Valentino Rossi has spoken about the crash in Sepang that claimed the life of close friend Marco Simoncelli on the eve of an emotional final MotoGP round in Valencia today.
The 32-year-old factory Ducati rider was involved in the crash on the second lap in Malaysia that ended in tragedy with the San Carlo Gresini Honda rider succumbing to serious head, neck and chest injuries.
The nine-times world champion gave his first thoughts on the accident that also involved American rider Colin Edwards, who is unfit to ride in Valencia after suffering damage to his left arm and shoulder.
Rossi said he had spent time since Sepang with Simoncelli’s family, including father Paolo and mother Rossella.
He said: “It was a difficult week and a difficult moment for sure from Sunday in Sepang. I tried to stay as much as possible with Paolo and all the family of Marco that are very good friends of mine.
"Also his mother and sister and the feeling in Italy was unbelievable but also great for Marco because a lot of people remember him and demonstrated that many people followed and liked a lot what Marco did on and off the track. I think it is not very important but also great for his family.
"Also in a bad moment like this the atmosphere was great with a lot of people wanting to say Ciao to Marco. It is good to be here in Valencia and it is a strange feeling for everybody. But I think it is the best way to remember Marco.”
Rossi also spoke of the crash for the first time today during the pre-event press conference for the Valencia race.
Simoncelli lost control of his RC212V machine at Turn 11 on the second lap of the race. His attempts to prevent a crash though set him a trajectory that pushed him straight into the path of Edwards and Rossi, who were powerless to avoid striking the 2008 250GP world champion.
Rossi, who confirmed he had watched video footage of the accident since returning home from Kuala Lumpur, said: “I’ve watched the video and also checked the data of the bike. Marco was very big and a lot bigger than all the other riders and he used his body a lot to ride the bike and also a lot to battle with the other guys.
"I think in this case he tried not to crash and go out of the race by using his body to try not to fall out. But his body was almost like a third tyre and unfortunately the bike doesn’t crash and came back in the track.
"For sure he is unlucky and we work a lot to improve the safety in the last few years but this type of incident remains the most dangerous, especially in the first laps when a lot of bikes are close together. A mistake like this can finish with a bad incident. It was just bad luck.
"I remember being behind Colin at this turn and in the next moment Simoncelli was in the middle of the track at an impossible angle. It is like someone pulling out in front of you at a junction. There was nothing I could do.”
A number of tributes are planned for the Valencia race this weekend and Rossi will wear a special AGV helmet in honour of his close friend.
The Misano circuit has also confirmed it will be renamed the Marco Simoncelli World Circuit in honour of the Gresini Honda rider, who lived close to the track on Italy’s Adriatic coast.