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Thursday October 18, 2012

Riders back at Sepang — the track that claimed Simoncelli’s life

One for the fans: Spanish MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo at a press conference before an autograph
session at Jalan Genting Klang in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday. One for the fans: Spanish MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo at a press conference before an autograph session at Jalan Genting Klang in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday.

SEPANG: It will not be easy to keep emotions in check when the gates of the Sepang Circuit opens today to welcome the MotoGP fraternity for the annual Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix this weekend.

Expect a few teary eyes as the paddock makes an emotional return to race at the popular Malaysian track that claimed the life of Italian showman Marco Simoncelli a year ago.

Simoncelli was only 24 when he died of injuries sustained after crashing on the second lap of the Sepang MotoGP race.

Simoncelli lost control of his motorcycle at turn 11 and, instead of sliding off the circuit, his bike dragged the fallen Italian back across the track and into the path of Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi.

The race was immediately stopped and subsequently cancelled.

Simoncelli had just celebrated a career high second place in the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island prior to arriving in Sepang and was seen as one of the rising forces in the sport.

His tragic passing sent shockwaves throughout the motorsports fraternity and it will be felt most in the garage of Simoncelli’s team — Gresini Honda.

Team principal Fausto Gresini said it won’t be easy racing at Sepang after the events of last year.

“It left a void that can never be filled. Marco was a special person to all of us and we miss him a lot but I am sure that is the case for everybody connected to the world championship.

“We see that with the affection that continues to be shown for him wherever we go.

“With heavy hearts we will give our best this weekend to honour his memory,” said the former world champion, who ironically suffered a similar anguish when Daijiro Kato of Japan died while racing for them at the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix.

Italian MotoGP rider Michele Pirro, who is now supported by many of Simoncelli’s former mechanics, is hoping he can provide a fitting tribute to the late 250cc world champion.

“Memories of Marco will come flooding back now that we are in Malaysia. It won’t be easy but the thought of him helped me win the Moto2 race at Valencia last year, so this Sunday I will be giving my best again to pay him tribute, which I owe to the guys on my side of the garage who worked with Marco last year,” said the 26-year-old.

Double world champion Casey Stoner admitted that it will be a strange feeling when they all take to the track.

“This weekend marks the anniversary of Marco’s death, so I’m sure it will be a strange feeling when we all get on track,” said the Australian, who will be retiring at the end of the season.

The entire paddock will assemble at 4pm today at the scene of the tragic accident, where a bronze plaque will be installed in memory of the much-missed Italian.

The weekend gets under way with the practice sessions tomorrow.

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