Gordon Hatch, MotoGP correspondent
Honda Racing Corporation has paid tribute to Marco Simoncelli who lost his life earlier today following a second lap incident at the Sepang circuit for the Malaysian GP where the Italian crashed and then collided with Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi. Despite the best efforts of the Medical Centre at the track Simoncelli was pronounced dead at 4.56pm.
Shortly after the devastating news Shuhei Nakamoto HRC Executive Vice President and Repsol Honda riders, World Champion Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso all paid tribute to tragic Simoncelli.
Mr Nakamoto solemnly said, "I just don't know what to say, words escape me. Marco was a very nice guy and a very talented rider. Sometimes I was a little harsh with him, for example after his first MotoGP podium in Brno when I told him: "Lucky podium!" and he was so angry... but I wanted to motivate him as I knew he was able to do even more. I was thinking that when he won his first race we would have been able to celebrate together... Now I just want to say thank you to Marco, for what you gave me and pass my sincere condolences to his family and this very sad time.”
I've been with his father and all we could do was to hug, nothing else matters.
Dani Pedrosa was likewise shocked and said a fatal accident like Simoncelli’s reminds everyone of how dangerous the sport can be. "In a tragedy like this there is not much to say. I just want to give my condolences to his family and all the people who love him. I've been with his father and all we could do was to hug, nothing else matters. It was a fatal accident and everybody in the paddock remains in shock. Many times we ourselves forget how dangerous this sport can be and when you lose people on the way nothing has any meaning. It's clear that we all do what we like, what we love, but on days like today nothing matters,” he said.
Dovizioso battled with Simoncelli many times in his teens and into the 125cc and 250cc Championships and was utterly shocked by the news. "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,” Dovizioso added sadly.
Newly-crowned Champion Stoner said he was sickened and saddened at the same time, "I'm so shocked and saddened by the loss of Marco. 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,” he said.
HRC has also announced that the one-day test scheduled for tomorrow with Pedrosa and Stoner on the 2012 prototypes at the Sepang Circuit has been cancelled.