Michele Pirro has dedicated his maiden Moto2 World Championship victory to the family of former Gresini team-mate Marco Simoncelli after an inspired ride from the front in Valencia.
Just two weeks after Simoncelli's tragic death during the MotoGP Malaysian Grand Prix, Pirro swept to a fine Moto2 victory from pole position, the Italian showing an exceptional turn of form to belie a scoresheet that included just a single podium up to that point.
Attributing Simoncelli for helping him 'from on high', Pirro offered his win to his family and friends in tribute to the late rider.
“After setting pole yesterday I just had to do well today. The conditions were really difficult for the race but I tried to stay focused and then Marco did the rest from on high. He was with me throughout the race and on every lap I was asking him not to leave me alone. It was a long 27 laps and being out there riding alone isn't easy.
“This victory is dedicated to his family, who are suffering more than anybody right now, to his girlfriend and also to the guys in the team.
"It hasn't been an easy year for us but a victory at the end of it is a nice tonic.
“We had a tough time after Malaysia but we managed to convince Fausto to come to Valencia and I am sure it was the right choice because it is what Marco would have wanted. Racing was his life and this was the best way to honour him and remember him.”
Indeed, Pirro very nearly didn't get the chance to compete in the wake of Simoncelli's death, but Gresini's eventual decision to compete has been justly rewarded.
“This is an incredible feeling. Unfortunately for us it is the second time it has happened: firstly when Sete Gibernau won the race following the death of Kato and today it was Michele Pirro who won for us. It is difficult to comment on such a special race. My heart was beating so fast, I need to calm down. It has been a very difficult fortnight and to go from such deep sorrow to this... it hits you hard.”
Pirro's victory came after being handed the lead by his team-mate Yuki Takahashi, who crashed out ahead of him. Though lucky to escape major injury, Takahashi was frustrated at being unable to complete a potential 1-2 result.
“I really wanted to have a nice race today but it all went out of the window with a crash. Up to that point I was feeling relaxed and riding well but I got caught out by the track surface. It's a shame because we could have finished with a fantastic team result.”