After watching Haga pout and Bayliss nearly cry after admitting that he won’t be making a World Superbike comeback, it was the MotoGP squad’s turn to speak in front of fans. Both Casey Stoner and Nick Hayden spoke candidly and appeared excited to be a part of this unique motorcycling event. Even though Stoner attended the last WDW edition, he was still surprised by just how many people showed up Saturday (tens of thousands). Equally wowed was Nick Hayden, who was making his first appearance. Hayden was also accompanied by a new lady friend who happens to be a friends—sisters—friend. Funny huh?
During the press conference both riders laughed and joked around but when asked about the remaining part of the season they were all business stating that they still have a lot of work to do in order to make up some points against the series leaders. It’s also interesting to see how well both riders interact with their new team manager Vito Guareschi—a former test rider and road racer. Afterwards the boys conducted a virtual track walk in which they gave some insight as to how to get around Misano’s 11-turn course.
With temperatures hovering in the mid-90s paired extreme Miami-style humidity a ride to the beach was the ideal way to cool off. And one of the craziest things about riding a motorcycle around Misano is just how slippery parts of the road way are—especially roundabouts and intersections. Perhaps its the combination of the salty ocean air and fluids left behind by the swarms of motorcycles and 2-stroke scooters? Even with the modest power output of the Monster 796 it was ridiculously easy to kick the back of the bike out and leave long skinny darkies during aggressive acceleration in first and sometimes second gear. I’ve literally never experienced this sort of condition on any other pavement surface and it was a total blast! It made me think that perhaps this is the reason why such a high amount of top-level road racers come out of this region considering that Valentino Rossi, Marco Simoncelli, Marco Melandri, and Alex de Angelis all hail from this part of Italy.
After cooling off seaside it was time to head back to the track for the Streetfighter Drag Race. As the name implies the World Super and MotoGP riders drag raced down Misano’s front straight at the controls of a Ducati Streetfighter. Each of the riders was allowed a couple practice runs before facing off head-to-head.
It was actually really entertaining to watch these guys try to launch a motorcycle. Considering all the electronic doo-dads and launch control rider aids, none of them have to manually launch a bike anymore. And you could definitely tell with virtually every one of them getting horrible starts during the practice runs. Some wheelied, some just spun the rear tire, and a couple almost stalled the bike. It also did not help that the Streetfighters had the Ducati Traction Control setting cranked up to the max as you could hear the engine’s struggle to gain revs as they accelerated away. The riders did however catch on quick and after a few practice runs they were nailing nearly perfect starts.
The Streetfighter drag race pitted the MotoGP boys against the World Superbike races in a classic drag race.
As the riders would return to the starting lane via pit lane some of them were pulling wheelies, rolling burnouts and even an endos. After each pass they were getting more and more daring and as soon as Haga had aced everyone in the final drag race they put on a full-on impromptu stunt show. It’s impressive how much bike control and raw stunting ability all of the riders have which just proves that extreme bike control is shared between stunting and racing worlds.
As the sun set the paddock was filled with the aroma of grilled food. But before everyone ate, all eyes went toward the main stage where the riders and head Ducati execs took to the stage for a few words before the fans. Bayliss gave one of the more notable speech’s. He began speaking Italian, but was so overwhelmed with emotion that he stumbled his words and finished speaking in English not wanting to mess anything up in translation. He profusely thanked his fans for their support over the years and was happy to such an integral part of the Ducati family. Off all the riders on stage, Bayliss without a doubt received the most applause proving that he remains the fan favorite even though he’s no longer racing.
Afterward the real partying began when various musicians took to the stage and began rocking the crowd. Perhaps the craziest part was that even after the sunset there were still tens of thousands hanging out inside the track. If you weren’t feeling the concert vibe you could mosey toward a pop-tent that hosted a mini-rave. Inside the tent, there were kids not even 10 years old dancing around with their parents. If all the noise and commotion wasn’t your style they also had a places for families to hang out and eat, drink, and socialize. The track was jam packed until almost midnight before folks finally started to clear out, not doubt to ride or party elsewhere around town.
I assumed that Sunday would attract even more riders but strangely enough the track was far quieter as compared to Saturday. Apparently in Italian culture Sunday is basically the day you are supposed spend with mother at home. And this made it easier to float around the paddock without having to feel like you were going to get run over by a mom riding a piped-out Desmosedici (yes, I actually saw this).
As opposed to Saturday’s jam packed schedule, Sunday was more laid back. In the morning riders who signed up for track time got to bomb around Misano’s 2.5-mile, 11-turn road course before the afternoon’s Desmo Challenge (spec Ducati class) races got underway. After the races concluded at 5:00 p.m. the World Superbike team took to the track for a official two-hour testing session in preparation for the World Superbike races the weekend after next.
So there you have it I survived my first WDW adventure. Next to the riding, camaraderie, and 48-hours of relentless socializing, the one thing that I’m taking back home with me is just how passionate Ducati riders are. Having spent a fair amount of time in the saddle of its creations I’ve known that the bikes are more soulful than almost anything else on the road, but what I didn’t realize is that the people who ride this brand of motorcycles are equally if not more charismatic. And that’s what makes the Ducati brand so awesome and unlike anything else in the world and the reason why I can’t wait for the next World Ducati Week celebration.