ciao, Marco.

[re-posted from my other blog, Living. by VMR]

shocking. I really shouldn’t have to do this two Mondays in a row, but there’s little else I can think or write about and even my clothes seem to fit poorly. This tragedy hits a bit closer to home, since I’ve actually seen Marco Simoncelli in person, seen him ride a motorcycle at high speeds, and seen him save something that really shouldn’t have been saved. Still, in a random bit of high drama, another Sunday has come and gone, and so too has another motorsports talent.

Simoncelli was not quite twenty-five, a bright and vivacious, if controversial, rider in a sport that encourages personalities in a way that few others still do. The Italian rider, who had yet to win a race in the premier class of MotoGP racing, but who had won the 2008 250cc world championship, passed due to injuries sustained in a crash on the second lap of the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday.

He had lost control of his motorcycle in a lowside, one that oddly drew him back across the track and directly into the path of two other riders. Both veterans of the sport, Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi had nowhere to go but into Simoncelli. Edwards struck the young Italian with his front wheel, then proceeded to cartwheel himself and his own motorcycle down the track, resulting in a severely dislocated shoulder for the American. Rossi hit the front wheel of Simoncelli’s bike. Ironically, the elder Italian considered the younger to be his younger brother and often appeared to have seen him as his heir apparent to Rossi’s nine world titles and an international following. The impact from both riders managed to tear Simoncelli’s helmet off, though it was the impact to his chest and neck that actually resulted in his death less than an hour after the incident. Just like last week and Dan Wheldon’s tragic accident at Las Vegas, the race was halted, then canceled altogether.

Simoncelli had both hair and a personality larger than life. He was fiery and sometimes thoughtless on the track, pushing hard to make his machine go faster than it was capable when in the hands of others. He pushed and sometimes shoved his way to his title, but seemed to have settled down in the latter half or third of this season. It was only his second in the premier class. Simoncelli was already a great talent and needed only better machinery and the wonders of time to show just how far he might have gone. His death leaves no question as to the safety of an inherently dangerous sport: there’s nothing that can be done when no one has anywhere else to go.

Simoncelli has inspired the second great outpouring of sadness within the racing community in less than a week. No matter if one drives on four wheels or rides on two, these men and sometimes women, their family and friends, all know the dangers they face every day they make their living. It doesn’t make it any less tragic, but it does band together the various athletes and their fans across disciplines. Wheldon’s memorial service was Sunday, less than twelve hours after Simoncelli’s death and exactly one week after his own. Death, and especially death of a young and public figure, bring a lot of things into perspective. Tears may blur one’s vision, but they rarely cloud the future. Rejoice in family, in friends, in life. Be careful, but be fulfilled.




ciao, Marco.

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MotoGP Estoril Race Results & Report: Pedrosa Wins in Portugal After Canny Stalking of Lorenzo

What Happens When It’s Only the Leader at the End That Matters

8:52am EST — Dani Pedrosa won the 2011 Grand Prix of Portugal after spending nearly the entire race in second, behind second-place finisher Jorge Lorenzo. The two set a punishing pace over the rest of the field, in a race marked by drama at the beginning and end. Marco Simoncelli and Hector Barbera crashed out on the first lap, with Karel Abraham joining them on the second. Ben Spies also crashed out after spending his race with an apparent lack of grip. It was nearly the end when Pedrosa finally took the lead from Lorenzo, striking into the first turn and not looking back. It was the end when Andrea Dovizioso took fourth from Valentino Rossi across the line.

Lorenzo started on pole, with rival Simoncelli starting next to him after leading much of Saturday’s qualifying session and crashing in the final minutes. The two had it out in the post-session press conference, as Lorenzo has been complaining about the Italian’s riding style. Pedrosa took the final front row starting position on his final qualifying lap, beating out teammate Stoner, who started fourth. Spies and Dovizioso completed the second row, while Rossi’s improvements did not continue for qualifying. He and teammate Hayden managed only ninth and thirteenth, respectively. It was a dry qualifying session, but the morning warm-up on race day was wet, leaving Edwards on top of the timesheets. Stoner, Rossi, Hayden, and Simoncelli completed the fastest five.

It was a sunny Sunday as the lights went out, with Lorenzo leading into the first turn, with Pedrosa close behind. Simoncelli had a moment leaving the turn, right with Stoner and Dovizioso. Just a few turns later, Simoncelli was out, with Barbera right behind with his own massive highside. Simoncelli’s had him spiraling through the air like a large, furry ballerina. Bother were down, but got gingerly up after a few moments. Simoncelli was directly in front of Stoner, but the Australian continued on. At the end of the first lap, Lorenzo led Pedrosa, Stoner, Rossi, Dovizioso, Spies, Capirossi, Edwards, Hayden, and Crutchlow. Abrham was the next out, soon assisted to the barried by marshals whilst holding his wrist. Continue reading

MotoGP Estoril Quali Results & Report: Lorenzo Wins Pole, Simoncelli to Start 2nd Despite Crash

What Happens When Binning It Can Keep One From a 1st Pole Position

10:12am EST — Jorge Lorenzo won pole for the 2011 Portuguese Grand Prix in a session that started under threatening clouds, but was marked instead by Marco Simoncelli’s dominance. The Italian, who will start Sunday’s race second, spent two thirds of the session leading by well over a half second. Lorenzo fought back in the closing minutes and took provisional pole, solidifying his position as Simoncelli lost the front end whilst on a hot lap with just a couple minutes to go. Dani Pedrosa took the final front row starting position after the flag, leaving teammate Casey Stoner to head the second row. Ben Spies and third Repsol Honda teammate Andrea Dovizioso complete that row. Despite quicker times during practices, the factory Ducati team continues to drift back, with Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden qualifying only ninth and thirteenth, respectively.

Simoncelli led both dry Friday practice sessions, ahead of Stoner, Pedrosa, Lorenzo, and Rossi as the top five in the morning, then Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Rossi, and Stoner in the afternoon. Saturday morning was a wet/dry session, with intermittent rain in Portugal. Capirossi was quickest in the slower conditions, followed by Lorenzo, Hayden, Rossi, and Stoner as the fastest five. Alvaro Bautista did ride during the Friday sessions, about a month and a half after shattering his femur, and planned to race. The Stoner/Rossi anger continued from Jerez, with Stoner still cheeky, but Rossi regaining some of his usual verve after quick sessions and a stronger shoulder on Friday.

Most of the riders were out quickly with the threatening rain, hoping to set a quick time early in the session. Lorenzo was the very early leader with a 1:41.986, five minutes into the hour long session, followed by Cal Crutchlow, Toni Elias and Pedrosa, all on their first flying laps. Of course, times quickly dropped as riders circulated more, though the track still had damp patches after rain during the morning practice. Ten minutes into the session, Simoncelli (1:38.647) led Stoner, Lorenzo, Crutchlow, Spies, Pedrosa, Dovizioso, Hector Barbera, Colin Edwards, Karel Abraham, and Rossi eleventh.

Pedrosa was quickest next, only to have Simoncelli retake the provisional pole by .008s. Meanwhile, the still-recovering Bautista was fourteenth, nearly 1.7 seconds faster than slowest rider Loris Capirossi. Simoncelli led Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Dovizioso, and Edwards twenty minutes in, with Stoner taking a hard position on Hayden and giving the (possibly the wrong) Ducati no room. Simoncelli continued to improve his time, soon extending his gap over Pedrosa to nearly three tenths as the halfway point of the session approached. Continue reading

MotoGP Jerez Race Report: Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Hayden Podium in Crazy, Rain-Soaked GP

What Happens When Rain is an Enemy of Racers and Friend of Exciting Racing

9:08am EST — Jorge Lorenzo won the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix as seemingly the only rider to not crash out of the race. Ailing countryman Dani Pedrosa finished second after drifting well back during the race, with Nicky Hayden completing the podium, holding off Hiroshi Aoyama on the straight. Early on, Casey Stoner led, until he was overtaken by Marco Simoncelli. Stoner was under attack from Valentino Rossi when Ducati’s front end issues slid the Italian off and Stoner with him. Rossi rejoined and fought back to finish fifth while Stoner did not continue. Ben Spies was in position to finish second with a lap or two left, until he slid out, leaving Colin Edwards to finish on the podium. Except, he also had issues and was unable to finish the race. The rain and slippery conditions made for some exciting and shocking racing.

Stoner (1:38.757) continued his domination of the early MotoGP season, winning pole despite an incident on his final lap during Saturday’s qualifying. Teammate Pedrosa was second fastest while Lorenzo, who spent much of the session in the provisional pole position, completed the first row for Sunday’s starting grid. Spies started just behind Stoner, with Simoncelli and Dovizioso completing the second row. Many riders lost front end grip and slid out during the qualifying session, including Valentino Rossi. He was unhurt, but ended the session twelfth fastest on his backup bike, behind the Ducatis of Hayden (7th) and fellow crasher de Puniet (11th). Stoner was fastest again in the morning warm-up, though the damp conditions jumbled up the typical running order. Rossi was second fastest, with Dovizioso, Hayden, and Lorenzo completing the top five.

Rain was falling heavily before the race began, and the race officially started a wet one. Stoner led into the front turn, as Lorenzo slid into second through the turn, with Simoncelli into third and Dovizioso fourth. Stoner quickly attempted a gap, moving out with a lead of eight tenths by the end of the lap. Pedrosa driften well back though the first two laps, and was down to ninth by the end of them. Rossi was the shocking rider of the first few laps, moving up to sixth, then pushing hard past Spies. Meanwhile, former teammate Lorenzo was running after Stoner. He was just .390 behind the leader at the end of the third lap. Continue reading

MotoGP Jerez Quali Report: Stoner Takes Pole, Many Crash in Cool Temps

What Happens When Things That Looked Rosy, Aren’t

9:12am EST — Casey Stoner (1:38.757) continued his domination of the early MotoGP season, winning pole for the Spanish Grand Prix despite an incident on his final lap. Teammate Dani Pedrosa was second fastest while Jorge Lorenzo, who spent much of the session in the provisional pole position, completed the first row for Sunday’s starting grid. His factory Yamaha teammate Ben Spies will start just behind Stoner, with Marco Simoncelli and Andrea Dovizioso completing the second row. Many riders lost front end grip and slid out during the cool qualifying session, including Valentino Rossi. He was unhurt, but ended the session twelfth fastest, behind the Ducatis of Nicky Hayden (7th) and fellow crasher Randy de Puniet (11th).

Practices at Jerez continued much as they were at the season opening round at Qatar, with the Repsol Hondas quickest Friday and Saturday. Stoner was first fastest on Friday, followed by Pedrosa and and apparently quickly recovering Rossi. In the morning, Simoncelli and Lorenzo completed the fastest five, while Pedrosa led Stoner, Lorenzo, Simoncelli, and Rossi in the afternoon session.

Saturday morning, the standings remained much the same, with Pedrosa fastest, Stoner second, Simoncelli, Lorenzo, and de Puniet the top five. Rossi was sixth fastest. Time were slowest Friday afternoon, with cooler temperatures and gusts of winds causing complaints from the riders. John Hopkins made his return to MotoGP to fill in at Suzuki for the injured Alvaro Bautista, who broke his leg in a practice crash at Qatar.

Qualifying continued to be a cool and windy affair, with clouds covering the Spanish sky. Ten minutes into the hour session, Lorenzo (1:39.430) led Pedrosa, Simoncelli, Stoner, Aoyama, Rossi, Spies, de Puniet, Crutchlow, and Dovizioso. About five minutes later, Rossi had crashed at Turn 6, walking away and riding back to the garage on a scooter to continue qualifying. Moments later, Aoyama suffered a similar but force fate, losing the front and getting smacked in the left leg by the rear wheel of his Honda. He was carried off the track on a stretcher but was soon back in the garage. Quickly, both Rossi and Aoyama were back out to improve their times. Continue reading

MotoGP Qatar Race Report: Stoner Wins Convincingly After Fighting to the Lead

What Happens When the Outcome is Expected but the Method is Not

3:52pm EST — Casey Stoner continued his domination of the Grand Prix of Qatar, winning with more than three seconds over Jorge Lorenzo and five seconds on teammate Dani Pedrosa. Though the Australian dominated at the end, there was plenty of scrapping throughout the race, with Lorenzo leading early on, then Pedrosa, and Valentino Rossi nearly into second at the first turn. He quickly dropped back and spend much of the race fighting over sixth with his replacement Ben Spies. Andrea Dovizioso and Marco Simoncelli showed the beginnings of what looks to be a major fight for 2011, with the two factory Honda (Repsol Honda and Gresini Honda, respectively) riders fighting tooth and nail over fourth position, with Dovi beating Simo by the end.

Stoner started the 2011 season off well, winning pole for the during Saturday’s qualifying by two tenths over teammate Pedrosa, with Lorenzo completing the front row. Despite fighting for a place on the front row during much of the session, new factory Yamaha rider Spies started fifth, having been pipped by Simoncelli, on on of those very quick Hondas, in the final minutes of the session. Barbera, famous this weekend mainly by catching a tow from anyone available, will complete the second row. Bad form for Ducati continued, with Barbera the quickest for the Italian manufacturer and new hire  Rossi only able to qualify ninth, with fellow factory rider Hayden thirteenth. Rookie Crutchlow qualified a great eighth, despite pain from shearing off the tip of his little finger in a practice accident.

Pedrosa was fastest during the afternoon warm-up, with Stoner close behind. Lorenzo and Spies were the next fastest, as it was in the qualifying session, though Spies was a half second slower than his teammate. Sunday night was the warmest of the weekend, with spirits high even between the factory Ducati riders on the grid. Sole Suzuki rider Alvaro Bautista had a difficult crash during the final free practice, breaking his  femur and leaving the team without a rider. John Hopkins will substitute for the team in the second race, at Jerez.

The Hondas were away quickly, but for a moment the great surprise was Rossi’s start. He was almost second into the first turn before getting bogged down in the group and dropping back down to sixth. de Puniet had a scary highside, tucking into himself in the middle of the track as half the field stormed around him. He got up, but was unable to continue. Lorenzo had the lead by the end of the first lap, but was taken by both Honda’s across the line at the end of the second lap. Quickly, Loris Capirossi, who hit his hand on the way past the crashing de Puniet, was in the garage and retired as well. Continue reading

MotoGP Qatar Quali Report: Stoner Ahead of Everyone, Rossi to Start 9th

What Happens When the Season Starts at Night

2:07pm EST — Casey Stoner started the 2011 season off well, winning pole for the Grand Prix of Qatar by two tenths over teammate Dani Pedrosa, with Jorge Lorenzo completing the front row. Despite fighting for a place on the front row during much of the session, new factory Yamaha rider Ben Spies will start fifth, having been pipped by Marco Simoncelli, on on of those very quick Hondas, in the final minutes of the session. Hector Barbera, famous this weekend mainly by catching a tow from anyone available, will complete the second row. Bad form for Ducati continued, with Barbera the quickest for the Italian manufacturer and new hire Valentino Rossi only able to qualify ninth, with fellow factory rider Nicky Hayden thirteenth.

MotoGP racing got started in Qatar days before the race weekend with two days of premier class testing at the desert circuit. Stoner and his fellow Honda riders dominated throughout the testing and practice sessions in Qatar, seemingly able to set fastest times at will. Stoner was nearly effusive in his praise of the Honda, and pointed in veiled criticisms of the struggling Ducati, his former team. Rossi continued to post times well down in the pack while Hayden, who has some experience with the difficult Ducati, was occasionally faster than his still-recovering teammate. Reigning champion Lorenzo has a new teammate in Spies, who was sometimes faster than the Spaniard while both were left searching for pace behind the universally quick Hondas.

In even worse news, sole Suzuki rider Alvaro Bautista had a difficult crash during the final free practice, breaking his  femur and leaving the team without a rider. After his publicity laps during the test, reserve rider John Hopkins was already home in California while offers to Moto2 riders fell through. Suzuki will not race at Qatar, though Hopkins will race for the team in Jerez. Continue reading