MotoGP Mugello Experience
by Michael Slater
It all started back in March this year, when I received a call from Matt, asking if I was up for a trip to Mugello for the MotoGP. Camping for the weekends events with my South African boys is always a treat and we had a great time doing so last year at the Silverstone UK circuit for the World Superbike. Of course I couldn't turn the offer down, so tickets were purchased for the trackside camping and flights and the course was set for an unforgettable weekend away with the boys. I must firstly say a big thanks to my partner, we had just had a baby and she was determined that to get away and let off some steam, would do me good. So the adventure began.
After a short flight from London to Florence, Italy, we landed in the heat and hustle of Florence airport where we made our way into Florence historical centre for the first night. We linked up with our other petrol-heads, who flew in from Durban via Dubai. All knowing that we had a few days camping ahead, so we all made sure to fully use and abuse the simple beds and nice warm showers the fullest in the side alley 2 star hotel, which was pleasantly priced at 4 star rates, only to enjoy a biscuits and jam for breakfast, we then decided to make use of the city centre farmerís market, getting provisions that we thought would be a problem to find at the local town near the circuit. Stocked up on everything from toothpick, t-bone steaks, garden chairs and braai grills we then called an equally expensive taxi to Mugello.
After a short drive north from the city through the lovely Italian countryside where Villas can be seen on ever hilltop, we arrived at Mugello circuit, with over 300 days of sunny humid weather per year, itís surely an absolute dream place to live. Arriving in the quiet town next to the circuit, which had already began to ooze and buzz after being transformed into a lively hustle and bustle of gorgeous streets filled of Iron Horses and live street music gigs, guarded by local police armed with automatic assault rifles, we found ourselves dropped at the entrance gate to the Pallagio.
the streets of the city of Mugello
Bradley Smith on the Monster Yamaha and Marc Marquez stop on the grid
Cal Crutchlow on the works Ducati
Marc Marquez a board the works Repsol Honda on the grid
Jorge Lorenzo Movistar Yamaha
Andrea Iannone on the Parmac Racing Ducati
Marc Marques launches his Honda at the start
at the start of the race...
some Rossi fans in the stands
Lorenzo and Marquez fighting it out...
Marquez takes the flag AGAIN :-)
I must try getting off like that - all my buddies will laugh at me, s'true
Valentino Rossi waving
the streets of Mugello at night
the crowd after the main (last) race
more of the crowd
Lorenzo and Rossi after the race
It was at this point when the excitement hit me, where I expected a camping site to be outside of the circuit grounds, I had just realized that we were going to set up our tents right next to the track boundary fence. I could literally sit on my deckchair, have a braai and beer without having to move an inch in order to catch all of the action.
As you can imagine, we trekked down the mountainous hill into the throng of yellow branded Rossi buff, where every tent, camper van and deck chair had the Doctorís stamp proudly expressed. Being it that this was Rossiís 300th GP appearance, might have made a small contribution to this fact.
As we South Africans do, we coordinated a welcomed arrival and set up before the sun fell beyond the horizon the rain set in while we cooked up some T-bones and polished off some beers.
I soon realized there would be no rest for our wicked bunch, thanks to the endless make merry atmosphere we had landed ourselves right in the middle of, every second camp had a live disco adding to the relentless revving of motor bikes and chainsaws. A bit like the Vuvuzela (Zulufella) at a South African soccer match. It was nice at first but became a little maddening later.
We even came across a 650 Yamaha thumper motor built into a frame with a megaphone type made-to-fit exhaust, which served as a deafening rev king for the valley that night, taking the revving cake crown. Which we gladly had to help put out, when it caught on fire during night 2 of the wildness.
The only thing that soothed my sleepless night in the morning was the nice hot shower and a beer breakfast, but it was all good for a weekend of buzz that Mugello delivered. Fuel for the new day of qualifying sessions, this trip was proving to be a treat.
Fortunately, we had set up camp right next to the second to last track corner, this corner had a perfect view for some great pics, a slow blind corner that followed just after short straight. Having the GP pilots slow down to a perfect speed for some lovely cornering shots.
Settling down on Saturday night, I made friends with a nice and cheerful group of Italian locals, we literally broke bread and shared a few beers, where I managed to milk some inside information from them about the event and its traditionsÖ
First and foremost; Mugello never sleeps, this is a 72 hour party, beginning at sunrise on practice day and finishing the night of race day.
Second; to the Italian people and fellow Europeans supporting this event every year, religiously, this event has doubled in price over the last three years, therefore not even half as much people are joining in on the fun as usual, so my question is why? Why do the event organizers feel the need to plunder the enthusiasts for every cent they have?
The price they ask?.... about 300 Euro for a Bronze ticket, which will allow you to pitch a tent with a standard entrance to the track. To get grub and drinks, you can expect to pay12 Euro for a beer and burger. A full mixed grill with a bread roll is 14 Euro, a bit on the expensive side if you ask me, I heard that Spain is much cheaper.
After a good feed and laugh with my newly made friends, I made sure to plug my ears up, popped a sleeping tablet and crashed like a log for the night, Yeah, thatís right, slept through all the celebration in view of being perfectly rested and looking forward to the big day.
As luck has it, we had the sweetest main grandstand seats for the big race and I must say when that grid of finely tuned Iron Horses, whizzed away from the starterís flag, its a glorious feeling that every petrol head gets a hard on for (I think).
The earth trembles as the sound of a pack of beasts sing in furious harmony, pushing every spectator to their feet in a screaming frenzy, as the pulse rate in every person reaches that of a bomb disposal expert at the heat of a moment.
And what a race it was... with Lorenzo and Marques fighting to secure that all important first place finish, the crowd roaring, grand stands shaking. An impossible feat to capture a photo of a passing bullet speed machine, piloted by a fearless warrior with water melon sized balls of steel. Most definitely the best 42 minutes of my 2014. My favourite - Marques, delivered an unbeatable performance, adding to his spectacular 6th race win in 6 races this year, what a man!
Another bonus of having main grandstand seats and a 300mm lens, is a view of the pit lane happenings.
I also managed to catch few good shots of your common day to day life as a mechanics of a pilot getting on the go for the world MotoGP series. The end of the race produced a massive sea of supporters that could be seen swelling over the fences for the entire length of the track, before rushing toward the pavilion, for a shoulder to shoulder celebration and congratulations to their idol, THE DOCTOR.
From the roaring start of the MotoGP race, to the non stop partying and support of the Italians found on every inch of the track, the experience was a once in a life time, fantastic ball of fun, this a must do event for any MotoGP fan who wants to place the cherry on the top of their petrol-head experience cake.
Just a footnote for anyone travelling from South Africa, Iíd say you need to budget for about R30 000 all in (2014). Thatís including a couple extra days to catch a tour of the nearby and most excellent factories and museums, such as Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and Ducati, to name a few.
Words and Photos by Michael Slater