‘My bike has been my life’

Andrea Locatelli of Mahindra Racing holds the Indian Tricolour aloft on the podium after winning the first round of the Italian Championship at Mugello.-

Andrea Locatelli (167 points) of Mahindra Racing won the Riders’ Championship on the back of three victories and two podium finishes at the Moto3 (250cc) Italian National Championship. The 17-year-old champion rider reveals details about his season and future plans to G. Raghunath.

Mahindra Racing, the first and only Indian manufacturer to compete in international motorcycle Grand Prix racing, had a memorable season this year at the Moto3 (250cc) Italian National Championship (CIV), winning both the Constructors’ and Riders’ titles. Mahindra logged 201 points over 10 rounds to beat back the challenge from Honda (187 points), which finished second.

Last year, Mahindra Racing won the Constructors’ Championship in the 125cc class.

Remarkable performances by Andrea Locatelli and Michael Ruben Rinaldi facilitated Mahindra’s historic victory at the CIV this season. Locatelli (167 points) won the Riders’ Championship on the back of three victories and two podium finishes, while team-mate Rinaldi (145 points) finished runner-up with one victory and four podiums.

In an e-mail interaction with Sportstar, the 17-year-old champion rider from Alzano Lombardo, Italy, said, “We fought all the way through the season… I want to thank my family and Team Mahindra Racing. They have done an incredible job; they gave me the perfect bike. I hope to keep working with them in the future.”

Question: How difficult was the Moto3 Italian Championship this season?

Answer: The Moto3 category in the CIV-Italian National Championship has been very competitive right from the beginning with a lot of promising riders. After scoring no points in Vallelunga, I was a bit apprehensive about my title chances, but I gave each race my best. It’s been a great journey to reach the Championship title with two wins in Misano, and a first and a second place in Imola. Although I did not excel at the Mugello circuit in the last two races, I played to my strengths. It was hard, but I am happy with the results.

What exactly do you think contributed to your success?

I believe my team, Mahindra Racing, has been a big factor in my success. Mahindra enabled me to always have a competitive bike to race with; my parents who have made sacrifices for me; my staff beginning with my manager, Yuri Danesi ,who has never stopped supporting me and has always been present and helpful; my press coordinator Micol Muraglia, who assists me on and off the track.

How was it racing for Mahindra Racing?

Locatelli basksin the adulation of his fans.-

To be a rider for an official team like Mahindra Racing is the fulfilment of the first step of a dream for me. I’m very happy and I hope to stay with them next year.

In 2013, you made your debut in the World Championship at Mugello, where you finished 21st. How was your experience riding in the Championship?

To debut as a wild card, at the iconic Italian circuit was an honour for me. On a Friday, in the free practice, I registered the third fastest time in the Moto3 category, which was incredible! It was a unique experience, which made me grow technically and learn a lot. I started from the back of the grid, so I finished in the 21st position in the race, but I recorded some fast laps.

Is it difficult to take up bike racing as a career in your country? After all, you have plenty of top-class riders to draw inspiration from…

Unfortunately, this is not a sport where only merit counts while building a career, sometimes luck has a very important role to play. If I had to choose an Italian rider as my inspiration, it would be Valentino Rossi. He is my number one hero and next would be Marco Simoncelli. In speed, we are a little behind the Spanish, perhaps they believe more in this sport than us.

What do you propose to do after Moto3? What are the problems you foresee as you take your next big step in racing?

Before leaving the Moto3 category, I hope to race in the same category in the World Championship. Now I have to make the jump. If in the Italian Championship, a rider has to do his best from mid-race, in the World Championship a rider needs to perform at the highest level from beginning to end.

Who is your idol and why?

My favourite rider has always been Carlos Checa: I love his style and I think I ride a little bit like him.

What do you do when you are not racing?

I’m a young guy and just like others my age I go to school every morning, and when I come back home I do my homework and train with the bike or at the gym. In the evenings, I go out with my friends or stay at home with my family. On any given Sunday, if I don’t have a race, I prefer to train on a supermotard circuit close to my home.

What would you have been if not a racer?

A very difficult question! I don’t think I can give a response. My bike has been my life since I was five years old.