Back in the Day
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Marco Simoncelli: Career Achievements
By the time he arrived on the Grand Prix scene as a 15 year-old Marco Simoncelli already had a wealth of experience and titles behind him, and his entry into the World Championship arena in 2002 was the start of a career marked by success, ambition, determination, some controversy and plenty of admiration as he progressed through the classes to become one of MotoGP’s most recognisable stars by the time of his tragic death on October 23rd 2011.
Growing up in Coriano, some 10km from the Misano World Circuit, Simoncelli spent his youth racing on the Italian east coast and was a frontrunner in the Italian Minimoto Championship from 1996 to 2000 – a competition he won on more than one occasion.
Stepping onto 125cc machinery after his exploits in minibikes Simoncelli was quick to adapt, riding in the Italian National Championship in 2001 and then taking the European 125cc title the following season. It was in 2002 that he made his World Championship debut, riding six rounds of the 125cc campaign before a first full season the next year.
2004 saw the then 17 year-old take his first GP victory – which was also his first podium result and his first start from pole position – when he won at a rain-soaked Jerez on his way to 11th overall in the standings. Simoncelli’s final season in the category in 2005 produced six podiums in total, including another win at Jerez, as he ended the year fifth overall taking further steps forward.
Moving up to the 250cc category for 2006 it took two seasons for Simoncelli to settle in and find his feet, and when he did so it was in stunning style. 2008 did not start in the most encouraging manner as Simoncelli failed to score points in the opening two rounds, but in Round 3 at Estoril he qualified on pole for the first time in 250s and finished the race in second – his first podium in the class. From there, Simoncelli’s season took off in a phenomenal fashion. He took his first 250cc win in his home GP at Mugello, the sixth round of the campaign, and only finished outside the top three on one more occasion on his way to the title. Winning six races and stepping onto the podium a total of 12 times in 2008, Simoncelli was the first Gilera rider to win the 250cc title and became the first man to take the intermediate crown after not scoring points in the first two rounds since Dieter Braun in 1973.
Speculation linked the charismatic new 250cc World Champion with a move up to the MotoGP class but Simoncelli opted to stay and defend his title. He again displayed his fearless riding style as he engaged in a series of great battles, taking the title fight to the final round in Valencia where he eventually lost out to Hiroshi Aoyama. Simoncelli finished the campaign in third, having won six races, and was by now ready to make the step up to the top level.
Pre-season testing for the 2010 campaign was something of a baptism of fire for Simoncelli, who was shaken by a big crash at the second Sepang Test. He was back on the bike for the final Qatar outing however, and then finished his first MotoGP race at the same Losail circuit one month later in 11th place. Simoncelli gained in confidence as his rookie season went on, steadily improving his qualification and race results and ending 2010 with a strong run of notable displays which included fourth in the penultimate round at Estoril, where he was unlucky to miss out on a podium spot.
With a full season’s experience behind him his second year in MotoGP saw Simoncelli get off to a flying start, as he immediately set about converting the promise shown towards the end of 2010 into results in 2011. After a top-five finish in the first round in Qatar, he then crashed out of the Jerez race when leading in only the second race of the campaign. Next time out Simoncelli secured his first second-row start, in Portugal, and a first premier class pole position came shortly after in Catalunya as the excitement surrounding the daring Italian continued to grow.
Another pole followed at Assen but Simoncelli was unable to seal that elusive podium spot that seemed an almost certainty every time he took to the track, something he finally managed at Brno where he took third position in the Czech GP to great acclaim.
Fantastic rides continued to flow as he finished fourth for three races in a row at Misano, Aragón and Motegi, the last of which saw Simoncelli prevail in a toe-to-toe race-long battle with age-old rival Andrea Dovizioso. Just two weeks later at Phillip Island Simoncelli again held off his compatriot in an epic fight to take second place, his best-ever MotoGP result.
Qualifying on the second row for the Malaysian GP Simoncelli was battling with Álvaro Bautista for fourth position in the race when he crashed on lap two, sustaining the injuries which brought to an untimely end a rapidly evolving rider and individual who was hugely admired both on and off the track.
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