Super Sic #58

25 10 2012

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Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the passing of MotoGP motorcycle racer, Marco Simoncelli.  He died in a tragic, freak accident during last year’s MotoGP round at the Sepang racetrack in Malaysia.  What should have been a routine fall and slide to safety instead turned horrific as his bike’s tires regained traction after he had fallen off and become entangled with part of the bike,drawing him back into the path of riders behind him.

Simoncelli was quite a racer. In his too-brief time on Earth, I viewed him at first as a reckless and dangerous rider, but then began to see him get ahold of his talent, understand that to be a winning rider he has to stay in the bike (i.e. not crash out) and finish races.

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He manned up and apologized to other riders that he crashed into. He internalized the criticism and made himself a better rider because of it – unlike what some other riders have historically done – and seemingly was making progress towards a potential championship season, one of these years.

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I came to be a fan of Marco’s. He was fast – so fast! – and every race he participated in was guaranteed to have some excitement, #58-style. He was bold, really almost brazenly so, he would pass other riders in parts of the track deemed impossible by the TV commentators.  And he did it as a giant among diminutive men, at six feet tall he was easily recognizable even in his leathers and helmet.

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Besides his impressive skills with a race bike, the other, main reason I came to like Simoncelli was the praise for him that was echoed from various corners of the motorcycle roadracing world, from fans who all said that no matter when and where they found Marco and asked for a picture or autograph, he was more than happy to oblige, to his competitors who said that while he was a demon on the track, he was one of the nicest people you’d likely ever meet.

He was rarely observed without his big hair and trademark smile:

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And in our hyper-politically correct world, and particularly in his weird world of the very top echelon of professional motorcycle racing, Marco was a standout personality – a guy with opinions on things, events and people, unafraid to speak his mind. Sometimes this made certain people upset, and frequently it made for great entertainment – something that is very much lacking these days in world-class professional motorbike racing these days.

Many other, infinitely more qualified people have written some great tributes to Marco over the past year. Guys like world champion Kevin Schwantz, who was friends with Marco and knew him well.

Moto-journalist Julian Ryder had a great article.

And Superbike Planet has many tributes and even some family vacation photos up.

Most of the pictures here are Brian Nelson’s.

MotoGP, and the world overall, is so much the worse off without Marco Simoncelli.  Big, bright personalities sometime burn hot and far too quickly.

Ciao Marco “Super Sic” Simoncelli – gone but not forgotten.

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Racers and Rental Cars

7 02 2012

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Superbike Planet is one of the very few websites that I read on an everyday basis.  It is a motorcycle roadracing focused website, and I really admire several things about their style, attitude and philosophy on reporting. 

They aren’t afraid to pepper their articles with a little bit of opinion, which in the straight-forward, general journalism sense would usually be a no-no.  Partly because I generally share their views on many racing matters (such as the disasterous takeover of AMA Pro Roadracing series by the DMG), and partly because the stakes are frankly lower in reporting on racing news, I think it’s OK that they spice things up a bit.

The other thing I really love about the site, and Dean Adams, its editor in chief as far as I know, is the massive historical perspective they bring to the table. For people like me who haven’t grown up with racing in the family, even in a spectator sense, the stories and anecdotes are very informative and entertaining.

Here is a great example of what I’m talking about. Evidently there is some truth to the myth that racers are tough on things like rental cars. In this story, they talk about how one AMA superbike team went to a racetrack in Texas for an off-season test of the equipment.

Arriving at the track, they found that “a thick layer of Texas dust” had settled on the track surface after months of disuse, making it dangerous to ride the motorcycles because the dust reduces the traction that the motorcycles’ tires are able to get.

Usually when this happens, there are specialized blower trucks that they drive around the track, that help blow debris (and sometimes water) off the track. Evidently they didn’t have those trucks at the facility that day, so they began driving their rental cars on-track, to help remove the dust.

Being racers as they were, things soon got competitive and then spiraled out of control from there. As Soup puts it:

“The automobiles, which were newer sports cars and luxury vehicles (other than the mini-van) when they were rented (with the full and optional insurance, mind you) simply and quickly began to disintegrate. Designed to haul Joe America from his house to his job each day on a sedate expressway,the machines were way out of their element traveling at 130mph, with severe G forces pushing against them.

In this test [that] one the editors from Consumer Reports could only dream about, parts failure skyrocketed. One nearly brand new machine became a creaking, frame bent, tires rubbing against the fenders, seat belts sacked out from trying to hold the driver (and his passenger) in the seat against the G forces, doors won’t open, now the dash is loose too, machine, ready for the scrap yard, in less than thirty minutes, without ever touching the wall or another automobile.”