MotoGP: Simoncelli Singing in Sepang

MotoGP Hot Lap

It’s inevitable. Despite the MotoGP rock star status, ungodly riding talent, seemingly supernatural endurance and surreal rebounds from injuries, to the essential confidence that derives ten-foot tall, bulletproof personas, eventually all of our motorcycle racing heroes must pass the torch.

Always waiting in the wings, having bruised and bashed their way to the upper echelon of MotoGP racing, quite often inspired by the very heroes they now wish to dethrone, a new crop of road racers begin to emerge. Sometimes they slowly ascend the ladder, gradually building momentum in steadily escalating results.

2010 saw several talented 250cc GP riders make the transition to the Premiere class. Among them was gregarious, mop-haired Italian, Marco Simoncelli, the 2008 250cc World Champion.

His debut season on the Honda RC212V 800cc GP bike delivered flashes of brilliance hampered only by his lack of familiarity with the irascible nature of the large displacement bike; typical teething trouble among 2-stroke 250cc riders as they try to acclimate to the overwhelming nature of a top-tier 4-stroke, traction-controlled, ride-by-wire, hyper techno GP motorcycle.

Fast forward to the recently completed test at Sepang (Feb. 1-3) the first official test for MotoGP teams. In a stunning display of maturity mixed with all-out speed, Simoncelli took his Team San Carlo Honda Gresini motorcycle to the top of the time-sheets, recording the fastest lap of the Malaysian circuit by a motorcycle ever; 2.00.757.

Having just celebrated his 24th birthday, Simoncelli gave himself perhaps the best gift an aspiring GP motorcycle world champion could get; the sound of his name on the lips of the established MotoGP gods as word of the fast lap swept through the paddock.

Simoncelli’s performance is one of those events we may well come to see with 20/20 hindsight as the first true display of a future world champion’s all-important turning point, when they magically make that critical ascension to the upper tier of racing and take their place among legends.

Simoncelli has just created such a scenario and, perhaps more significantly, set the stage for one of those very rare transitions when a racer graduates from hero worship and turns those heroes into racing peers.

Marco Simoncelli Track Record
2000: 1st Italian Minibike Championship
2001: 125cc Honda Trophy
2002: 1st 125cc European Championship
2003: 21st 125cc GP – Aprilia
2004: 11th 125cc GP – Aprilia
2005: 5th 125cc GP – Aprilia
2006: 10th 250cc GP – Gilera
2007: 10th 250cc GP – Gilera
2008: 1st 250cc GP – Gilera
2009: 3rd 250cc GP – Gilera
2010: 8th MotoGP – Honda  

2011: ?