A thing of the past, present and future: will a home hero bask in the glory this weekend?
8 riders, a total of 29 occasions. Four different circuits but all from the same country; there’s something about Italians rising to the occasions in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship and 2022 promises to be no exception. With a strong contingency of home riders aiming to put on a show in front of a partisan home crowd, the legacy of Italians on form at home is a real staple of WorldSBK’s presence in Italy. Let’s take a look back through history and pick out some of the memorable moments, whilst chatting to those Italian stars who this year, want to make more history.
The first Italian to win at home was the late great Fabrizio Pirovano, back at Monza in 1990, clinching a famous home double for himself aboard a Yamaha. Two years later, he did the same before Giancarlo Falappa joined the list in 1993, also for Ducati, with a double at Misano. Falappa’s last victory came in his last race before a career-ending injury, giving the Italian crowd a victory one last time in Race 2 at Misano, 1994.
As Falappa left the paddock as a racer, a star from the 500cc World Championship Grand Prix paddock was about to become a fan favourite in WorldSBK. Pierfrancesco Chili switched to World Superbike in 1995 and made an instant impact, winning in Race 2 at Monza in 1995; it would be the birth-place of his trait of crashing in Race 1 before going on to win Race 2, something that happened three times in four years for the charismatic Italian. Of his 17 wins, six came at home, including a thriller in 1996’s Race 2 at Monza, as well as his final victory, likewise a classic, from Misano Race 2 in 2004.
It would then be a three-year wait for the next home hero for Italy, but it was done in style as ‘Roman Emperor’ Max Biaggi won at Vallelunga in 2007, just 41km from Rome. Biaggi is the only Italian rider to win at three Italian circuits, with Vallelunga being the first before he took honours at Monza and Misano in 2010, both being doubles. Michel Fabrizio likewise won home races between Biaggi’s wait, the most notable being at Monza in Race 1, 2009, when long-time race leader Ben Spies ran out of fuel on the final corner of the final lap.
After those guys, Marco Melandri hit form and took the first of two wins at home in 2013, with Monza Race 1 being part of a thrilling final weekend for the circuit in WorldSBK, whilst the 2011 runner-up was then victorious at Misano for Ducati in 2017, Race 2, the first Italian to win for Ducati at Misano since Chili in 2004 and the 100th Italian win. After that, Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) delivered not just one but two sublime race victories, the first of three wins of the 2021 season.
One of the starring Italians ahead of the weekend, Rinaldi is going for a repeat performance: “I feel super happy to be here and to race at home, a track that I like. It’s a track where my friends and fans can come, and this is great! Everyone is very fast now; you can see from the first three rounds of the season which have been amazing. I think Alvaro, Toprak and Jonny will be tough to beat, but I think I can be in the battle, and I will try to win, and I will push my 120%.”
Aiming to become the first Italian to win on a Yamaha since Pirovano in 1990, Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) said: “It’s amazing because we are at home, so we get to race in Italy. We need to work a bit more on the bike to prepare the weekend but in the last race we worked very strong; for sure, we can do something good here. I will trust in myself and push on the bike. The last year wasn’t easy, it was a strange weekend. Now, I have a more confidence and experience, so we need to try and work and push on the bike. I am confident we can have a good weekend.”
For Independent rider Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing), he’s got his sights set on top Ducati pickings this weekend, despite having to adapt to a new crew in the opening rounds: “I’m really happy to be here at home! I want to see a lot of people in the paddock and to do a good weekend! I hope to arrive in front of the other Ducatis and finish inside the top five – it’s difficult but not impossible. For the moment, it’s not what I want to happen; I hope that from here, I can do a better job but it’s difficult because we have a completely new team. We started from zero this year so race by race, we are trying to understand all the guys, so I think it will be better for the rest of the season. I think that race by race, we start to do good results; every time, in the first races, we’ve not done so great but then in Race 2, we arrive in the top ten or close to the top five.”
Going for a strong result on his return after injury, Roberto Tamburini (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) stated his aims for Misano too: “It’s very special; it’s always very special and good to be at Misano. I live near the circuit so it’s special. During the summer, it’s a good period to be here. I will do my best, enjoying it is very important and we will see at the end of the weekend.”
Sammarinese rookie Luca Bernardi (BARNI Spark Racing Team) is as close as he gets to a home round, and he is also looking for success: “I’m very happy for this round, it’s my home round. I will try to have a good weekend and work with my team step by step. I’ll try to get a top ten, for me this is a good goal.”
Watch the drama unfold and see if an Italian can get their name in the history books with the WorldSBK VideoPass!