Mugello, Italy 2003
RW editors Sam Fleming and Melissa Berkoff were sent to Mugello Italy to report on the off track events of the MotoGP. In between rescuing stranded 250 teammembers, borrowing scooters and, eventually, escaping from the track through a partially completed railroad tunnel, they submitted the following information.
Kato had friends all around the world.
These trucks have been parked by an obsessive-compulsive with a GPS. The first row of trucks is the team transporters for the MotoGP and the big 250 teams. The smaller 250 teams and 125 teams are out in the hinterlands. The BMW cup teams aren’t even allowed in the paddock. The second row of trucks are for the tires (remember how few teams there are compared to the number of trailers of tires) and the hospitality trucks. The hospitality trucks fold out to create restaurants, discos and bars complete with faux hardwood floors, comfy furniture and video games. Some of these are as big as 1600 square feet. The last row, in the far distance, is the motorhomes for the riders.
This is Ivano Beggio. He owns, for all intents and purposes, Aprilia. He called a press conference at Mugello to address the Italian press who have been increasingly shrill in their attacks on Aprilia’s lack of results in MotoGP. Since the entire press conference was held in Italian I can only tell you that he thinks the world of Colin Edwards and that Aprilia might move away from their Cosworth engineered triple next year.
MotoGP bikes do not simply get wiped down after a track outing, they are stripped, washed, inspected and re-assembled. On a MotoGP practice day the riders only get two sessions (one in the AM, one in the PM) for a single hour each. Not a lot of time if you are still trying to find race settings or test components. Here the Proton mechanics wash bodywork and wheels (they take the front rotors off the rims anytime the wheels are off the bike) while their pit models pose for pictures with spectators.
On Saturday evening Randy Mamola was giving rides on a Ducati GP bike to select Ducati VIPs. Here he is about to set the front wheel back down after a front straight rise induced powerlift. These bikes are so punishingly loud that virtually any exposure to the exhaust with unprotected ears will result in permanent hearing damage. Melissa demonstrates improvised ear guards on the ambulance road.
Saturday night at Mugello and the hillsides are packed with rabid race fans. The discomfort of trying to sleep in a tent on a hillside like this is moot since sleep would be impossible with air-launched explosions, dead-revved megaphoned motorcycles and other sonic intrusions. In the background you can see the Mugello basin slowly filling with smoke and dust from campfires, cooking fires, trash fires, motorcycle exhaust and burning oil.
The fans at Mugello go to incredible lengths to create elaborate camp set-ups in the hills. While it is not uncommon to see wooden pavilions erected to serve as common dining areas for twenty or so cooperatively minded souls, an entire Quonset style disco complete with lights, massive sound system and flares was more unusual.
At club Vale the party had not started at 11:00pm.
Noise is a very popular pastime at Mugello. The KZ1000 with a ten inch megaphone, and countless open piped scooters and open piped mopeds paled in comparison to a four cylinder Alpha Romeo engine with exhausts carefully tuned to create maximum decibels. The white stack in the background was attached to a smaller car engine whose primary purpose was to create smoke. The white stack would be filled with motor oil before the engine was started.
A chainsaw with the muffler and bar removed creates an effective handheld noisemaker. Placing it against Armco does seem to help the sound carry. When the engine seizes, simply yell “Vale! Vale!” until hoarse.
Party Central. A dirt road runs all the way through the camping hills of Mugello. This road was host to an open piped scooter GP throughout the night which saw freight trains of mad Italian youth ripping through the murk with bandannas tied over their mouths due to the smoke and dust. We are unclear whether the lack of massive accidents occurring on a continual basis (this is, after all, a two way dirt road and most of the vehicles did not have headlights) was due to the fact that Italians are the best drivers in the world or pure luck. Regardless, the main crowd pleaser at this intersection was to hold the throttle of whatever vehicle you had wide open (preferably in neutral) to make lots of noise. With straight piped mopeds it was preferred that you did this on the stand until the motor seized, wait for the piston to cool down, and repeat. It should also be pointed out that in this sea of controlled anarchy were kids as young as five or six and adults as old as seventy. Family fun Mugello GP style. Picture, if you will, just for a minute, how the Daytona security guards would react to this?
The farthest thing from anyone’s mind right now is the race.
There are dual fences surrounding the Mugello circuit. Certain portions of this fence have been reinforced with razor wire to prevent a track invasion. Although hard to tell in this photograph the spectators have already cut a three by three-foot hole in the interior fence.
Ducati fan club seating.
Melissa and I stayed at a charming villa twelve kilometers from the track. At ten o’clock in the morning we could hear the race bikes clear enough to distinguish the Ducati from the Kawasaki from the terrace while eating breakfast. That is how loud these bikes are.
These fans are supposed to be behind the fence forty feet in the background. The riot police on hand ignored the trespass.
Troy Bayliss having a tough day but at least he wasn’t taken out by his teammate.
This is the Biaggi fans storming the track. The Rossi fans stormed from the other side. The track was quickly overrun with fans filling the ambulance road (trapping the corner workers on the far side of the track), the track and the gravel traps. Organizers had predicted this and had cancelled the victory lap as a precaution. Bikes crossed the start-finish and then immediately entered the pits.
The much-maligned Suzuki is, of course, still the fourth fastest race bike on the planet.