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Things I left in the pitlane

What can I say? Returning to the pit lane of Mugello as a spectator at the MotoGp and watching the fastest riders in the world retrace the same asphalt that I’ve ridden myself is priceless. In those moments, being so close to the people who have become living legends, in those moments you hope that being this close to the action, something of their talent and skill will stick to you, too. That some particle of magical ability to pilot Grand Prix bikes ends up in your lungs and that can give you that extra something next time you’re on track. While I was waiting at the pitlane wall, the riders were preparing for the free practice session. In a few milliseconds, the bikes are transformed from floating spaceships with no wheels, resting upon paddock stands, to racing machines ready to unleash hell. No second to lose, as soon as the clock starts everyone enters the track. A whirlwind of colors accompanied by the roar of the engines that, each with its own particular voice, create a chorus that thunders through the green hills of Tuscany.

  

A paddock life

The MotoGP paddock is a mobile city, made up of caravans and campers that resemble hotels on wheels, from grandiose hospitality buildings belonging to the various teams that are assembled in an afternoon and are dismantled even faster. A small city that swarms with mechanics, pilots on scooters of all kinds, umbrella girls that walk with infinitely high heels and lucky guests that go about, without knowing what or who they can meet around the corner. There is something enchanted in the precarious transitoriness of all this. A perfect city, clean, polished for a weekend that disappears into nothingness only to reappear at the next stage of the championship.

The inhabitants of the Box

Some with their eyes fixed on monitors that show the detailed telemetry of the motorbikes that have just returned from the practice sessions, others wear long mechanic’s aprons. They move with speed and in perfect harmony: put the fairings, remove the fairings. Skillful hands that work on the bikes while they’re lifted onto the aluminium benches, making sure that everything works perfectly, to earn even a thousandth of a second on the lap and to safeguard the rider’s lives. Do not get distracted by anything, the eyes and minds focused on the impending work to be done. They don’t get distracted at all, except for a little cat doll that has become a unicorn and has decided to rest a bit on the rider’s Bike-Lift Europe paddock chair.

Young champions are growing

In the far corner of the paddock, there is a parallel reality, made up of many riders. Born between 2003 and 2007, the participants prepare for the practice session of the RedBull Rookies Cup. With their orange suits and their helmets, they look like a strange mix between an army of stormtroopers and a school trip. They proceed, pushing their bikes, along the narrow corridor created by the campers of the GP riders. Most are seated on the bikes, some, perhaps among those born in 2007, walk next to the bike while it’s being led on foot by a team technician. The procession stops in front of the entrance to the track. They wait, they smile and after the signal, they start pushing their KTMs again. Then they disappear into the track entrance, looking like a huge orange centipede.

We greeted the concentrated riders, the lucky guests, the pit people and the future champions and headed home, while the fans were starting to build entire villages made of tents and campers, the fields, which for a weekend turn into huge parking lots and probably bring more profit in three days than in a full year of agricultural activity and the people who for two nights, even if they want, will not sleep under the yellow sky of Mugello..

 

Text: Bella Litinetski

Photo: Idan Greenberg

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