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Francesco Bagnaia at the 2017 Grand Prix of Qatar

Italy’s next biggest Grand Prix star, Pecco Bagnaia: “Mugello is really special…”

May 302017

One of the most anticipated and atmospheric rounds of the MotoGP FIM World Championship occurs this weekend. The swirling curves of Mugello hidden in the Tuscan region of Italy will witness another carnival-esque gathering for what will be the sixth appointment on the Grand Prix trail in 2017.

Speed, speed, speed: Mugello is outright and outrageous. Even the swarms of Italian athletes in the paddock that know every ripple and crevice salivate at the prospect. The ‘autodromo’ north of Florence is the glamorous stage for the country’s greatest champion – a certain #46 – but that factory Yamaha exhaust note is almost a piped pipe for a gaggle of other aspirants around him, including some of the exceptional talent at the heart of his VR46 Riders Academy.

Pecco Bagnaia INTERVIEW

Tell us about falling in love with the motorcycle…

I can remember being five or six and going with my father and uncle to Paul Ricard [racetrack in France, near Toulon]. It was the first time I wanted to try a bike. When I was seven I had a Beta 50 as a Christmas present and it was the first time I rode. It was amazing fun.

How was the relationship with your father and uncle…?

Good…but it was ‘my’ thing to ride a bike. I wasn’t pushed. I saw my Dad riding and just really wanted to try. I had a go at Basketball and Football but I wasn't good enough to play these games. The first time I rode a minibike was in 2005 – or 2006 maybe – and it was incredible that I was able to touch the ground with my knee straight away. I was thrilled and that was the start of it for me.

So going fast became a bit like a drug?

Yes…but then I wasn't riding that much on the minibike; maybe once or twice a week…and that was OK for me. Sometimes even twice a month. I think if you ride a lot of laps then it can get boring and repetitive. If you have to stop then you spend every day wanting to ride again. School was also boring for me and I was happy I stopped when I started in the world championship in 2013. It was impossible to compete and also follow the schooling. Now in the academy we are studying English, with lessons twice a week, and that is the most important thing to learn at the moment.

The VR46 Academy: can it sometimes be too much? Too much ‘moto’?

I like riding in the week and with the guys because we are all together and it is a good thing because you stay focussed on the bike. We probably do motorsport twice a week, maybe three times, so it is not about the bike every day. I like the gym work because we are together again and the competition stays! I don’t find it too much at the moment because I like it…in the future I don't know. Sunday is a day-off and we can do what we want but sometimes we are back on the bikes!

Being in Sky Racing Team VR46 you seem to have- Some pressure? Or more spotlight, attention, demands…

Yes…but we also have people that help us with that. Our team is very good in helping you understand why you haven’t made a good race. We have good support: in Austin I was not happy at all after the race [he was sixteenth] and Pablo [Nieto, Team Manager] and Uccio [Salucci, Academy boss] both spoke to me and reassured me. They said not to get too worried about the result because it is my first year in Moto2 and it was only the third race of the season. They said I had to learn a lot, and to make a race like this is normal. It was important to understand what I needed to do and what I had to change.

Did the journey to Grand Prix feel very fast?

It has felt like a fast journey in the last two years…before that not so much. Recently it felt like we’d get to Qatar, race and then have a sleep or two and then we’d be in Jerez! [round four]. It was too fast and you have trouble taking everything in but then, on the other side, it is nice because it feels like you are racing every ten days. When you are fast then the races cannot come quick enough and that happened for me in Moto3. Mugello is my favourite and every track is different and gives a new challenge. There are only two that I don’t really like: Austin and Sachsenring!

You seem like a guy who really savours his racing-

I enjoy it a lot!

There’s quite a bit of emotion on display but does that mean you get quite nervous?

Yes, I can be in the bathroom three or four times before a race! Italian GPs are obviously different because a lot of fans have travelled there for you but Mugello – on the first few laps – is really special. Misano is OK but Mugello is something else, mainly because of the track.