Italian sport: The land of champions
- WTI Magazine #137 Mar 20, 2021
Italy is truly an extraordinary country. More than 8000 municipalities, some with less than 20 inhabitants, make the Bel Paese one of the culturally richest in the world. Each town has its patron saint, its church, its specialty in the kitchen, its festival, its slang, and at least one famous artist of the past or present. It's an incredible nation because of this unique characteristic as well.
Among these municipalities, there is one that has become world famous for sports for the past twenty years. Its name is Tavullia, it has about 8000 inhabitants and it is located in the province of Pesaro-Urbino, in the region of Marche but at the border with Emilia Romagna. In Urbino, even though he grew up in Tavullia, Valentino Rossi was born in 1979, one of the greatest motorcyclists in history, the only one capable of winning the world title in four different categories.
Tavullia was a small unknown town and now it has become a sacred place for fans of motorcycling and Valentino. The number 46 with which Rossi has always competed, in Tavullia is present everywhere, even on the road signs. In that territory there is the ranch of the pilot with the motocross circuit, the VR46 Riders Academy where the young pilots grow up, a museum with his trophies, his bar and restaurant, and every time he wins the priest of the church rings the bells and the citizens take to the streets to celebrate the success.
Valentino Rossi has not only made Tavullia famous, because thanks to his successes he has become an ambassador of the values of sport, and specifically of motorcycling, which has thrilled and involved in twenty years hundreds of children from neighboring countries making them fall in love with this sport. And so the "region" of motorcycles was born, almost a separate state that is little more than 60 miles large, formed by a part of Marche and a part of Emilia Romagna. In that small territory some of the strongest pilots in the world were born, there are three circuits of the world motorcycle championship and also the most famous European motorcycle manufacturer, Ducati.
6 miles from Tavullia there is Cattolica, a town of 17,000 inhabitants famous as a tourist resort of the Riviera Romagnola, where in 1987 Marco Simoncelli was born, who then grew up in Coriano, a nearby town even smaller than Cattolica. Marco was a fan of Valentino Rossi and dreamed of becoming a successful driver like his idol, with whom he became close friends. When he was only 21 years old, Simoncelli won the 250 class world championship and then arrived in the "queen class", the Moto GP. He was considered one of the best ever and thanks to an aggressive driving style he obtained successes and was loved by millions of fans. On October 23, 2011, at only 24 years old, during the Malaysian Grand Prix, he slipped off the bike after two laps and was hit by Colin Edwards and also by Valentino Rossi. It was a fatal accident for the young Simoncelli, who did not make it to survive the traumas suffered to his head. It was a national tragedy, with all of Italy mourning his death because he was a boy loved by everyone.
Simoncelli had started riding on the same roads and tracks as Valentino Rossi, and another Italian motorcycling legend, Fausto Gresini, had brought him to Moto GP because he was convinced he would become the strongest of them all. Gresini was another great motorcyclist from the "region" of motorcycles. Two times world champion in the 125 class, in 1985 and 1987, when he retired he founded his own team and managed to win 3 world titles. Unfortunately on February 23rd of this year, Gresini died because of Covid-19.
In the land of champions many other pilots were born. In Rimini, another famous place of the Riviera Romagnola which is located 18 miles from Tavullia, was born Mattia Pasini, an excellent pilot who reached the podium for 42 times. Also Alex De Angelis, 44 podiums in his career, was born in Rimini but he is a citizen of San Marino, the small state located in the territory of Romagna and only 27 miles away from Tavullia. Manuel Poggiali, two times world champion in the 125 class, was also born in San Marino.
Valentino Rossi's brother, Luca Marini (son of Valentino's mother with her second husband) was born in 1997 in Urbino, in the Marche region, and like his older brother of almost 20 years, he lives in Tavullia. Luca is also a motorcycling champion and last year he arrived second in Moto 2 class world championship. Andrea Dovizioso, world champion in the 125cc class, was born in Forlimpopoli, a small town in Emilia Romagna 42 miles from Tavullia. In Ravenna, a town less than 54 miles from Valentino Rossi's town, Marco Melandri, 250cc world champion, was born. Finally, in Castel San Pietro Terme, a small town near Bologna, which is almost 75 miles from Tavullia, Loris Capirossi was born, twice world champion in the 125 class and once in the 250 class. In no other place in the world were so many motorcycling champions born as in that small territory of little more than 60 miles which is famous as the "region" of motorcycles.
Some of these phenomena will also be at the start of the next season of the World Championship, which will officially begin on March 28th with the Grand Prix of Qatar. In all, 19 grand prix will be run, including Mugello on May 30th and Misano Adriatico on September 19th. Both in the land of champions.