Ahead of the Gran Premio Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), teammate Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing), teammate Jack Miller and SIC58 Squadra Corse’s Paolo Simoncelli, father of the late MotoGP™ Legend Marco Simoncelli, were joined by Dorna personnel headed by CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta as they went to Rome and then the Vatican for a very special pre-event: a private reception with Pope Francis.
The event, in conjunction with the National Italian Olympic Committee (Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano, CONI) and with the support of the Italian Motorcycling Federation (Federazione Motociclistica Italiana, or FMI), took place on Wednesday morning. The President of the CONI, Giovanni Malagò, said a few words first before the Pope then spoke, affirming the importance of sport in many different ways.
“Sport, respecting the rules, is an important way to learn – especially for young generations. Or rather, it’s irreplaceable. Sport promotes a healthy way to overcome the self and selfishness, train the spirit and promote loyalty in personal relationships, friendship, respect for the rules.”
Aside from the personal side of what we can learn from sport, the Pope also spoke of the ability of sport to unite people across boundaries.
“Sport is expressed in universal language that transcends confinement, language, race, religion and ideology. That’s seen most often in amateur sport, when it comes from the heart. Therefore, it has the intrinsic capacity to unite people, fostering dialogue and welcoming. I encourage you to spread the values of sport: in that way you will contribute to creating a fairer and more supportive society.”
In addition, there were some words of guidance for those present – with the Pope adding some of his thoughts to the words of Giovanni Malagò, who had spoken of passion and being a champion in life as well as in sport.
“Let passion take you over. This world needs passion and passions. Live with passion and not as someone who carries life as though it’s a burden. Passion is walking forward. […] ‘Champion in life’. Yes, you can become a champion in sporting successes, in a team, whatever it is, but a champion in life is someone who lives with passion, to the full, and is capable of living that way.”
Marc Marquez: “It was a great experience in a different kind of suit! I think once in your life it’s good to meet him if you have the opportunity. It was so nice, we spoke and we were able to meet him but also talk to him. It was a pleasure to be here. What he said was great, in terms of understanding and motivation – he said you need passion in life and a goal, and if you follow that passion you can achieve a lot.”
Dani Pedrosa: “It was very special and a unique opportunity to meet the Pope and be able to share a few words – for me and for the other riders. We do an extreme sport and there’s a lot of risk so it’s always important to feel good. This event is something special and I’m glad to be here.”
Andrea Iannone: “It’s a really incredible day for us, it’s the first time for me coming here to see the Pope and it’s an incredible pleasure. I’m a lucky man to have this experience…I hope from today maybe I’ll have more luck! But joking aside, I appreciate it a lot. Thank you to MotoGP for this opportunity. I’ll remember today for the rest of my life and it’s a really great experience.”
Danilo Petrucci: “I’ve been in Rome and here many times but never had the chance to mee the Pope himself. It was very emotional, he was a great person and said very kind words. It was incredible, he said special things to us about passion and being a Champion in life before just in sport. I will never forget it, meeting the Pope isn’t something that happens every day. And I’ve very happy to be here at the Vatican, it’s special and I think it might help in the race at Misano on Sunday!”
Jack Miller: “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity today, my first time to the Vatican and meeting the Pope is definitely something to tell your kids about, and the tour was amazing. It was an unreal once in a lifetime opportunity. It was nice to exchange some words with him and it was quite funny – he joked he was going to wear the helmets and I think it would look pretty funny with the Pope cruising around with a helmet on. We got to go and meet the Prime Minister of Thailand earlier in the year, I was fortunate enough to be a part of that, and now the Pope…I’m starting to feel a bit like an Australian diplomat. I’m going to have to go home, go down to Canberra and have a chat with them!”