I never knew him that well.....
Marco was different. Cavalier, dynamic and and was loaded with energy. You'll be missed. My thoughts go to his family. I'd also like to send some get well wishes to Colin Edwards as well.
|Marco Simoncelli locking down the 250cc Championship in Phillip Island 2008|
..but when you travel constantly with the "MotoGP" circus you become a familiar face. Over time you'll receive a "ciao" or a "bongiorno" when passing in the paddock in the morning, during the evening or even as these people walk through the media centre. However, it was in Phillip Island in parc ferme where Marco recognised me when I asked him to look down into my camera for a goofy shot of him waving. He obliged.
This was only my second trip to Malaysia covering MotoGP and the heat and humidity aside, it is a happy place to visit, even if this is work (!). You have people who seem to have a positive gene in their DNA. Nothing is too much trouble if you need help, directions whatever.
|hopefully they buy their tickets sequentially....or do they swap t-shirts if not?|
I never thought that the heat would become so transparent simply because the energy of the people who live here rises above this little niggling thing. So it was after the end of the Moto2 race I simply decided I would sit on my scooter in front of the grandstands and stay in the shade. Rather than go back into the media centre and then have to go through the painful process of acclimatizing to the heat from the cold once again, it just makes sense to simply "stay out". Which I did. So here I am, sat in front of all these fans who have travelled from all over the region (from Indonesia etc for this race weekend) and they're smiling, waving and asking me questions about "the job". I felt so connected and so not far away. Knowing I only had a race day and Monday here in Malaysia this makes the day complete for me. As I have mentioned before, I love this place, even with the crazy drivers and crazier scooter riders. It's fantastic.
|Happiness is infectious|
Time to go to work. First up the starting grid row girls that show the grid rows...then the teams roll out accompanied by the umbrella girls that keep the sun off the rider...the grid is prepared with tap crowd barriers around the various locations on the grid where the riders are placed. The grid is full, aside from the riders. The bikes are fired up, they head out on track, and the final wave of crew chiefs, mechanics come to join the their various crews out on the grid... dignitaries arrive and the clock starts ticking down to "go time" The mad scurrying of TV crews, photographers, people who have been granted access to the grid all trying to capture, talk to or see their subjects makes it a challenge, but a fun one at that. The back drop sounds of fans chanting "Rossi" "Rossi" make this feel somewhat gladiatorial.
|Alvaro Bautista keeps himself focussed and cool|
With the clock ticking, and most photographers having got their required images, it's a mad scrambling of crazy scooter riding to the first corner (or wherever)...with everyone in place, you watch from distance the grid clear. Warm up lap. The bikes leave in no particular order for the last lap before race start. The anticipation grows within. Next, you see them arrive on the grid. The flagman at the rear confirms everyone is in their place, the flagmen at the front and rear, signal to each other then clear off the grid..the lights come on and we're under way. The bikes come at you and everyone is capturing the race start. The pack disappears around the corner and you hear the roar of bikes in the distance racing.
Next you hear them coming down the track on the other side of the grandstands, then they're in full view coming at you, here comes lap two. They pass, then we all break out to a new location.
|The "last lap" for Marco Simoncelli|
Then the red flags come out. Silence. Nothing on the jumbotrons except replays of the start. Then we see why there is a red flag. The normally smiley faces of photographers turns to worry. One mentions to me that "his [Simoncelli's] helmet came off. We knew that wasn't a good sign even from where we were standing. But speculating isn't what we do. So we wait and wait and wait. Then the call comes, race cancelled. Deflated. We knew something was not good. We head back to the media centre. There's an eerie silence.
The loudest noise in a normally very noisy media centre is the air conditioning fans.
Then it is announced that Marco Simoncelli has succumbed to his injuries. People who you know have seen so much through their lenses now have red eyes. No one speaks. There was a press conference at 5.45pm to provide an opportunity for questions. People seem to be in a state of disbelief. Surreal.
|Thank you for being so colourful, vibrant and full of life - image taken at Phillip Island, 10.15.2011|