Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Catching up. Part3. Mugello, Rossi, Gelato and a little Russian glamour

Italy is beautiful.
After three plane transfers, Salt Lake to Minneapolis, then Minneapolis to Amsterdam onto Bologna, I'm more than happy to sit outside the airport and wait for Mr Motomatters, AKA David Emmett to arrive.  We'll be sharing the travelling and a villa in Tuscany whilst we cover the Grand Prix at Mugello.  Unbeknownst to us we arrive on June 2nd.  Which is a national holiday in Italy and it is only when we arrive at our villa are we informed by Simone, the villa owner, that all the shops are closed.  Hmm, we have no food, water, BEER, whatever.  He did mentioned that there might be some shops open int he centre of Florence/Firenze, so without further ado, we set off into the heart of Firenze in search of things to eat.
The centre of Florence is now a permit only access city, however, on holidays, it's okay to drive into the city centre.  So we did. Fortunately, we found some shops open and were able to at least buy exactly what we needed to create dinner for that evening.  We also had a lightning, commando photo stop tour, in other words pulling up, stopping,  hopping out the car, taking photos, and then back into the car and off again fortunate in the fact that there was very little traffic.  A rare event indeed.  With a gelato to round off the the arrival walkabout it was back to base.
Thursday, late afternoon, I spent a couple of hours in the company of Nadia Giletti.  Having walked around on the Tuesday with David Emmett, I spent a couple of hours walking around Florence with Nadia taking photos (of her).  Exploring a side of photography that is new to me and one I'd like to pursue in greater depth.  I was fortunate enough that Nadia was happy to be my subject.  No, in reality I was thrilled. She has a presence and is very comfortable with herself, which made taking photographs of her in situ, with large groups of people looking on, very easy.  For me, it is something I have to overcome as I always feel I'll peeling back the layers of people.  I always feel like I'm intruding on someones privacy.  That said. Thursday was a good day.  
There aren't may words to describe Tuscany.  The feeling about being in the countryside has a greater effect on the senses than words can describe.  From the fireflies in the evening, the soft warm early morning light.  The little tuffs of fluff that seem to be a part of the air in the Italian countryside.  The softness of the air.  It's immersive. Everything from the start of the day through to the end has colour. The trip to the track took us along single lane roads that were devilishly winding, in places with drop offs that wouldn't be good for the car.  On the way back form the track in the evenings, we would drive pass torch lit entrance ways to 17th century hilltop castles.
With the hillsides covered in olive trees.  Houses covered in rose bushes and fields full of poppies,  it was sometimes difficult to think we'd be heading to a race track.  That said, it was a great way to start and end ones day. Casting my mind back to 2006 during the 990 era,  I never made it to race day.  I had a great Friday back then, and it was a full days of on track action.  Followed by the Saturday, the traditional Valentino Rossi Mugello Helmet unveiling.  However, during the afternoon I would develop a temperature.  Sunday morning, we drove to the track, but after getting to the gate, I felt too unwell.  Emily gave away her tickets to a lucky family and we took an easy day out and went to Lucca.
Not this year! I felt fine, the weather was good, the valleys surrounding the race track were lush and green and it looked like everything was set to be a great weekend of racing.  That would all change on Saturday.  When Valentino Rossi had a nasty high side and broke his lower leg. Without having to go into details as no doubt it has been reported on ad-nauseum, it was interesting to watch the effect this had on the mood race track and more importantly on the fans who were in attendance.  
I was at the medical centre watching events unfold as they brought back Rossi's very broken Yamaha M1 on the back of a recovery vehicle.  Now, I understand the level of support this talented man has worldwide, but watching people openly cry as they gathered around the truck was something else to see.  It was almost like watching a funeral cortege.  Photographers, TV crews and fans alike were gathered around this truck all craning their necks, reaching out with cameras in hand just to get a shot of this damaged bike.  As I mentioned to Chris Jonnum of RoadRacerX, it was as if someone had shot the Pope…
Then, people started to leave the track.  There were traffic james outside the track at 3pm, something that would've been unheard of in a typical race weekend.  People were leaving in droves.  What would this mean for Sunday?  It was like the genie had been let out of the bottle and had evaporated to boot.  The party boy racer wouldn't be here on Sunday.  With news updates coming in minute by minute, it was apparent that Valentino Rossi had sustained quite a nasty injury. Taken into surgery immediately, it transpired he would be out for a good few races to come.  The chatter in the media room changed from what happened to what would happen?  With an already rather thin grid, things could look a little desperate.
Sunday arrives, and it looked like the fans turn up as normal to watch the race and to also send get well wishes to their injured hero.  With banners all over the race track, a telephone interview with His Rossiness from hospital it was (almost) business as usual.  It did look like the economy had taken a toll on the number of spectators attending from previous years, and the smoke bombs, especially those in yellow, appeared to be down in numbers, but the passion for the racing and what Mugello is about, was and is still there.
All the races went off with out a hitch, with some interesting crashes.   In the 125 race there was a huge high side (which left pieces of the bike high up in the crash fencing) then in the Moto2 race a bike went down, then jumped the track about 100 feet way from me, landing on top of the air fence.  This job does have it's dangerous moments. Sadly, the race wasn't terribly exciting, with Dani Pedrosa taken the lead and simply running away with it.  Jorge Lorenzo would finish second with tearful Andrea Dovizioso taking third.  I was also very grateful for the help from Andrew Northcott on Sunday allowing me to pillion around the track with him during the MotoGP race.  The service road doesn't need any more traffic and Andrew makes light work of covering a race and I always feel I learn something valuable.
I still don't get a full weekend at home. Next update Silverstone...

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