Mugello was the most amazing race I've ever attended, and it was more profound because I was actively working on a Ducati at the Italian factory's home Grand Prix! Along the way I spent time with Miss Italia and her friends :)
You should see the rest of the trip! It's all in the extended entry - click below.
I flew to Florence, Italy on Tuesday, mid-day. The weather in BCN was nice, and I was excited to see Italy and work with my new team. I wasn't sure what to expect, and I was more than a little nervous because Pramac is Italian and all the sponsors would be at the race. There was a huge vibe of anticipation coming from the team coordinator, Luis Solano, and it had me on edge. I was ready to do my best, so I wasn't too worried, but still, it was a little stressful knowing that we'd be performing for the race, and also for everyone special who was going to be visiting with us at the track.
Flying in was magnificent, and provided views of the landscape that I didn't realize Italy had. Such a crazy coastline, and interspersed with lakes, rivers, and colorful valleys. The patchwork of the land must be experienced to be understood, as every parcel was segmented into farmland or some other use, most likely for hundreds of years.
I think the town the aeroporto is situated at is called Firenze, and it's also the home of Pinocchio! We took a shuttle bus from the plane to the tiny baggage claim area (two carousels!).
Welcome to Italy, Baby!
While we waited at the aeroporto for one of our team members to arrive from France, we had a snack. Naturally, I went for the fast food, haha (that's all this little airport had!). I gotta admit, it was a good pizza, and a great way to start this adventure off.
Fiat produces really cool little cars, like the Fiat Panda Monster, a collaboration with Ducati, and also this bizarre looking thing, which I've seen all over.
We ended up with two vans to haul us around, plus a couple cars for the more important types. Remember, I was here to work on Ducati's, not Ducato's!
We drove up through the mountains surrounding Firenze and off in search of our rustic hotel. The weather was a little intimidating, but we soldiered on.
Then it started raining. That normally wouldn't be so bad, but we were on one of the twistiest, nastiest, mountain roads I'd ever seen. I don't think a supermoto could have hadn't it well, as it was so filled with potholes it might has well have been a goat-trail.
It took several hours to find the place, criss-crossing through several villages and over streams, to grandmother's house we went! I hadn't realized it, but it was cold up in them hills. I jumped out of the van around 7PM, to find I was standing in snow!
Immediately following the "check-in" process, we hightailed it for the racetrack to meet up with a couple other members of the team. This was my first sight of the famous Mugello Autodromo circuit, and it is an amazing place.
We ate at a cool little spot near the track called Il Rustico, a pizzeria and restaurant. It is apparently tradition for the big teams and riders to eat there, and several were present.
Following the entrance, there are photos of the owner with a very young Valentino Rossi, and an even younger Max Biaggi at the start of his career. The doorways are decorated with race stickers that are decades old.
Pizza! Don't get anything that says Wurst/Wurstel, because it's just a hotdog. The Salamino Piccante was the real deal, though, and it rocked!
Found this little critter in the sink in my room when I got back to the house later that night. Brrrr.
Driving the the track in the mornings was difficult, and early (to beat the race traffic), and sometimes things would pop out of nowhere - like these goats who were wandering around without anyone else around - just a sheepdog! If you look carefully, you can see the special Black Sheep.
The weather was hit or miss, and this would prove troublesome when trying to set our bike up. Some mornings it was absolutely gorgeous on the way to the track, other times, it was crap.
Along with the spectacular hillsides filled with people and tents of every color (which looked like fields of strange, domed flowers), the first thing that you see when entering the circuit is this.
Here are some shots of the castle/villa we stayed at up in the mountains. 20 people? No problem. 3 bathrooms? Mierda!
A quick shot of the room I was in shows it is well equipped and, oddly enough, well lit!
The grounds were outstanding - lush and full of life. Wild boars were said to be roaming about and I felt like a medievel warrior just walking around the forest.
Heated springs provided a nice resource for this outdoor swimming pool. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to use it!
Even the picnic tables are influenced by Italian design, and this one was quite stylish.
At the track, this is the only time I had enough people together (and not busy!) to justify a group photo. Although we took a large team picture on the racetrack later in the weekend, I thought some smaller, more normal, photos would be cool, too.
A nice shot of an empty racetrack, before the madness would ensue. While we were busy taking our new team photo, I snagged a shot of the photographer while he was prepping for the shot. One morning we buzzed by him on the street (early, early in the morning) and one of the guys leaned out of the van and yelled, "Cabrone!". You should have seen him spin around and try to figure out who was yelling at him, face red, everything. Hilarious!
While the MotoGP teams, and 250 teams, usually have full boxes to work out of, the 125 teams usually work under tents set up at the end of the paddock. When it's time for practice or to race, they roll up with these mini-garages on wheels, and handle changing tires/suspension right outside in pit lane. I hopped out for a quick shot.
The race was incredible. If you haven't seen it, get a subscription to MotoGP.com, or heck, just do whatever it takes to watch it. Unfortunately for us, Alex had a little crash on the eigth lap, and that ended our race. All this build-up, and regrettably, we didn't bring it home. After we had gotten everyone to leave the box, about five minutes after the race ended, we got to work fixing things and getting ready for Monday's tire tests. Since the Hospitality centre was already being broken down, and we had so much work to do, my crew elected to stay at the circuit and just continue working. Not to mention that traffic was backed up until 9PM that night! My victory meal after successfully making it through my first MotoGP race? Yummy! You can also see my Viceroy watch, which I'm supposed to wear at all times because they are one of our team sponsors.
My headphones are the bomb! Full hearing protection, but built-in external microphones on ear ear pod allow me to hear in stereo if I want to turn the system on. Adjustable volume levels, too. Way cool!
Since I officially work on Ducati Desmo's now, I thought it would be smart to really take my time and check out the new Desmosedici RR in person - and it is without a doubt the trickest streetbike ever. It was stunning! My goal now? Build a chopper out of one, haha.
Another nice group shot of us, this time with my chief mechanic, Lele, who has worked for factory Yamaha, Honda, Aprilia, and generally just seems to know everything.
Italian Flag? Mexican Flag? Not really, just some more good eats.
Time to kiss my girl goodbye until the Catalunya race in two weeks. My new girl is H-O-T!
We fired her up on Sunday night around 11PM, to check a couple things out, and it was amazing to look down into the exhaust pipes and see them glowing and whispering flames. Not many people get the chance to see such a thing, and it was beautiful.
Finally, the week came to an end, and I had a moment to enjoy Italy's finest before boarding my flight back to BCN. I slept through take-off and landing, so it worked out perfect. See you next time at the Catalunya GP!
Other cool things? I had dinner and joked around with Shinya Nakano on my last night in Italy, and the next morning at the airport I hung out with Chris Vermulen a little bit. Turns out he lives in Andorra, along with Gary McCoy, and flies in through BCN. He seems to be in good spirits and hopefully as he gets more time on the bike, and also more time on these circuits, he'll be able to put his skills to use. Also on the same flight as me were a bunch of Repsol guys, a Gresini member, some Showa racing guys, and KRSR and KRJR. Oh, Hiro was onboard with me, too, and we shared a cab back to his place and then had a great celebratory lunch. I wanted to pay him back a little for Le Mans, but he was just happy I had found work in the paddock (me, too!). We ended up having some kick ass pizza and we checked out photos of his crash. He was taken out of the race in a racing incident with Joseph Smrz. Five stitches in the elbow and some road rash, but otherwise, he's ok. We had dinner later in the week to check up and celebrate a little more (I'm still on cloud nine). As we get closer to the weekend, I am hastily preparing for the coming weeks - 5 races in six weeks! As I'll be on the road most of the time, I think getting things taken care of in the US is going to be difficult. Try, try, try.