotoGP rider become a truly great rider. There are tons of good riders out there, but only the truly inspired becomes great and Simoncelli – in my opinion – had that potential. Like McCoy, he was unfortunate and he ran out of luck (or grip actually), but if his luck had not run out, he would have had every chance to go on and become a legend like Rainey or Doohan.
In the words of Mick Doohan, Simoncelli was a little bit looser than a lot of people. Eventually that would cost him his life, but it was also what made it awe inspiring to watch him ride.
I’ll miss him.