MotoGP riders, managers and teams have been paying tribute to Marco Simoncelli, the charismatic and talented rider who was tragically killed at the Malaysian MotoGP on Sunday. The Italian was seen as a natural successor to Valentino Rossi, with his youthful exuberance, sharp wit and larger than life personality.
Valentino Rossi left the Sepang circuit too distraught to speak to the press but later paid tribute to his compatriot on Twitter. "Sic for me was like a youngest brother.so strong on track and so sweet in the normal life.I will miss him a lot".
Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta said Simoncelli’s death was a huge loss to the MotoGP world championship.
Ezpeleta, who took the decision to cancel the race when it became apparent Simoncelli was too badly injured to survive, said: "This is an incredibly sad day for the MotoGP family. From the start we could see that the accident was very bad and the medical staff did absolutely everything they could. But it was very, very difficult. I was only talking with him on Saturday and now he is gone, so MotoGP is not important right now but it is a big loss for all of us."
Carlo Pernat was Simoncelli’s manager who secured him his big break in MotoGP with a move to Gresini Honda in 2010.
The Italian said: "We lost a nice man in Marco Simoncelli. He dreamed to be world champion but now the dream is over. Marco was the friendliest guy in the paddock. He spoke to and cared for everyone. He was a true racer, a star on and off the track."
Jerry Burgess, legendary crew chief to heartbroken Valentino Rossi reckons Simoncelli was destined for great things in the future havingstarted to become a regular podium contender in MotoGP.
The Aussie said: “I think he was great. Valentino got him on the right track a few years ago and told him to do a bit of training to win the 250 world championship and he did. He was a great rider, a great competitor and a great bloke.
Nicky Hayden fought back tears when he spoke of Simoncelli’s passing and the American said: "It's hard to even talk. You feel for his family, his friends, his team, but we all feel it, all of us in the paddock. At the end of the day we're all brothers and everybody feels it for him. That guy's going to be missed on the track and off the track. He really was a star. It's a cruel game sometimes. Some days it can be the best of things. But sport is like that and life is like that."
New world champion Casey Stoner said he felt sick when he realised Simoncelli had succumbed to his injuries.
The Repsol Honda rider said: "When things like this happen it reminds you how precious life is, it makes me feel sick inside. All I can say is how sorry I am for Marco's whole family. I can't imagine what they are all going through and our thoughts and wishes are with them at this time. I hope they all stay close and pull through this tragedy together."
Andrea Dovizioso was a lifelong adversary of Simoncelli and the pair had raced since they were four-years-old.
He said: "In these circumstances, words don’t seem to be appropriate. I think of Marco’s family and all the people dear to him, in particular his father and mother. I also have a child and what happened today is the hardest situation you can imagine. I watched the images and I’m shocked: in a race you fight and push hard and disaster is often around the corner. Marco was a strong rider and he always pushed hard. We raced together since we were kids, I saw him always pushing to the maximum, he crashed many times, but without major injuries, he was seemed invincible. What happened today seems impossible."