June 12, 2007

Mugello GP07, Race 6 "Magia Di Mugello" part 3

Part of Mugello's magic comes from the lush countryside, the excellent local foods and wines, and the rustic charm that this area and its people exude. It's truly like waking up in a fairytale everyday. Besides, what would the MotoLiam Italy experience be like without some photos of food?!?

"This is the story of the little snail that could."

Like many parts of old Europe, the countryside is patchworked with small fields criss-crossing the hillsides. These aren't the big "miles and miles" of fields that you'll see throughout the Midwest (USA), these are small fields that a single family could work (and did - and still do) to provide for themselves and maybe sell a little bit on the side when the season was over. It is a real throwback in time to see it and drive through it (it's also possible to see it all from an airplane, too, which is a real treat), but what really jumps out are the array of colors that this place has. Much like the greenery in France is different than in Spain (think "Mintier"), the greens and browns in Italy are that much more Crisp and Deep. I also can't explain why the eyes of the women here are different than in other Mediterranean countries, but I digress.

After spending the previous night in Bagnolo in Piano, with friend and team mate, Andrea, the rest of the Italian crew picked us up in a Fiat Ducato! Just like last year! I tried peeling the emblem off the furgonetta (van?) but it wouldn't go, and besides, that would have been vandalism, which isn't really my style.

I don't remember the name of the place, or any of the streetnames, either, but I could find my way back to this "agriturismo" converted farmhouse/motel in a heartbeat if I needed to. We wound to the left from the circuit, and after cutting through some small villages, we drove through some one lane roads through a couple fields and eventually ended up here. It wasn't very far from the circuit, which was a HUGE bonus considering the number of people who descend on the place come Sunday, and the trails we had to drive through weren't bad at all. You never would have known the place existed, but I'm sure glad it did.

The buildings were truly "Old-School", and some of the rooms, mine included, weren't really set up for habitation. Oddly enough, my room was the smallest one available, but because housing is at such a premium for this race, I shared it with Felix, one of our coordinators. Our bathroom was outside and across the hall, which meant fumbling around in the dark in the mornings, haha. There was a small dining room downstairs, and the food served up by the host family was magnificent.

No, this is not something from the hotel, hahaha. This is the subsistence pasta that keeps us going at the racetrack on Wednesdays for lunch. You try kicking out the jams all day with this to keep you going, and you'll understand why some of us split out that night for some real food, at the hotel :)

Now THIS is what I'm talking about! Actually, it's pretty hard to keep a Team fed and happy all the time, and more to the point, it gets very expensive because we're usually on the move and eating in hotels or restaurants. We probably only eat "home-cooked" meals at Phillip Island, because the island is so remote and quiet that it's easier to go to the supermarket and cook at our tourist rental place there. In any case, this pasta was awesome, and I had seconds.

Big Thanks go out to the little family operation that made every meal a joy!

Some of us got ahold of some incredible steaks, cooked in the local style, and it was pure pleasure sharing the laughs and goodtimes over a great meal with great people.

I was waking up earlier than normal at this race, partially due to nerves I think, and I'd often go for short walks around the area. I ran into this old tractor, and had to get a picture of it. Barros' chief mechanic's nickname is "Lando", and it's derived from Landini. Reason? He says it's because of the stubborn and "hot-headed" nature of this tractor, which oftentimes would need a fire lit under the engine to get it going in the morning. Once the motor was running, you couldn't stop it, and it would keep going and going. Lando can be a little hot-headed, so I can see that as being the correlating factor, but really, I think it's because he's got such a square head and jawline. Haha, sometimes the chief for Capirossi (PeePee) will come into our garage looking for him, asking for "quadrato", or something similar. My quest to find one of the infamous Lamborghini 12 cylinder tractors in the flesh was once again denied in Italy, but the search continues.

Saturday night, we came back to the hotel pretty late, just in time to see this enormous Scorpion sitting on the wall next to the front door. He was just chilling there. I don't know if this was some kind of sign or omen, but we all took photos and marvelled at the creature. There's an old story about the frog and scorpion that my friend loves to tell me, but that's another story for another day. Suffice it to say that lots of thoughts were bouncing through my head later that night, because this was the anniversary of my first race in MotoGP, and it meant a lot to me (if no one else, haha). Actually, it is very rare for someone to have started working mid-season, so I count myself as doubly lucky.

Up super early on raceday, just in time to catch Mr. Snail getting some action! Now this is the kind of good omen I can relate to, hahahaha.

We pulled into the circuit after forcing our way past hundred of people walking in to the track from all directions. They didn't seem to realize they were walking in the middle of the streets, or maybe they just didn't care, but there were tons of people and it took a little longer than normal to get our van into the parking area. Turns out all the regular parking was full, so we parked a little further away than normal. The skies were heavy and foreboding. What was this race going to bring? One problem with all the rain the weekend had brought was the mud. All the parking areas turned into little mudholes, and one night both my Team vans got stuck in the mud, unable to move. One crew pushed their van out, while another had to wait for a towtruck to save them. It was another little crazy moment that makes up my life in MotoGP, hahaha.

I'd like to give a shout out to all the Americans that I ran into at the race. Nancy (who brought the latest generation of MotoLiam stickers all the way from Los Angeles), Peter, Mrs. Beaubier, Norm V. Jordan, and all the rest. We had a nice evening after Friday's sessions catching up in the Alpinestar's hospitality unit, sharing stories and Euro-experiences involving the racing. It was really a pleasure.

Well, we should all know how the race turned out by now, as it's been more than a week since the event and, admittedly, I'm a little behind on working on my personal website, haha. Sunday night we were treated to yet another fantastic meal at the hotel, and we were joined by Bridgestone's top people because we were the top Bridgestone finisher in the race. The food was superb, the conversation light and exceptionally exuberant, and the finishing touch was this exquisite Grappa. I guess after all the wine, it should have tasted better, but I switched to beer shortly thereafter.

Thomas and I stayed up late into the night, re-watching the race and re-living the emotions that surrounded our success in Mugello. You couldn't have asked for a better night to have played out, there in the country with no internet, no mobile phone signal, just peace and nature, and some rocking race video!

The next morning we got up relatively early, for our drive back to Bologna. I had wanted to get an early start, so we would have time to visit with our friends at the Ducati factory before heading to the airport for our early afternoon flight, but everyone else was late to meet up, and we actually ended up driving to the circuit and then back to the hotel (to drop off some forgotten keys). When all was said and done, there just wasn't time enough to make the factory visit happen. It's ok, because honestly, I don't think we made any more friends that race. We barrelled through the hillsides, making good time through the winding roads, and eventually arrived in Bologna, tired, a little hung-over, and eagerly anticipating the Catalunya GP. Couldn't wait. Always - can't wait for the next race! Quick thank you to Daggs and Tezza from Australia, who called me Monday morning with a, "Bet it feels good to get that monkey off your back," call. You know what? IT DID! Thanks guys!!

Along the way, I thought about so many different experiences I've gone through just to get to this point, and while it can be a bit over-powering to remember everything, I'm ready for the next set of challenges. Some of the greatest challenges in the two years have been the emotional roller-coaster I've gone through, but as I continue racing, and learn little by little, I'm only getting stronger and more sure of myself and my choices. I have to stick by my convictions, because at the end of the night, they're all I have left.

Bologna's airport is small, and filled with little stores like Ferrari, and Ducati! We all checked in our luggage, getting in line ahead of the Factory Yamaha crew of Valentino, and then stopped by the store to buy some small souvenirs. Everyone chipped in a little something, and it's neat knowing that somewhere, somehow, part of the money goes to help fund our Factory and keep us racing. However small the circle is, it's still a circle, and it keeps going round and round. I picked up another set of mugs, to replace the Ducati Meccanica one I broke a couple months back while doing the dishes. This time I've got two, hahaha. Stay tuned people, Catalunya stories coming your way later this week!


aaaaah... Pasta...

I was intending to go to Mugello for the Dtm Race but, in the end, I'll try to go to Zandvoort, 30km away from Amsterdam...

As for Grappa, you really have to want some to enjoy it...


Great Job Liam. The characteristics and dynamics between Barros and Stoner at Mugello that led to the Catalunya race were evident in Caseys performance. Doncha think?! (merely rhetorical) G

Hi Liam...

Wow, what a season! My husband and I watch the races at Have seen you celebrating with your team - so cool to see Pramac on the podium and in the top 10. As a fan, I'm enjoying the switch to 800's. Not a good start to the season for my guy, Nicky but he'll get it dialed in and be ready to race at the front.

I was just wondering what you do during the off season? Do you have all that time off, or do you go to the post/pre-season testing?

Your blog is so much fun to read and I really enjoy all of the pictures you post. Thanks for allowing us an opportunity to share your moto gp adventure!

best regards,

For some reasons, the pic with the snails getting action can't be shown on my PC. Hey, wait, I've got Vista and its parental screening installed ;)

great stories, as ever !

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