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Title: Pierfrancesco Chili’s thoughts on his career and the current MotoGP riders and technology

Author: Myanna Wedes

Pierfrancesco Chili also known as Frankie Chili attended the 2017 QBE International Festival of Speed as a legend and classical motorcycle rider. Frankie is from Bologna in Italy and has a career that spans out across Superbikes, 250cc and 500cc classes of Grand Prix racing. He raced with Ducati, Suzuki and Honda with his last races in 2006. Chili is definitely one of the legends of Superbike racing and had a strong connection to his racing with his fans and team members. He rode with flair, charisma and was always great to watch as he battled hard with other fellow rivals. Chili still follows the sport of MotoGP closely and is very thankful for coming out to Australia to attend the Festival of Speed.

Q: How would you describe your career in motorcycle racing?

Chili: I would say for me that I have a very good time in my life. It was what I liked to do in life. I was ready to start to race at 14 years of age but unfortunately at this age I lost a father and my mother did not want to give me permission to race. I was ready with the bike! I was working with my uncle in his workshop because he was racing in the Championship and I would go with him to the race and stay patient.

At 18 years, I asked her for permission. I started in the Championship one month later but then had to tell her that I would start taking more risks. It was a gamble. She gave me the signature and I started in 1982. Unfortunately, that day we lost Gilles Villeneuve and he was my hero in car racing. Step by step after this we grew. After 24 years I had a great career, almost 400 Grand Prix events in the world and I won some Italian Championship but it was not so important for me to win the Italian Championship. I like to win where it is important.

Q: Frankie, when you were a kid what was your favourite bike and do you remember the feeling of riding it?

Chili: It is hard to say because the technology was going on every time. When I was in 125cc at the beginning in 1985 and I win the European Championship was an MBA 125. It was fantastic for riding even at that time. You could slide! It was unbelievable. Later on the 500cc Honda of 1989/1990 was a good model. I think Honda was working well there because Eddie Lawson came from Yamaha to Honda. Lawson was one of the best riders for fixing the bike and setting it up. After this it was the 250cc Aprilia. In Superbike it was the 998 Ducati and Suzuki GSX 2000. It was a fantastic bike with the engine 999 and the frame of the 998.

Q: What are your thoughts on the changes over time with motorcycle technology?

Chili: At the beginning we did not have so many electronic controls. In our time, it was a decision by us to modify the bike. You must have a good relationship with the mechanics. Compared to today, the electronics definitely help a lot the rider and also you need in a team very good men working with telemetry. The person responsible for the telemetry can help you to adjust the bike. The riders do have to be very strong and to know everything because what you can see now in Qatar in MotoGP is that the Tech3 Yamaha is in a strong position and sure they have a bike not better than what is the bike of Vinales and Rossi. Vinales makes the difference with Yamaha at the moment. Valentino is in a strange situation. Sometimes the two guys of Tech3 are in front of him. Folger and Zarco are new guys in MotoGP. The sport of MotoGP is easier to get to the level. I want to say that these riders come in quickly at this level. Vinales is a step ahead and Valentino is in a difficult situation regarding the speed of Vinales within Yamaha. In Honda they have Marquez, Crutchlow and Pedrosa. I have to say that Pedrosa is always working on a safe setting bike. Marquez is more aggressive. Marquez also needs Pedrosa in a team to adjust the bike because we have seen in the past where Pedrosa has a problem, crashed and hurts himself leading to him away for a few races, Marquez was in a difficult situation to make a setting for the bike. I think Marquez needs Pedrosa close and he is more aggressive. For sure though Marquez for most of the race is faster than Pedrosa but sometimes we see Pedrosa faster at the end of the race than Marquez. Dani is working on a setting of the bike and safety.

Q: In terms of the races you have participated in, what has been the hardest mentally and physically?

Chili: In my time we were working more on the setting of the bikes with our thoughts and ideas. Nowadays, it is based around electronics and telemetry as they can find the problem from the data and then the solutions. You need a telemetry guy working exactly in the direction that you want the bike to go in. That person has to know how you like the bike and never forgets this but step-by-step and race-by-race something changes because of the characteristics of the track. When you have a good setting like Vinales at the moment, change the circuit but does not change the result he is first. In the practice he is first sure and lap times are consistent but we have to see him under the pressure. This is my opinion. Once the first Grand Prix is done, he wins but lets see how he is in the second one when it becomes a difficult situation. We have to see at this time what happens. Valentino is powerful in this situation. He is man to man very strong. Sure, he is 38 now but he is motivated. I am surprised he is so far from the lap times of Vinales.

Q: The international festival of speed puts classic bikes on the map, what are your thoughts on this event?

Chili: It is something I am able to do because I am not able to race (laughs). It is fantastic! I have a good opinion when we do it in Europe. I am surprised with the response of the people, the fans and others coming. Last year I was in the Sachsenring. I had never been there before. Wayne Gardner, Freddie Spencer, Phil Read, Jeremy McWilliams, Garry McCoy, Jim Redman and more. I was expecting not many people. There ended up being 34,000 people. This is like a crowd for MotoGP. I made some laps and Saturday night we went to the town and were on stage. Wayne Gardner one by one invited us on stage. When they called my name, the crowd was clapping louder for me than anyone else. I was very surprised because I had never been there in my career but people in the east of Germany know very well Superbikes. Wayne Gardner was like hey you are popular! We will be doing another close to my home in Italy with Spencer, Agostini, Capirossi and many more riders. It is a great time for the people to come and watch. I have to say thank you to Peter and Steve for allowing me to ride here my 750 of 2000! For me this was a dream. I know now I am not so fast. You think you are but when you go with the guys racing now, you are slow like 10 seconds (laughs).

Credit: Deborah Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes

About The Author

Myanna Wedes

Myanna has an incredible grasp and knowledge of the sport in detail and continues to secure lead stories every week. She is in constant contact with team and rider media management. She is an admitted lawyer with two degrees and is currently writing a biography on Alan Jones MBE 1980 F1 World Champion. She is a fond lover of two wheel motorsport, predominantly MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3.