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"I dreamed one day of being on the track, maybe of finishing last but I wanted to be on the track." 25 years after his last victory as a professional rider, Fausto Gresini's passion for racing still beamed through the words shared with us in an interview given in 2017.
Fausto Gresini told us about the passion which, combined with his sacrifices, led him to becoming an icon in motorsport. We want to pay homage to the Italian racing legend by re-visiting his story, one he told us himself, that began with him as a young child who watched the motorcycles whiz around the Imola circuit near his home, to becoming an icon of world motorcycling.
"I didn't have the financial possibilities," he said. "So in the evening, together with my boss at the time, we started working on the bike with which I was competing in the first races."
Riding in the saddle of the MBA team, in 1983 he began to compete and even managed to cross the finish line in front of some Champions of the time such as Eugenio Lazzarini and Pier Paolo Bianchi. In 1985, the year he moved to Team Italy, he won the first 125cc World Championship.
"A dream come true," proclaimed Gresini.
The following year Luca Cadalora arrived in the garage and snatched the title from him but Gresini redeemed himself the following season by winning every scheduled race in 1987 with the exception of the finale, where he ended up on gravel.
"I was happy with what I did as a rider, I could have done more but mine was a good experience."
He continued to line up on the starting grid of the 125cc until 1994 but couldn’t win another title during that period, as he decided to retire from the on-track action.
"It is not easy for a driver to decide to finish his career and think about starting another one."
He knew that despite hanging up his boots, his days in motor racing were far from over as he joined forces with the young Loris Capirossi as a coach before starting what we know today as Gresini Racing, one of the most renowned racing companies in motorsports.
Eager to expand, together with Alex Barros and a group of collaborators, he crossed the ocean to make a proposal to Honda Brazil.
"I had nothing but passion and a good project on paper."
In 1997 he began his adventure as a team manager and that year they reached a major on-track milestone: a podium. Two years later, the team moved up to 250 cc class and brought reigning Champion Loris Capirossi into their ranks, and while the Italian couldn’t quite match the feat of the previous year, he did finish third overall in his maiden season with Gresini.
At the start of the new millennium, the young Daijiro Kato was welcomed to the garage.
"We spoke Italian and English, he only had Japanese, but it worked. The first year was a good season and in the second we won the title by a large margin!"
Following the 2001 250cc World Championship, the factory was back in the big time, however, it was to end in tragedy for their star rider.
"Kato immediately achieved good results. But in the first Grand Prix of his second year, he lost his life. That was a difficult time. You wonder to what extent you really like that job, if you could do something different, you ask yourself about every action you have done to understand if you have made some mistake."
Faced with such a dramatic event, Fausto Gresini managed to find the strength to continue by turning to his own experience.
"My luck was that I was a rider and the drivers know what the risk is. I always thought he would ask us to keep running. And in the very next race his teammate, Sete Gibernau, won. It was our first win in the premier class as a team."
"You never think it's the last race, you always chase a dream and you always think of winning," he explained recalling his last victory as a professional rider at Donington in 1992.
"You must always have the motivation to be a winner. The determination in wanting the result also served me well when I became a team manager."
In 2010 Marco Simoncelli arrived in his garage.
"Honda was happy to have a rider like him - who in his second year began to reap the first results - He made two podiums. But even there came a cursed Sunday which took him away from us. I lost two riders. My career as a team manager was not easy either. It is never easy to get out of these situations."
His relationship with motorcycle racing hasn’t always been the easiest, but he can most certainly look back at the contribution he has made to the sport with satisfaction.
"In these 20 years as team manager we have written many pages of motorcycling, we represent something important and we are proud of it. I filled my days with motorcycling. This sport today is completely different from how it was when I started, I have experienced the evolution as a rider and as a team manager. A lot has been done for safety and to make better bikes. Everyone who does my job has contributed to making motorcycling better and I am proud of it because I am part of it. This is the most important thing."
That pride was well placed and well deserved.