34x34: RIP Ciccio by kevin schwantz
Monday, October 24, 2011
The first time I met Marco Simoncelli, it was with Valentino, and I think it was in '03 or '04. He was just getting started in Grand Prix and came to dinner with us after the Grand Prix in Barcelona. I was like, "Who is this kid? He's too big! He's never going to turn out to be anything." But Valentino's said, "No, he's really fast, really good." And of course Valentino was right.
Marco Simoncelli wasn't just a fast racer with a huge amount of talent and potential, he was also just a great kid. He just always had a smile on his face. He was happy to be racing. A lot of usand I mean us, because it did get that way for meit got to where racing was such a big job, it almost wasn't fun any more. You couldn't offset all the demands and the workload, for the hour of pleasure of trying to kick everybody's ass on Sunday. And Simoncelli, right to the very end, seemed to have the best grasp of anybody out there, on it.
There were three standouts in the sport, and now there are two. I'm probably going to get under some people's skin saying this, but it's Maverick Vinales, Marc Marquez, and it was Simoncelli. These are guys who were good figures for the sport. They always look to be having fun. There's always going to be the Pedrosas. There's always going to be the Stoners. But once Valentino is gone, all the character in the sport is gone.
Even as popular as Sic was, as many mistakes as he made this year, as many bikes as he crashed - he always had something good to say, and he always had a smile on his face. He always had time to stop and talk. "I'm learning. I'm making mistakes. I haven't been racing these bikes for ten years, I don't know what to do." And to me, he was kind of old school. A lot like myself. Not very finished when he first got on a bike, not very polished as a rider, but he was really coming to grips with what it took, and what was important. Not just the next corner, but the result at the end of the day.
I went and did a charity motocross ride that Valentino held a couple of years ago. I saw Marco there. You could tell Simoncelli hadn't been on a motocross bike very much at that point. Okay, so I'm not a Supercross rider, but I've ridden motocross bikes a lot, so I was talking to him a little bit about what he was doing, and how he was doing it. "Oh, yeah, thanks, that really helped me." And by the end of the weekend of motocross riding, it was all I could do to keep him in sight. He was one of those guys that was just like a sponge. He'd soak up absolutely everything, and he'd take in whatever helped him. Whatever helped him, he'd use, and whatever didn't, he'd throw away. He was always wanting to learn. Listening, and always showing an interest. you could see it in his face: 'This might be something I need to be listening to. This might be something that can help me.' And every time I was anywhere near his house, he was calling me to come over.
He and I probably texted even more than Spies and I do. I'd text him after a race, text him before a race. I texted him just before the Grand Prix in Australia. I said, "All you gotta do is get a good start and get with Stoner and stay with him for a couple of laps." I said, "A little bit of pressure and who knows what might happen." He texted me after the race. "Ah," he says, "Kevin, I didn't have the pace to go with Casey," he said, "but I'm very happy with the result. It was a hard fight to the finish." And I texted him back, and I said, "Yeah, that's great." He says, "You're coming to Valencia, right?" And I texted him back and said, "Yeah, of course." He said, "See you in Valencia."
We called each other the same nickname: Ciccio. I asked somebody what it means, and I think it means "Chubby" in Italian, or something like that, but he said it means "Buddy" more than anything.
He was just one of those guys who had such a great future in the sport. It's an unfortunate lifestyle that we choose, because sometimes it can be really, really brutal. It can be so unforgiving. That's what we saw yesterday. I don't know how, or what the series will do to honor him in Valencia, but I'm sure that everybody will come up with a plan that gives him suitable kudos, because he really was the future of MotoGP, for sure, for the next five or ten years.
Every time I'd go see him, he'd say, "Hey, let's go eat dinner." One time I called him, I think we were going to go bicycle riding, and he called me. "Hey, it's raining, Kevin. Let's not go bicycle riding. But I'll come pick you up at the hotel. I want to go show you something in my BMW." He had an M3. Of course, he and Graziano (Rossi) were super good pals, because they both just loved drifting their cars. They knew all these little bitty back lanes in Italy like the back of their hands. He lived in Riccione. All those little lanes around the back, between the track at Misano and the beach. Everything he did, he had an ear-to-ear grin on his face.
He'd say, "But see, Graziano taught me. He taught me well. You never make more than two laps," he says, "because if you do, then the police will be coming for sure." Whether it was a roundabout that we were doing donuts around, or whether it was a business center that was closed on the weekend, he goes, "You can't ever do more. Graziano says no more than two laps." Just stuff like that. He enjoyed life and it's just tragic that it was cut short. He had such a brilliant, bright future ahead of him.
I was just going back through some of the pictures on my phone. I sent him a picture ... I think it was a winter day here. I had a long-sleeved Simoncelli T-shirt on, and I texted him a picture. He texted me back within two minutes with a picture. He was in his BMW and the phone was behind the steering wheel, and he had his Kevin Schwantz shirt on.
He will be so dearly missed by everybody. His family are such nice people. His dad, his mom, his sister, his girlfriend, everybody. Anybody that I ever met with Marco, they were all as nice as they could be. I don't know when the funeral is going to be exactly, but there's not much doubt I'll be there. There won't be a dry eye in the house.
I didn't text him before the race in Malaysia. I sent his phone a text afterward, and just said, "58 Forever. Rest in peace, Ciccio."