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Franco Morbidelli at the 2016 MotoGP in Brno, Czech Republic

Franco Morbidelli: “I like to destroy boundaries between me and people”

Nov 172016

This year the last five rounds of MotoGP visited Spain (twice), Japan, Australia and Malaysia and there is only one rider from all three classes of Grand Prix that lifted a podium trophy in each race of the continent-hopping stint. 21 year old Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS star Franco Morbidelli wanders into the compact team hospitality at a sunny Valencia for the 2016 curtain closer.

Seeming very much part of the furniture, Franco is of (half) Italian stock and is a highly rated member of Valentino Rossi’s VR46 Academy; unearthing the next generation of motorcycle racing gems. This presents a challenge for #21 to stand out from the wealth of his co-‘pupils’, countrymen and Spanish youngsters breaking lap-records in the Moto3 and Moto2 categories on the scrabble to reach the peak of MotoGP. Morbidelli has etched a curious profile however not only thanks to a sterling second half of 2016 in Moto2 where he was one of the highest points scorers (and just missed out on third spot in the championship standings, mainly due to a slow and irregular start to his maiden year with the title-winning team) but also courtesy of an exciting riding style, easy demeanour and an articulacy unusual for his profession and certainly his age group.

"I am a guy who takes things step-by-step and doesn’t rush too much."

Your ‘job’ is pretty exhilarating. Can you explain what it feels like and what drives you?

I think this is one of the most adrenaline fuelled things that you can do. Just going on a bike gets the adrenaline going anyway so to move at a certain speed is not something you do everyday. To think about it makes me really enjoy this sport. Of course sometimes you struggle and you don't have fun, you crash and have pain and you have to get back on the bike but this sport is really special. Thinking about it gives extra value to what I am doing [with my life]. There is the pressure to do well and I feel it…but at the moment not too much! I think real pressure will come when you need to win a championship and there are some vital moments to deal with.

"Results give me confidence"

How do you think people see you? Some young, crazy guy or someone articulate and smooth on the bike? In this sport – especially as an Italian – it must be hard to make your own identity…

I think people see me as kinda mellow and I’m like that. I’m a quiet guy. I don't worry too much about things. My identity is a bit of a mess because I am half Brazilian and half Italian and in Italy I am half from Rome and half from Pesaro! I don't have a fixed origin. I am a big mix! And I like that. I like to destroy the boundaries between me and the person I am talking with and so languages is a great tool. With a Spanish guy I try to speak Spanish, with a French guy in French…I like to feel closer to the person I am talking with.

What about the VR46 academy? How is that experience? It seems to be more of a lifestyle than a training group…

It is a lifestyle. I have the luck to live there but some of the other riders from different areas had to come to that zone in Pesaro to be there. It is a lot of fun and you live it everyday. You train and you live for your sport, for the bike. Everything you do is to get to the top level in this place [MotoGP]. So it is a lifestyle but it is not too hard! I don't train at 6am for many hours. We live and train and it feels good and easy.

How long have you been based there?

I’m twenty-one now…so eleven years. I feel great there. I love the quiet, the nice landscapes and the seaside and all this stuff. I love being there. Misano is close. Overall it is a nice zone of Italy because you are five minutes from the sea and then not far at all from the mountains. You have a lot of choice: mountain bike, skiing…but I like more the beach!

More than a good feeling on the bike?

Yeah. I’m insecure, so when I see that things are good on the paper [results sheets] then I am really sure that what I have done is good. Actually the only thing that matters is the paper. If you are feeling good and confident but the paper doesn't show it then it’s not a good thing. Feeling great and seeing the proof is how you build up confidence, and going into a race you know what you can do and what you can aim for.