Malaysian MotoGP 21-23 Oct 2011

Please see our tribute to Marco.
This otherwise brilliant event was irrevocably marred by the tragic passing of a well-loved rider, Marco Simoncelli. In consequence, this has been a VERY difficult event report to write. We have elected to report the event in our usual style and focus on the good times we had; with all due respect to Marco, his family and Team San Carlo Honda Gresini. We will maintain this page in black as a sign of respect.

This photo is the last photo we ever took of him, as he is preparing for the race.

Our weekend opened, as always, with a few drinks and a meet & greet Thursday evening in our respective hotels. For those who crave the incredible city life of Kuala Lumpur, we were ensconced in the lovely Hilton Doubletree; our Deluxe package put us all on the club floor of the Pan Pacific hotel at the airport - home to all but about 3 MotoGP riders and teams. We were to see most of the riders all weekend both on and off the track.  (n.b. it is our policy NOT to photograph riders outside the paddock without their express permission. )

Friday night we had one of the most stunning parties of the year with 150 guests in a long sold-out event. A sumptuous repast in the 5* Pan Pacific washed down by prodigious quantities of beer & wine (we brought a reserve barrel which got opened and drained by the night’s end...) was complemented perfectly by our surprise guest speaker of the night: COLIN EDWARDS!

Colin has a post-racing career ahead of him as a stand up comic should he choose to go that way - needless to say he was a hoot! Stories about his mis-adventures with Kenny Roberts, his take on CRT, his views on the sexual preferences of fellow riders -- the entertainment value was non stop! He also gave us a background on his new Texas Tornado Boot Camp - and we announced a joint programme offering special Boot Camp tours after the Laguna Seca MotoGP and before Indianapolis. He stayed on and anyone who cared got a photograph and autograph. See the videos!

Saturday we opened our private suite at the VIP Village.  This was probably our top hospitality unit of the year - great views in a blessedly air conditioned suite, roof top viewing, and virtually unlimited paddock access through our shared paddock

See our review of the movie
passes. Most customers got to meet the riders they wanted, and we toured many pits.  Saturday night we were privileged to offer our customers a private screening of the new movie Fastest! by renown director Mark Neale (also our guest speaker at Laguna Seca).

MotoGP race start

Sunday got off to a rocketing start.  Both the 125cc and Moto2 races were electrifying. In 125, Vinales showed how he has the moxie to be the world champion of the future. Our own Brad Binder did stunningly well, starting from 27th on the grid and going to 11th before his bike broke down and he was forced to retire.  He joined us in the suite later where we gave him the ovation he deserved for a moral victory...!  The Moto2 race was edge-of-the seat all the way with Thomas Luthi eventually pulling off a remarkable victory over Stefan Bradl; who needed to win the race to clinch the crown.

The race is red flagged. Colin (pictured) at least only had minor injuries thankfully

Shortly before the MotoGP race we popped down to the Gresini pit (below our suite) to wish the team good luck and ask Marco if he could visit us after the event. Our final photo above. Watching the race in the company of our guest rider Harry Stafford from the VIP suite, we all went into a stunned silence after the crash.

It certainly looked bad. The 60 or so minutes of trying to get any information from the Gresini team and journalists were the most difficult of my career. The news that the race had been canceled was met by a near-riot by the Malaysian fans who were not aware of the condition of Marco Simoncelli.

It is impossible to convey the feeling in the suite when the news came out about Marco.  I uttered an animal cry when the announcement scrolled across the screen. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. Everyone was comforting each other. I went down to the Gresini pit to hug various team members - people we had been working with for 2-3 years. After our return to the suite, we held a minute of silence and an impromptu eulogy. We canceled the evening dinner in KL and invited all the customers to the bar at the Pan Pacific where we put together a slideshow of Marco photos over the years and drank until they kicked us out...

Still, the show must go on. Monday morning the last thing I could contemplate was going to the Valencia MotoGP in 2 weeks. I spent several hours at the pool in the company of several customers. Next to us was Valentino Rossi and his entourage, all of us just chilling out in the perfect weather and walking on eggshells.  As I was leaving, Vale caught my eye. ‘Ciao - see you in Valencia’! I responded with first over my heart: ‘Forza!’ (‘strength/courage’ in Italian).

Valentino smiled at me & waved, and I knew we would all be on for Valencia and beyond - as Marco would have wanted it.

Gordon Howell.

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