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A guided tour of the Clinica Mobile with Dr Costa

A guided tour of the Clinica Mobile with Dr Costa

A guided tour of the Clinica Mobile with Dr Costa

This week in the "Inside MotoGP" section, we take a look at some unsung heroes of the World Championship. Those who work tirelessly to ensure the safety of others in the Mobile Clinic.

It started as dream 33 years ago across the hills from Mugello. That dream turned into a reality five years later amid the Alpine splendour of Austria. Today we take medical care at any MotoGP venue for granted. Be it a broken bone for a racing superstar or a cut finger for a team chef, treatment is always available at the Clinica Mobile.

Nowadays when a rider crashes, he is immediately taken to the clinic. It was not always like that. In the fifties, sixties and early seventies medical facilities at some circuits were appalling. It was amid circumstances in which riders were not being treated quickly or correctly that an Italian Doctor, son of a race organiser, decided to make a difference.

On April 23rd 1972 the American-style 200 mile race was held at the Imola circuit in Italy. Checco Costa, Chairman of the Organising Club, called upon his son to reinvent the medical facilities for the important meeting. Dr Claudio Costa, who'd graduated from medical school five years previously, was only too happy to oblige. He recruited some of Bologna finest specialists and started building the foundations that were to change the standard of medical care at Grand Prix venues beyond all recognition.

At first it was not easy for Dr Costa and his band of specialised helpers. They travelled to every Grand Prix by road, sea and rail, carrying boxes of medical equipment to treat injured riders. Facilities at some circuits could be politely referred to as "primitive". It was obvious more was needed if serious injuries were to be treated quicker and more effectively . Dr Costa's dream was a mobile clinic that would travel to every event. Five years and one week after the groundbreaking meeting at Imola, his dream was realised when the Clinica Mobile took its place in the paddock at the Salzburgring in Austria.

The very first Clinic may have been small but it's very presence and the ability of the dedicated specialists that travelled with it, saved the lives of many riders. Their quick intervention during the vital minutes after a crash almost certainly saved the lives of Franco Uncini, Philippe Coulon, Michael Rougerie and Virginio Ferrari in those early years.

A new clinic was built in 1981, with two treatment beds instead of one. Over 3000 patients were treated every year. This included over 300 riders with World Champion Franco Uncini and Graziano Rossi, Valentino's father, receiving life saving treatment after serious crashes. World Champions Giacomo Agostini, Kenny Roberts and Franco Uncini launched the third clinic in 1988, fittingly at Imola were it had all started 16 years previously.

One of the clinic's most frequent visitors was then-current 500cc World Champion Wayne Gardner. He crashed and fractured five bones in his right foot in testing in Yugoslavia one week before, but still finished second in the Imola race and donated his prize money to the clinic, to thank them for the treatment and encouragement he'd received. The late Pope John Paul II blessed the Clinic in Rome after that Imola race as the Clinic continued its European tour. In 1996 over 7000 treatments were administered at the 15 Grands Prix.

A fourth Clinic was built in 1997 with World Champion Mick Doohan showing the King of Spain, Juan Carlos around the new five bed facility and also introducing him to the new specialist physiotherapists. The role of the Clinic was also changing. Its very presence had brought about the introduction of a Medical Director at each circuit which changed the whole attitude to and structuring of medical facilities. Often doctors from the Clinic would fill the role as Medical Director.

Permanent Medical Centres at the circuit now have to provide equipment, staff and hospital backup to deal with life-threatening emergencies. All non-emergencies are still treated by the Clinica Mobile and staff still give support and advice to local doctors and hospitals. The Clinic now assumes the role of a top casualty unit at a good hospital.

Anybody working in the MotoGP paddock (up to 3000 people at certain Grands Prix), knows that they have 24 hour medical assistance if required. It's not only reassuring for those a long way from home working very long pressurised hours but also for those they leave behind.

The current Clinic was launched in Jerez three years ago again by a bevy of World Champions. Their 24 hour cover is a blessing for everybody that works in MotoGP, but it's the riders that reap the benefits of Dr Claudio Costa's dream, that started in Imola on that spring day.

MotoGP, 2006

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