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Breeding a World Champion: Part one - Mauro Noccioli (1994-1997)

Breeding a World Champion: Part one - Mauro Noccioli (1994-1997)

On Sunday 14th October Valentino Rossi became only the second man in history to complete a hat-trick of titles in the 125, 250 and 500 classes. The Italian youngster put his name alongside the legendary Phil Read at Phillip Island, but couldn´t have done it without the help and support of some of the top mechanics in the business along the way. This is first of a three part feature documenting the thoughts and recollections of the Chief Mechanics who have guided Valentino Rossi to the World Championship title in all three classes of MotoGP. Mauro Noccioli took Rossi from an unknown boy racer in Italy in 1994, to 125cc World Champion in 1997.

MAURO NOCCIOLI

´Valentino came into my team in 1994 in the Italian Championships and we also raced the Spanish Open Ducados and European Championships before moving him into 125 Grand Prix in 1996. He was very difficult to work with at the beginning - he was just a child who wanted to play. On a Friday and Saturday he would just mess about but he was so intelligent that he could change completely on a Sunday for the race, even from an early age. His freedom was so important to him and we knew that. He needed to have fun and needed to feel confident. If you stuck Valentino in the box all the time then for sure he wouldn´t go so fast. You can´t make a child work for a whole weekend and put that sort of pressure on him. He was better off playing on his Playstation. I see that same attitude in him now.

´The Open Ducados in Spain was an extremely important series for Vale. He learnt how to race at circuits he wasn´t familiar with and compete against people he didn´t know. His family stayed in Italy and he spent a long time away from home, but he learnt to deal with that. On the other hand the European Championships was too hard for him and it wasn´t a great experience. He was still riding on impulse and needed to learn how to work with things like carburation and tyres. He was still very young but he was also a quick learner, so those things came with time.

´In 1996 he moved into Grand Prix, and his main problem was learning the new circuits. He was lucky though because he had Haruchika Aoki as a team-mate, and Haru was a great friend to him. He taught him the lines he had to take and very often Vale would follow Haru around the track and learn as much as possible from him.

´Suddenly, in March 1997, everything changed. Vale had learnt how the Aprilia worked and decided he wanted to take his own lines on the track. He has done this in 250 and 500 and when you look at him you will see that his lines are different to all the other riders. His two years of experience helped him but that is something you can´t teach a kid, it was just a natural development.

´Nowadays I watch Valentino and I see the same playful kid we had in our team just a few years ago. After two or three laps of a race I always know Valentino´s strategy - my mind is in tune with his during the race. It´s the same with Max Biaggi and Loris Capirossi because I worked so closely with them too. When they are fighting together in the top three positions I always know which rider will attack the other and when. It is very exciting but my heart is always in my mouth.

´I feel satisfaction to see Vale become 500cc World Champion. Nothing else. Vale and his current team will get the credit and I don´t mind that, it´s how life goes. We are all happy for him. Maybe if it was Loris I would feel something special but the other riders are gone now and we are concentrating on our current jobs.´

Tags:
500cc, 2001

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