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GP Week : Issue 117
Racing fans love Bad Boys. They fit the image. Marco Simoncelli seems to revel in the role. The Italian former 250 champion’s punishment at Le Mans was a rare event – a mid-race ride-through penalty for dangerous riding. Ride-throughs happen quite regularly for riders who jump the start. But the sanction for dangerous riding is more usually applied after a race: sometimes a fine, sometimes suspension. With the Italian rapidly carving a name for himself as a rider that the others prefer not to be close to (often a useful reputation), and this being his second penalty for the offence, it seemed a good time to look at a few of racing’s Bad Boys: at what happened at the time, and what has happened since. Of the current crop, Simoncelli leads the field, having twice previously been officially carpeted. Both incidents were at his home GP at Mugello. The first was in 2008, in a bitter battle for the lead with Hector Barbera, on a faster bike down the long finishing straight. With one lap to go Gilera- mounted Simoncelli decided to block the inevitable pass on that straight, drifting across. But Barbera was already there, his brake lever caught Simoncelli’s seat and locked the front wheel, and he looped spectacularly nose first, very lucky to escape unhurt. Both were summoned to race control and given “a word of warning”; but it was officially adjudged to be “a racing incident”. The very next year Simoncelli was up before the beak again. This time he’d taken Alvaro Bautista by surprise, sending both off the track. And in view of his record, he was given an informal Yellow Card, told to be very careful, and fined US $5,000. In the light of all his previous, the punishment for his latest Le Mans offence, two years later, may be considered fairly lenient, although it did cost him an otherwise well-earned rostrum finish. But Simoncelli is far from the only Bad Boy on the grid. Two other current MotoGP riders have been in serious trouble with the racing traffic police, and one of them has previously incurred a one - race suspension. Step forward Jorge Lorenzo, nowadays a champion of the ‘safe and polite’ school of advanced motoring. In his younger days Lorenzo (above) was feisty and feared, rejoicing in the nickname ‘Round the Outside’. He’d carved his way through the 125 class to move into 250s in 2005, and by the time they’d got to Japan he’d claimed a first- year pole and a rostrum, and was hungry for a first win. Too hungry, for at Motegi he made an impossible inside attack on Alex de Angelis, and put both of them down. Because of ‘cumulative offences’ he was suspended from the next week’s Malaysian GP.