Marco Simoncelli (AP Photo)
Italian rider Marco Simoncelli, a rising MotoGP star, died Sunday at the same Malaysian circuit where he won the 250cc world title in 2008. He was 24.
Nicknamed 'Super Sic' and sporting a trademark mop of curly hair, Simoncelli was predicted by many to be a future MotoGP world champion.
Simoncelli lost control of his Honda at turn 11 four minutes into the Malaysian MotoGP. After regaining partial grip, Simoncelli's bike swerved across the track - and into the path of American Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi of Italy.
Rossi had been one of the earliest riders to praise Simoncelli's desire to win.
"Going into a duel with him is like going into a fight with someone bigger than you," Rossi said. "You know he's going to take you."
Simoncelli was born on Jan. 20, 1987, in Cattolica, eastern Italy. He developed a passion for the sport at a young age and started racing in the Minibike Championships aged just seven.
He won the Eur opean 125cc title in 2002, the same year in which he made his debut in the 125cc World Championship, moving to the global competition full time the following season.
Simoncelli finished 21st that year but improved in 2004 when he ended 11th and won his first race - the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.
In 2005, Simoncelli joined the Nocable.it Race team. He won in Jerez again and enjoyed a total of six podium finishes, ending the season - and his time in 125cc - in fifth place.
Simoncelli had an unimpressive start to his career in the 250cc class.
Riding for Gilera, he ended his two first seasons in 10th, with his best race finish a sixth place in 2006. In 2007, he finished seventh twice.
The following year everything changed as Simoncelli won the 250cc world title despite crashing out on the first two races of the season.
He went on to win six grands prix on his way to the title, which he clinched with a third-place finish at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia.
His title defense was hampered from the beginning of the next season, when he was forced to sit out the first race because of an injury to his hand.
Despite six victories that year, Simoncelli finished in third place.
Simoncelli moved to MotoGP in 2010. His best result in his debut season was fourth in Portugal, and he ended the year in eighth position.
The young rider was predicted to be the surprise package of this season, but had experienced a difficult year following several crashes. He nevertheless finished on the podium twice, third in the Czech Republic and second a week ago in Australia.
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