Marco Simoncelli did his burgeoning reputation as a future star of motorcycle racing no harm at all by showing his versatility as a rider with a superb – and eye-catching – run to the podium at Imola.
Drafted in as a replacement for the injured Shinya Nakano at Aprilia, reigning 250GP champion Simoncelli was a high-profile addition to the Superbike ranks at Imola, the Italian using the weekend as an opportunity to size himself up against a field that included several ex-MotoGP luminaries.
Quickly learning his way around Imola and the RSV-4, Simoncelli, who will race for Gresini Honda in the premier class next season, had already stolen the headlines with his run to eighth on the grid in qualifying on Saturday.
However, he was already going beyond that in race one as he rapidly clawed his way up to fifth place following a tardy start. His hopes of a dream debut were ended on lap ten, however, when he lost the front-end at Tosa, forcing him into early retirement.
Undeterred, Simoncelli pushed on in race two, causing a few raised eyebrows early on as he dipped beneath fellow 'top tip for the future' Ben Spies to take fifth position, before climbing to fourth at the expense of Shane Byrne.
It meant team-mate Max Biaggi was his next target, Simoncelli's charge up the order proving unrelenting as he dived inside his countryman at the slow Variante Bassa chicane. Causing the experienced rider to sit up – and probably also take notice of the youngster coming through -, Simoncelli scrambled past into a third place he wouldn't lose.
Hailing his superb debut Superbike performance as a 'great experience', Simoncelli admits his pass on Biaggi actually came after an error into the corner left him with no choice but to either complete a scruffy move or collide with his team-mate.
“If I finish the race in the first five I would have been very happy. In the first race I was fifth but crashed, while in this race I started better than in the first and after some laps I kept a very good pace.
“In the chicane with my team-mate, I didn't want to pass him, but I braked too hard and I thought 'either I hit him and we crash or I try to pass'. I succeeded and I am very happy, a big thanks to Aprilia and my team. Today was a great big experience for me here in Superbike.”