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Maria & Brett's HUGE Trip 06-07-08-09-? ok, so the Socceroos lost in 'that' penalty against Italy; Adriatic summers aren't long enough (bliss!); and we found that you should never use the term "Eastern Bloc" when talking to a Czech (Central Europe, please).

San Marino MotoGP

SAN MARINO | Thursday, 13 September 2007 | Views [5138] | Comments [4]

Valentino Rossi's home town, Tavullia. Waiting for a party that never came...

Valentino Rossi's home town, Tavullia. Waiting for a party that never came...

Following the storm that was Brno MotoGP, we packed up the mini-office-in-brewery that served us well over the weekend, returned hotel keys and dropped off scooters to their rightful rental owners. We all fell asleep on the 3 hour trip back to Prague. Thankfully we arrived at a civilised time in the afternoon, not 5:30am as it was when we went the other direction before the GP.

The next week and a half passed in a blur of a huge sleep deficit and the kind of post-party blues that hits hard after Australia Day. The weekend couldn’t come soon enough, and was spent cashing in a huge chunk of sleep and chilling out at home big time…

… before packing my bags again for my next trip to the San Marino GP the following weekend.

Thank God there’s one reliable taxi service in Prague (you can believe all the other rumours!), because if they hadn’t called at 6am on Friday to say “sir, your taxi’s waiting for you” I would’ve slept all the way to December. Setting a new lap time for dressing and flying down the 4 storeys of our apartment block I was sitting in the passenger seat before I had a chance to realise what I was doing and why exactly I was sitting in a cab. I was sure there was a good explanation, but it took some time for the fog to lift.

The San Marino GP is a bit of a misnomer. The Most Serene Republic of San Marino (it’s real name, no joke!) is a self-governed republic up in the hills near the east coast of Italy. As the oldest constitutional republic in the world still existing, it was founded on 3 September in the year 301 by Marinus of Rab, a Christian stonemason fleeing the religious persecution of Roman Emperor Diocletian. (San Marino has the oldest written constitution still in effect, dating back to 1600).

In its more recent bizarre history, San Marino boasts one of the 18 MotoGPs of the calendar without actually hosting it: the GP itself takes place down the road in Misano, Italy but for reasons of politics, marketing and the fact that there’s already an Italian GP (Mugello), the event is branded San Marino even though its 29,000 inhabitants are busy keeping their autonomous distance from the Italians – with one notable exception being the San Marinese, Alex de Angelis, who was busy winning the 250cc class until his engine blew and Spanish Jorge Lorenzo took the race.

Landing at Rimini airport on Friday I was greeted with colossal buckets of rain that not only flooded the whole coast but also put the circuit under 30cm of water – effectively cancelling the afternoon free practice session. While the fans (and I!) headed for espresso bars, pizzerias and piadinoteca’s (more later!), the race teams were faced with starting the following day’s qualifying session on cold tyres and untested setups. Valentino Rossi would especially curse his own rain clouds.

With blue skies greeting us on Saturday, accompanied by sunburn and crazy flies, you’d never think that the circuit was under a foot of water the previous day – except for the fact that you sank that far down into mud if you tried to sit your lazy bum down.

The fans were rewarded with a 2-hour warm-up session for the MotoGP class (usually 1 hour) and plenty of opportunities to check out the dodgy umbrella girls in the general admission area. Always hard to tell who enjoys these spectacles more: the beer-fuelled yobbos or the girls themselves!

Returning from the circuit after a day of sun an exhaust fumes, a small group of us headed for a micro brewery (beer not as good as the micro-brewery in the monastery near our place in Prague!) before we split up for the night and I walked back to my hotel along the looooooooong promenade that serves as the main reason why Italians go on holidays. Let me explain…

The coast along Rimini, Riccione and Misano (all separate coastal towns) is seamlessly flat and as straight as the main straight at Shanghai. Lazing about on the equally seamless, long and straight beach are beach clubs full of deck chairs, volleyball courts, changing huts, pools, bars, kiddies corners and every other permutation of resort-fuelled distraction you can imagine (and with hundreds of these clubs the competition, and therefore tackiness, is fierce!).

Running parallel to this strip of madness, but a block further back from the beach, is an equally seamless, long and straight street which connects all the towns and serves as the main artery between them and indeed of the tourists that come here to simply walk up and down for hours along the endless stretch of shops, shoppers and people watching the shoppers shop. For some glammed-up Italians, their day starts after sun-down, donning glamourous summerwear which consists of bling-bling upon bling-bling and not much else. Walking several times between my hotel and the other hotels where our guests were staying at (a few ks away) I was glad to have this constant stream of stimulus in front of me.

Arriving home late on Saturday night / Sunday morning after saying goodnight to the last of our guests, I met with the owner of my small family-run hotel, Eduaro. I took an instant liking to Eduardo as he stood proudly behind his bar at 2am, a small selection of Italian and other aperitifs arranged in rows of neat bottles up to the ceiling. Among these were grainy photos of times past – Eduardo standing next to a guy perched on a 1957 Ducati in full race leathers (the world champion in his time); Eduardo among all of his smiling children and grandchildren; the very same hotel bar full of dancing smiling teenagers at a recent hotel party. As he told me about his time working on boats off Brisbane’s coast many years ago (where he spent time improving his English), he proudly described how he went to school with Loris Capirossi’s father (current MotoGP rider), which made my mind spin because Valentino Rossi is also a local legend. Where am I???

As I stopped wow-ing at his modest stories and admiring the genuine pleasure this guy had in life (even though he himself was covering another staff member’s graveyard shift in the dead of night), he offered me an espresso from his machine that took pride of place on top of the bar in front of me. Such delicious nectar can only be found in Italy, I’m convinced. I can’t explain why I always turn into an espresso drinker only when I’m in Italy, and lose all taste for lattes, cappuccinos and other delicious drinks I adore at the best of times. To seal the deal, Eduardo’s espresso was the best that had ever passed my lips… “What’s your secret?” I asked. “I never turn the machine off, never. It spoils the crema of the coffee”. From a real Italian.

As I bid my goodnight, he turned around and pulled out a bottle of Limoncello, a specialty digestif from the Sorrento / Amalfi region down south on the other coast, and poured me a shot. Delcious. It’s no wonder that warm hospitality tastes so good.

Race day Sunday began with a 7:15am early departure to the circuit to try and avoid the crazy Italian traffic. Sitting in the Tribune A grandstand – on the last corner of the circuit before the finish line (the 90-degree left-hander) – the building anticipation was palpable. Would Casey clinch it with another clean victory? Would Rossi find his form on his home circuit and stamp his signature back on the championship again? Would a dark horse come out of nowhere (even better if it were either of the Aussies, Chris Vermeulen or Anthony West!). With one less session because of the wet Friday, it could be anyone’s race.

As race days always do, it was seemingly over before it began, however the shorter track distance meant there were more laps and therefore more chances to enjoy the action as the riders came past and fought against their wild machines and each other.

It came as no surprise that Casey Stoner won, assisted by a 3-rider pile up at the start that took out some of his challengers, and Valentino Rossi’s bike deciding it wanted to head in for an early shower. (Rumours circulating he was on a test bike…).

We stormed the track after the race and enjoyed being as close to the race that we’d ever get.

Dinner that night was blessed by an appearance by 250cc rider, Jules Cluzel, who is sponsored by Pole Position Travel, and an all-round nice guy who will pose for any photo and answer any question. At the end of the day he’s a typical 18 year-old French guy who just likes to enjoy life. So when I asked if he was up for heading out to a club he said “Yez, of course, zer iz zis club near ze serkwit zat all ze riders are going to”.

So a bunch of us piled into a few cabs and headed away from the coast and up into the hills, arriving at midnight a deserted villa in the middle of nowhere, with chandeliers dripping from ever horizontal surface. Maybe we’d missed it – it was Sunday night after all. Then we were told to come back at 1am when the club opened. “Geezus!” we said. We waited for half an hour, bumped into MotoGP rider Alex Hoffman and his Parts Manager, Liam, who were keen for some post-race action but not so keen to wait around til it appeared. We called it a night and jumped back into cabs for a few drinks back in town.

The icing on the cake came with a 2 hour drive to Bologna the following day, and a trip to the Ducati Factory. Hard to believe every one of the world’s finest machines on two wheels comes from this hallowed ground. As we walked in and around the assembly lines we saw how un-production-line the system was: each engine is assembled completely by one person alone, taking anywhere from 45 minutes for simpler engines (eg Monsters) to 3 hours for the latest race model. Once the engine is complete, it’s passed on to the next guy or girl (there seemed to be equal numbers of both) who inserts it into the frame and so on. Henry Ford would be bitterly disappointed that this system works so well!

Getting out of the factory as quickly as we could, so as not to do too much damage to the credit card, we headed back to Misano and up to Valentino Rossi’s home town, Tavullia, which is the most idyllic village-in-the-hills you can imagine. I was a little disappointed only by the fact that I’d expected this colourful character – or “God on Two Wheels” as some die hards have tattooed into their skins – to have come from a buzzing, traffic-fuelled metropolis. Instead we were strolling around quiet streets, up long paths that lead beneath the grand entrance of the town hall, amongst pomegranate trees, and past windows from where we could hear and smell afternoon meals being prepared.

The official Valentino Rossi Fanclub takes pride of place in the centre of the square, a kind of mecca to this demi-god. I don’t know how it happened but inside I found myself straddling one of Rossi’s old bikes before I knew what I was doing. Luckily I’d taken off my Casey Stoner shirt before I committed outrageous sacrilege of the worst kind!

This weekend had to come to a close, so it was a quiet night ahead of us before being stranded at the airport the next day in the same way that I was greeted when I arrived on Friday – by mountains of water and lightning that had this time put the airport underwater and threatened to cancel our flight altogether, leaving us in Italy for another 5 days before the next one appeared. Thank god for luck – with our SkyEurope plane appearing like a shining star from the far reaches of the clouded sky, and taking me home to Maria and our life in Prague.

The MotoGP madness is over, for now…

Tags: Adventures




I havn't a f*cking clue what you're doing? Why are you touring the Grand Prix circuit...what is this job? I fear I may have missed something along the way beacuse all of a sudden your trackside? Anyway, whatever it is it sounds brilliant and my jealousy continues. Where have you stashed Maria? Is she back in Prague or with you? As you're so busy I don't actually expect you to answer my questions but thought I'd note them down anyway...ahem.

Things here in Melbourne are cool, not much to report though...no such grand prix working. Does this mean you'll be here for the Melbourne grand prix??????

Anyway, gotta fly.

Love to you both.

Chris xx

  Chris MacLennan Sep 14, 2007 5:02 PM


Hi there
Questions for 2008. Where did you stay and can you recommend it? How did you get to/from the track from Rimini?

  Catherine Feb 23, 2008 9:16 PM


My partner and I want to go to Italy next year, mainly to go to the San Marino GP and go to Rossi's hometown. We want to go for a couple of weeks and was wondering if you could give me some advice as to best places to stay near the track and getting around etc?

Many thanks


  Laura Knight Apr 10, 2008 9:15 PM


Could you give me the name and address of the scooter rental in brno?

  Ivor Farr Apr 16, 2008 4:13 AM

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