Sombre mood as MotoGP honours Simoncelli
The MotoGP community on Thursday remembered Marco Simoncelli and witnessed an emotional plaque installation at Malaysia's Sepang circuit for the Italian rider who died in a crash on the course last year.
Some 500 people including nine-time world MotoGP champ Valentino Rossi and title-hopeful Dani Pedrosa gathered at turn 11 to honour Simoncelli, also known as "Super Sic" because of his riding skills.
As a tribute to Simoncelli, riders and officials walked on the track to turn 11 where they offered flowers after a plaque was installed under a dark overcast sky.
It was at this corner where the flamboyant Simoncelli lost his life in an accident on the second lap of last year's race held on October 23.
As tears rolled among some officials, Fausto Gresini, team manager of San Carlo Honda Gresini, mounted the white and red memorial plaque.
The MotoGP fraternity touched the plaque as a mark of respect.
Australian Casey Stoner, who won here in 2007 and 2009, said the incident was "a lot more fresh on everyone's mind being the anniversary" and was making the racing community nervous.
"I think it is a good day to pay respect to him. Everyone is thinking about it again. Maybe even a little on edge," he told reporters.
Simoncelli had taken his best grand prix finish of second just one week before the deadly incident.
The 24-year-old was fighting for fourth when he lost control of his Honda bike on turn 11 and slid across the circuit, into the path of Colin Edwards and Rossi, who appeared to have hit him.
Holding back his tears, Giampiero Sacchi, owner of Ioda racing team, who had known Simoncelli as a young rider, said he was pleased a large crowd turned up to pay their tribute.
"We know it is dangerous but the race must go on," he said.
Simoncelli, considered an up-and-coming MotoGP star, had his helmet knocked off in the collision. It was his second year at the premier class.
Sepang is to host the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday, in round 16 of the 18-part MotoGP Championship.