Tomorrow, MotoGP riders and team officials will gather at turn 11 of the Sepang circuit where a bronze plaque will be installed in the memory of March Simoncelli, who tragically died as a result of an accident at the circuit last year. In addition to the plaque, a “Marco Simoncelli Rookie of the Year” trophy will be unveiled on Saturday, which will be awarded annually at the end of each MotoGP season to the highest placing rookie rider.
The Gresini Honda team, of which Simoncelli was a member, issued the following press release regarding the mixed emotions it will feel participating in the race this weekend:
Team Gresini and the rest of the MotoGP World Championship make an emotional return to the Sepang International Circuit this week, one year on from the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli. The memory of Marco remains as bright as the life he lived and it will be difficult for the paddock to keep their emotions in check when the circuit gates open on Thursday. The joy of a podium finish in the last round at Motegi will certainly help the mood in the Team San Carlo Honda Gresini garage, where Marco’s absence will be most keenly felt. Alvaro Bautista and his crew performed brilliantly at the home of Honda, working intensively with Showa as they have done all season to provide a solution to the Spaniard’s lack of feel for the front suspension. There is clearly still much work to be done but a podium was just what the team needed before travelling to Sepang, a circuit that should be well suited to Alvaro’s riding style. After picking up another point in Japan Michele Pirro is closing in on the top three in the CRT championship and he is looking for more this weekend as the team look to end a difficult first year in the new category on an upward curve.
Alvaro Bautista “I was delighted with the result at Motegi in Honda’s home race, on a weekend when I agreed a new deal with Gresini Racing for 2013. To be a part of the first ever all-Spanish podium in MotoGP and to move up to fifth in the championship just capped it all off. There were plenty of reasons to celebrate and I was happy to do so with the team, who have continued to believe in me during some difficult times.We have done a great job along with the guys at Showa and even though our problems are not 100% solved we are on the right lines. Now we go to Sepang in good form but with a heavy heart because of the events of last year. The track itself suits our bike and my riding style so we will work hard from the first lap to find the best possible setting for the race and then give our best as always to hang on to the guys at the front and maybe even repeat the result from Japan.”
Michele Pirro “We picked up another point at Motegi, which may not be a lot but our goal was to close the gap to the top three CRTs in the championship and we did that. It wasn’t an easy race because we struggled all weekend at Motegi with a chatter problem but it was important we made it to the end. Now we go to Malaysia, where the memories of Marco will come flooding back. 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. I like the track and I think it will be well suited to the characteristics of our bike. If we can solve some of the problems we have run into lately then we should be able to do well. We have some ideas on what we can change, with the objective of fighting to be the top CRT again. ”
Fausto Gresini “The fact we finished on the podium at Motegi, the home of Honda, gave extra value to an outstanding performance from Alvaro. Japan is a special place for our team and to add another fantastic result to our past success there was wonderful. Now we go to Sepang, which won’t be easy for us after the events of last year, which 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 and we are in good shape to do just that. Alvaro, the team and Showa have between them found the missing piece of the jigsaw and even though there is still a lot of work to be done we have found the path to follow. I am satisfied with our progress on the CRT front and another point in Japan showed that the hard work is paying off. Michele pushed hard to finish the race and that gives us all a boost for this weekend, when our bike should perform better. We have to keep working hard and moving the project forward.”