Firstly, apologies for the break in service. I realise it’s been a whole 6 months since I’ve posted. In that time I’ve changed jobs twice, battled health challenges, flew to America to watch MotoGP, gone to several bike shows, challenged my trackday demons at Silverstone and put several thousand miles on my bike. I am aiming to do a weekly post going forward, so please bear with me.
So. A year ago, World Ducati Week 2016 was winding down. I had decided in 2015 that I would go to the bi-annual festival of all things Ducati, and plans started coming together the first few months of last year. I was getting a lift with my bike in a van to the north of Italy, where I’d meet up with a fellow member of the owner’s club I belong to, as she was travelling through Europe by herself on her Monster for a few weeks, stopping off to go to World Ducati Week.
We planned to ride from just north of Milan to Cattolica where we’d booked a great hotel on the beach with a pool. Having never ridden outside the UK, I tied a little picture of a bear to my right hand mirror, to remind me to “bear right” on the roads in Italy… Both of us were riding in full leathers, in 35 degree heat, so every hour or so, we’d stop off at service stations to take in some fluids and enjoy the air-con. We took a detour to the Ducati Factory and Museum in Bologna to enjoy more fantastic air conditioning, and see the historic bike collection, which included Casey Stoner’s Moto GP championship winning bike and leathers. Casey is tiny! An interesting fact to note, that 20% of the workforce on the construction line is female.
Arriving in Cattolica with heatstroke, we had a swim in the hotel pool, and went for dinner. I needed an early night, as for some bizarre reason, I thought it would be “fun” to do my first ever track session at the notoriously tricky Misano track, with no instruction, in aforesaid 35 degree heat…
Arriving at the circuit the next day, the first stop was the Ducati Service desk, where I needed to get my front brake bled, and mirrors removed. I queued up to register for the track session, and was asked if I wanted to get official pictures from the experience, and I thought “Why not”, as I never actually had a picture taken of me on the bike before! Also I was thinking it might be good in case I either threw myself or my bike at the scenery, to remember what we looked like! No safety briefing, the tyre people let some PSI out my tyres, and I was duly sent out to line up in pit lane. A man came over and asked if I spoke Italian, when I said no, English, he got a Dutch man to come and tell me if I saw blue flags to not do anything stupid, as somebody faster was coming up behind.
At this point I have to say the only coaching I had was watching lovely Neil Hodgson do his Hot Lap from BT Sport. I was trying to remember which corner was the second gear corner, and we were waved off onto the track. Within half a lap I got my first blue flag. The session was a blur of blue flags, and trying not to do a sick when I went on the kerbs at one of the nasty hairpin bends. In my defence, I had the lowest powered bike out there, and I managed 10 laps in my 25 minutes. At least I didn’t stack it, unlike the chap on the Sport Classic. Oh dear.
Then I had to be helped off with my leathers, which involved me lying on the ground and my mate pulling the legs whilst I tried to keep hold of my pants (what is this dignity you speak of?), then I dumped them in the cloakroom area, and wafted around in a stylish cold shoulder dress and cutoff jeans. Now being Scottish and naturally pale blue, even the Factor 50 I was slathering on was no good, so I retreated to the international village for misting fans and shade. Unfortunately, I also got an alert on my handy WDW app, that lovely Andrea Iannone was about to do a signing at the Dainese truck over the other side of the circuit, so I scuttled from shady area to shady area like a cockroach to go meet lovely Iannone. He modelled the airbags from the D-Air suit, and showed how they were triggered, signed a few things, including my hat and t-shirt, then disappeared. At which point my oddly shaped sunburn started to appear, courtesy of my stylish cold shoulder dress. I was like a pink and white panda.
After such a momentous day, I was happy to get back to the polar climes of our air conditioned hotel room, where I could shower and change for a “civilised dinner” with the rest of the owners club members at Valentino Rossi’s Da Rossi pizza restaurant in Tavullia. We decided so that I could have a celebratory Aperol Spritz, we’d leave the bikes at the hotel and cab it there and back.
The pizza was…the best pizza I’d ever had in my life, it was a spicy aubergine and chilli vegetarian pizza, washed down with a couple of Aperol Spritz and some Limoncello shots. When in Italy I guess… We got a cab back to Cattolica, and my friend who spoke Italian was chatting to the driver, who told her that lovely Iannone was staying in a hotel round the corner from us in Cattolica! My respect for his privacy made sure that I didn’t go try hang out there though. Sometimes, I can be sensible…
On the Saturday, we went back to the circuit, where I got in for a special pit lane tour. I met Davide Giuliano, and very lovely Danilo Petrucci, then….Casey Stoner was going to make an appearance. I turned round and Gigi Dall’igna was behind me asking everyone if they came to see Casey and were they excited!?!?! Casey duly appeared and it was like the second coming of Christ. People were passing babies over to him, and only my old roller derby elbow skills got me to the front of the queue where I got a picture of Casey and a signed picture. I was glad to get out of there!!!
After that, we watched the Parade of Honour, where Troy Bayliss stacked it in front of us doing a donut, then I found a shady spot in the stand to watch the drag races, and was amazed to see Iannone wheeling an X Diavel up pitlane, and Scott Redding beat Casey Stoner to win the drag race! I went back to the hotel afterwards and got changed for dinner, however with Italy v Germany being shown on a screen in the town centre, it was chaotic trying to find somewhere, and I had a disappointing pizza. I was cheered up afterwards by finding a balloon seller with a giant Masha and the Bear balloon, which I duly paraded up and down the town centre, and brought it back to the UK.
On the Sunday, events were clearly starting to wind down at the circuit, I did some last minute shopping (Termignoni shirt, Iridium visor…) and we took some time out to go visit Coriano, and pay our respects to Marco Simoncelli. I found it really hard and had something in my eye the whole time…. The picture of Marco in the Santa hat in the museum got me, as did the little board with his new website address he’d been waving at the camera during the rained out qualifying, the day before the crash. I can actually remember mentioning the board to my flatmate after the qualifying at the time as I think she missed it.
We headed back to Cattolica, chilled on the beach for a bit, and dropped my bike off in Tavullia, where the van was parked up that was taking it back to London. Our last night’s dinner was only spoiled by sudden onset of heatstroke, where I had to run back to the hotel as I was either going to faint or puke, and my friend came back shortly after, having settled the bill to find me lying on my bed with the air conditioning cranked up to Arctic and the bear balloon bobbing round the room.
We had our last breakfast of peach salad and crepes on the Monday morning, and I waved my friend off on her continuing journeys through Europe by Monster, as the van arrived to take me on the long dull slog back to London.
Next time, I’d definitely do the nice hotel option again, that was great, I’d probably do one of the guided tours though, as I felt I could have made more of the surroundings, it is absolutely unmissable though. Roll on 2018!
I bet George will stack it doing a donut this time. If he’s not been sacked by then.