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Franco Morbidelli 2020 pre season shoot
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MotoGP athlete insight: Franco Morbidelli

Apr 012020

His name, Franco, derives from ancient Germanic and it literally means “free man”. You look at this genuine and open-hearted 25-year-old racer, and you have to admit that this name suits him well.

Helmet on, Franco Morbidelli is used to pushing the limits and challenging himself, whereas off track he has a sunny disposition, and his contagious smile makes him different from the rest of the MotoGP riders.

Life has not been too kind to him. The premature loss of his father could have knocked him down, Franco instead, found in himself an inner strength to react, and to win.

Despite all this Franco is an extremely relaxed person to encounter; always smiles. Maybe because running through his veins he has the breeze of Recife – the Venice of Brazil - , or maybe because he had to grow up too fast and he knows what are his priorities in life.

Born in Rome to a Brazilian mother and Italian father, as a child, Franco Morbidelli is the son of two cultures. “From my mom Cristina, I inherited the love for samba, nature, and life. Calm and relaxation come from the Brazilian side of my family, the feeling of simply letting go and going with the flow” confesses Franco, “from my dad Livio, I learned to be as serious as possible at work. These two souls co-exist in me. I remember fondly playing football barefoot on the white beaches of Recife and the soccer tournaments with my friends in Tavullia. Friends and bikes have accompanied my life. Bikes are freedom and fun, like samba”.

Despite his talent, he didn’t follow the normal path of the other riders who normally start in the national championship, and then join the world circus in the Moto3 entry class. Due to budget issues, Franco made his international debut in the European Superstock 600 in 2011, and earned his early racing success on production bikes. All the hard work paid off in 2013 as he won the European Superstock 600 title with Team Italia. This gave him three wild card entries with the Gresini Racing squad, followed by his first full season in Moto2 in 2014. His first podium came at Indianapolis in 2015, while his first victory arrived in Qatar 2017 after 53 GP races.

 

“Winning in Doha my first GP after 53 races was emotional. It’s hard to believe, but in all those years I was never obsessed by the idea of not winning. The lack of success was not a burden because I knew that it would have to be a result of my HARD work, and finally we made it. You have to use your head and continue to believe in yourself, no matter what. If you don’t use your head, you don’t last too long in this sport”, states Franco remembering his first GP win in Doha 2017. Franco dedicated his first victory to his father Livio. Since that day, Morbidelli has been unstoppable and with eight wins, and twelve podium-finishes he scored the Moto2 world title.

 

“Why do I feel special? It’s a long story. I am a rider who didn’t arrive to MotoGP through the normal path of Moto3 and Moto2, as the majority of other riders do. On the contrary, my background is Superbike. Despite that, I succeeded in winning the Moto2 championship. I have had some good results in MotoGP, and now I want to achieve more, I want to improve. I am aware that I am a fast rider, and I can be even faster. I have worked hard over the winter to become a better rider and a better athlete”.

“I was one of the first riders to join Valentino at The Ranch. I think the year was 2012. There were only the ovals at that time and “the Americana” challenges with Valentino, Marco Simoncelli, and Mattia Pasini remain epic”. Morbidelli’s memories are vivid, because six years later he is still a rider for the VR46 Academy.

“Being part of the VR46 Academy makes me feel more responsible. If a rider like Valentino believed in me, it means that he saw something in me that I didn't know. From the moment

I understood this, I always tried to push myself to limits that I did not know I could achieve.

“I learned a lot from training at the Ranch with Rossi, from his advice, but also from simply watching how he moves, how he rides. Just think of a kid who plays football and trains every day with Lionel Messi! I know Vale since I was 13. At the beginning I was emotional, and then I started to divide the rider from the friend. I learned a lot from him as a person."

 

Always driven by the athlete’s tension to improve himself, Franco Morbidelli continued to learn, and tried to push the limits a bit further season after season. “From Valentino, the rider, I learned to love what we are doing, not only on track during the races, but also while training. From the man, I learned that simplicity is something that adds value, not the other way around.

“The 2019 season was also an important lesson, it was maybe the first time that I was beaten by my teammate, and believe me, it hurts. Having Quartararo as teammate is a source of pressure, but also a consistent motivation to grow. From Fabio I learned his hard work ethic. Over the winter I trained harder than ever on the bike, and I increased the number of hours in the gym. I also put order in my life, changing small but important habits. I tackled the winter training more focused and determined”.

 

Athletes never stop learning. “What did I learn from Marc Marquez? That in order to win, you have to be willing to do anything”.

 

“I believe that one life is not enough. Some years ago, I would have loved to study at the university, do a normal life in addition to my career as a professional rider. There are many things that I would have loved to do, but I have done a switch in my mentality. Now I’m completely focused on the life that I’m living. In this moment bikes are my reason to live. Right now, I cannot see anything else. I’m young, hungry and focused on a passion, that I’m cultivating since I was a kid. I’m aware that it won’t be always like this, but I’m still young and I want to fully enjoy this moment”.

 

The hard work paid and Morbidelli showed a strong pace in the winter test, finishing the final day of the Qatar official test, second at only 33 thousand of a second behind factory Monster Energy Yamaha rider Maverick Vinales. “I feel I’m facing the 2020 season as a better rider and a better athlete. I have the right mind set. The bike is the same as last year with some engine and chassis updates. I’m feeling very good on the bike, and I aim at improving myself. Last year, I did some decent results, but I want more. My target? Riding faster and fighting for the podium”.

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