'Do you ever get scared in a race?' Simoncelli's last interview

Published: 25 April 2016

Just a few months before his untimely death in October 2011, Marco Simoncelli sat down with MCN Sport for what would turn out to be the last time.

Who were your rivals when you were minimoto racing?

Dovizioso, Pasini and Corsi. I was aggressive like I am now.

So did you have trouble with the authorities?

With Dovizioso it was the same story as now. He started complaining about my riding style when I was 10. At the beginning he was faster because he started earlier, then the first time I beat him he said I’m an incorrect rider. It’s been a long story!

Did you ride on the street when you were young?

I bought my first scooter when I was 15. I like riding on the street, but when you are used to riding on the track it’s impossible to love riding on the street.

Who do you count as your friends in the paddock?

Valentino, Pasini, De Rosa and Baldolini. Away from races, Valentino and I meet most days, usually at the gym, sometimes at our homes.

You’re having a dinner party. Who do you invite, dead or alive?

Barry Sheene, Giacomo Agostini, Steve McQueen and Valentino. These guys… and some girls.

You and Valentino have a drinking race – who wins?

I don’t know, but for sure Valentino has more experience.

What kind of racing advice has Rossi given you?

My first year in 250s wasn’t so good. One day he watched me in practice and called me into his motorhome. He explained what I was doing wrong – I was riding the 250 like a 125, taking lines that were too wide. Last year when I was in trouble in MotoGP, he gave me a lot of advice. But now he stops! 

Were you worried you might never make it in MotoGP?

The start of 2010 was terrible. I didn’t feel the bike and the Bridgestones were very difficult to understand. I had some bad crashes, but we stayed calm and step-by-step we solved our problems.

How often do you lose the front?

If everything is OK, then never. But at the limit it can happen once or twice in a race. After that, you understand you are at the limit.

You’re a big fan of Rainey and Schwantz. You must have been very young when they were racing.

The first races I remember were in 1992, when they made big fights. That’s why, when I started racing, my idea was that you do everything to pass the rider in front, which is why it is normal you can touch another rider. In the past this often happened and no one made big talk. Now there is too much talk. Riders should solve problems between themselves, not complain to journalists or Race Direction.

What are your all-time favourite Rainey v Schwantz battles?

On DVD I have seen Suzuka 1991, when Schwantz won, also Phillip Island in 1990, when Gardner beat Doohan.

They’re Rossi’s favourites too.

Exactly. I think fans want to see this kind of fight, because this is the most beautiful thing about bike racing.

Why are you good at overtaking?

Because when I decide to pass, I pass. I don’t change my mind. Overtaking is a special feeling, especially when you overtake at a difficult corner. The best is overtaking round the outside.

Like Schwantz passing Rainey at Donington in 1991?

Exactly!

Are those old manoeuvres an inspiration to you?

Yes, yes. The outside overtake is the most difficult because when you go inside you only need to be equal with the other guy. When you go outside you have to be much faster. Sure it’s more dangerous. What happened with Dani (Pedrosa) at Le Mans happened because I passed him, but not enough.

What’s your best-ever overtake?

In 250s, when I passed Barbera at Casanova Savelli at Mugello. This is a great place to pass.

Do you practice overtaking lines in practice?

During the first two practice sessions I test every line to understand which is best. Yes, I also practice special lines for overtaking.

Has the furore since the Le Mans incident changed you?

I understand I made a little mistake with Dani, so now I will pay more attention, but the polemic won’t change me. This is the way I ride.

Do you ever get scared in a race?

In a race you have no time to be scared. Even if you take a big risk you have no time to think about it. Sometimes I crash or take a big risk, but at that moment I feel no fear. Only after when I watch the race on TV will I say ‘fuck’ and become scared!

What will it take to beat Stoner, Lorenzo and the rest?

A bit more experience. Right now I am fast like them. In every race I can fight for the victory. At Jerez I was leading, at Estoril I had a very good pace, at Le Mans I should have be on the podium and the same at Silverstone. Sure, they have more experience and I have to learn from them, but I can already fight with them.

Words Michael Scott  Photos Gold & Goose