Marco Simoncelli, a rising MotoGP star, died Sunday at the same Malaysian circuit where the Italian won the 250cc world title in 2008. He was 24.
Nicknamed ‘Super Sic’ and sporting a mop of curly hair, Simoncelli was predicted by many to be a future MotoGP world champion. He died a week after Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon was killed in a 15-car accident in the IndyCar finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Simoncelli lost control of his Honda at Turn 11 four minutes into the Malaysian MotoGP. After regaining partial grip, Simoncelli’s bike swerved across the track – and into the path of American Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi of Italy.
“Marco was a strong rider and he always pushed hard,” said Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso.
“We raced together since we were kids, I saw him always pushing to the maximum, he crashed many times, but without major injuries, he seemed invincible. What happened today seems impossible.”
Rossi had been one of the first riders to praise Simoncelli’s desire to win.
“Going into a duel with him is like going into a fight with someone bigger than you,” he said. “You know he’s going to take you.”
Rossi posted a message on Twitter later Sunday praising his friend.
“Sic for me was like a younger brother, as strong on the track as he was sweet in life,” Rossi wrote. “I still can’t believe it. I will miss him a lot.”
Simoncelli was born on Jan. 20, 1987, in Cattolica in eastern Italy. He developed a passion for the sport at a young age and started racing in the Minibike Championships when he was 7.
He won the European 125cc title in 2002, the same year in which he made his debut in the 125cc World Championship, moving to the global competition full time the following season. Simoncelli joined MotoGP in 2010 and his best result was fourth in Portugal.
The young rider was thought to be a possible surprise contender this season, but had experienced a difficult year following several crashes. He finished on the podium twice, third in the Czech Republic and second a week ago in Australia.
Simoncelli’s manager, Carlo Pernat, believes the youngster would have gone on to great things.
“Marco was a cheery boy, everyone’s friend,” Pernat said. “He had expectations, dreams. He was a boy from days gone by, with a wonderful family who taught him good values. It’s terrible, there are no words, everyone’s very upset, he could have become world champion one day.
“He had this desire to get to the top, it was really inside him, there was this desire for success because he knew he could have it.”