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Early yesterday morning, when my phone began blowing up with reports of Marco Simoncelli’s death, I was dumbstruck. Clearly the gregarious MotoGP star deserved some kind of remembrance, but what could we, who have never so much as seen him ride in person, hope to do that could do it justice? Then, our friend Peter from Hungary, who’d spent time with the rider, reached out. He wanted it to be his words, these words, by which Marco was remembered. — Ed.

Photos: Peter Guld

It’s been a day since Marco Simoncelli passed away, but I still can’t believe it’s true and I’m still crying. Just when I’d written MotoGP off as a sport without character, along came Marco, full of energy, life and passion. He showed us that motorcycle racers could still be people.

I’ll never forget that Friday in 2008 when I was granted my first MotoGP interview. After spending several hours waiting in Gilera’s hospitality tent, I was greeted by this huge smile. It felt like I had known him my whole life. He was so sweet and friendly — not just with me, but with everyone — that you felt like his friend. And that never changed, even after he became a World Champion. That weekend, we spent a lot of time together and I even watched him qualify and race from his pit garage.

That one Sunday touched me. Before the race, we were together in the garage, with his mother Rossella, girlfriend Kate, sister Martina and father Paolo. His father sacrificed everything on the chance his son could have a career in racing.

Before Marco climbed aboard his race bike, he went to his father and hugged him for several seconds. It seemed so long, as if they knew they might not ever see each other again. They clearly understood how dangerous racing can be.

I imagine they hugged each other yesterday, too, before he pulled out of the pits. Today, Marco is already a legend. I don’t know what to say to him other than you had a wonderful life and I hope to see you in the next.

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