MotoGP™ magic carpet ride to Misano

Nick Harris explains all about the drive from Bologna airport to the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli

The drive from Bologna airport to the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, is a magic carpet ride through the very heartland of MotoGP™. Every road sign and every town and village on the 120kms frantic drive down the E45 autostrada has a tale to tell. The history of grand prix racing on two and even four wheels just flashes in front of you like a giant cinema screen. Riders’ birthplaces, circuits and team headquarters appear at almost every junction, turning a page of the history book.

Starting in Bologna the home of the all-conquering iconic Ducati factory that is dominating the proceedings this year. Immediately you see signs for Modena. Perhaps best known as the home of Opera singer Luciano Pavarotti but also the home of 125 and 250cc World Champion Luca Cadalora. The World Champion received a congratulatory telegram from Formula One legend Enzo Ferrari after every one of his 34 Grand Prix wins. They also raced on the old Modena aerodrome and I remember watching those bitter rivals Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read battling it out there on a pair of Suzukis in 1976.

Keep driving south and you pick up the signs for the small town of Castel San Pietro the birthplace of Loris Capirossi. The three times World Champion with 29 grand prix wins in all three classes including the first ever MotoGP™ win for Ducati at Barcelona 2003. Just over the hill from his homeland is the legendary Autodromo Imola circuit that was a regular Grand Prix venue and still stages World Superbike Championship and Formula One car Grand Prix.

Next on the historic route is the town of Forli, the home of Andrea Dovizioso. Three times runner up in the Marc Marquez dominated MotoGP™ years riding for Ducati and 125cc World Champion. From Forli you can drive high into hills on the scenic but scary back roads inland to the Mugello circuit. Carry on down the E45 past the towering hills of San Marino. Sixteen times we witnessed the Principality’s flag being raised and the national anthem played following World Champion Manuel Poggiali and Alex de Angelis’s Grand Prix wins.

Then it gets serious as you reach the coast at Rimini, Riccione and Misano. It appears nearly everybody you meet on the beach or promenade have raced motorcycle or have a connection with racing. This is Valentino Rossi country where he grew up with the likes of Marco Simoncelli, Pier Francesco Chili, Loris Reggiani and so many others. His Tavullia ranch now producing the new breed from the Adriatic coast including World Champion Pecco Bagnaia, Marco Bezzecchi and Luca Marini

Long before Vale brought them nine World titles this Adriatic holiday coast has been steeped in motorcycle racing tradition. Before the Misano circuit was built in 1972 they closed the seafront at Rimini and Riccione and raced motorcycles. In 1971 rising Italian star Angelo Bergamonti had already won the 350 and 500cc Spanish Grands Prix for MV Agusta. He was killed at Riccione when he crashed in the rain at a roundabout on the seafront chasing team-mate Agostini. Like so many others the Misano permanent track was built to replace an old road circuit. It staged its first Grand Prix in 1982 but in 1993 tragedy struck again. World Champion Wayne Rainey was paralysed in a crash while leading the 500cc race. Grand Prix racing only returned 15 years later with the track running the opposite way and it has been there ever since.

The circuit was renamed in honour of World Champion Marco Simoncelli who lost his life in Malaysia 12 years ago. His Gresini team headquarters is just down the road from the track. There is so much to remember at Misano. Aprilia, who celebrated their MotoGP™ double in Barcelona this week won their first Grand Prix there in 1987 with Loris Reggiani victorious in the 250-cc race.

Who needs a history book. Just get on the E45 and drive but be warned it’s busy.

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