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Thoughts with Simoncelli as Valencia opens
3 November 2011
The MotoGP season finale at Valencia opened with Thursday's pre-event press conference, which was dominated by memories of Marco Simoncelli.
This weekend will see the MotoGP paddock pay tribute to Simoncelli just two weeks after he passed away in Malaysia and, following the unveiling of his bike in the Gresini Team's garage earlier in the day, his fellow riders are determined to put on a show in honour of the Italian.
2011 World Champion Casey Stoner was the first to speak. The Repsol Honda rider said: “This race weekend will be something a little different, maybe something a little more special and hopefully everything goes smoothly. We've had a long time to think over these past two weeks, about what actually happened and what racing means to you.”
Simoncelli's close friend Valentino Rossi, who attended last week's funeral, spoke about the reaction in Italy.
“It's been difficult, I've tried to stay as much as possible with Paolo [Simoncelli] and the family of Marco who are my friends,” said Rossi who, like Colin Edwards, was caught up in the fatal accident.
“The feeling in Italy was unbelievable and great for Marco because a lot of people remembered him and demonstrated they liked him a lot on and off the track.
"In a bad moment like this the atmosphere was great with a lot of people who wanted to say ciao to Marco. It's good to be here in Valencia. It's a strange feeling for everybody but I think it's the best way to remember Marco.”
Once the final race is completed on Sunday the Ducati Team's attentions will also turn to the test:
“On Tuesday we'll have an important moment for next year because it's the first time all the 1000cc bikes are on track together. We'll work and we expect we'll have to fix some problems but it will be interesting to try the new bike together with the Honda and the Yamaha. But first we have the race, we have to concentrate on that and make a good result, especially to remember Marco.”
Álvaro Bautista was also keen to honour Simoncelli's memory, following up Rossi's words with similar sentiments. The Rizla Suzuki rider also said he will make a decision on his future on Sunday evening following the race.
“I have news about next year, but I prefer to concentrate on the weekend,” said Bautista, who gave little away. “I'm talking with the team I have the offer from, for sure I would like to have a decision now but I still cannot decide. I hope to make it after Sunday's race. I want to concentrate and finish the year with a good race.”
Ben Spies looks all set to seal fifth position in the standings and the Yamaha Factory Racing rider echoed his fellow riders' sentiments by stating that a good final race would be a fitting tribute to Simoncelli.
“When we think about what's happened over the past couple of weeks it's hard to come to the last race with the emotions we feel, but everybody knows Marco would want us to race,” said the American. “We have to pull together, do the best we can and put on the best race we can for him and everybody else.”
This weekend will also see the conclusion of one of the most lengthy and distinguished careers in the history of the World Championship.
Loris Capirossi is set to start his 328th and final Grand Prix, bringing down the curtain on a career which has spanned 22 seasons, three World Championship titles and 99 podiums.
Capirossi intends to use Simoncelli's number 58 this weekend (see separate story).
"I will do my best for him and after this race I will of course retire as planned. I am happy because after 22 seasons it's a good time to stop. There are a lot of strong riders and it's good to do something else," said the Pramac Ducati rider.