On the final day of the Dainese Italian Legendary Tour
Motorcycle USA awoke in the small town of Oleggio Castello near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy. We were lucky enough to have spent the evening at the Castello Dal Pozzo, an old world castle/mansion said to have been constructed in the 11th century. The day’s agenda consisted of rallying around more twisties en route to Alenia Aeronautica (builders of the EuroFighter) followed by a ride through downtown Turin, Italy’s first capital city.
Now a hotel, the property we overnighted at sits atop a hill that overlooks a rich green valley with its manicured lawn and garden. A wide stone terrace gives you a feel of what it would have been like to enjoy life at the upper echelon of affluence hundreds of years ago. After reveling in the area’s beauty, San Carlo Honda MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli, and girlfriend, pulled up in his silver M3 sports car.
Considering how elite the world of MotoGP racing has become over the last decade or so, I was genuinely surprised to see him and his girl outfitted in Dainese touring wear with signature Super Sic (pronounced see-ch) AGV helmets. But that’s the beauty of this tour: the famous guys actually ride along with you on the open road.
Once again, I climbed aboard my trusty white Honda VFR1200F while Simoncelli chose something a bit sportier, a red, white and blue CB1000R. I couldn’t help but feel a hint of guilt since other guests wanted to have a go on the DCT-equipped VFR. But I knew that if I gave away the key I’d be stuck with a less comfortable machine. Sure there were plenty of MV Agusta and Benelli motorcycles to ride, and despite never having swung a leg over either brand I knew they wouldn’t be as pleasing as the VFR.
It wasn’t long before we were racing around narrow, but sparsely traveled mountain roads. As the duration of our tour progressed so did the speed at which we rode. It was never anything too crazy but enough to keep things entertaining and get the heart rate up a bit. Maybe it’s because we were riding with a current GP racer, but at times, a few of us started getting some red mist in our eyes. I’d show a wheel on some of the trusted, more experienced riders then do an inside or outside pass on the brakes as we poured two and sometimes three wide into turns. It definitely wasn’t the most prudent thing to, do but c’mon how often do you get to experience some of the finest roads in Europe with a GP champ?
Since it was Saturday there were quite a few sport-oriented riders on the road doing the same thing we were. As such we collected a few of em’ as we passed through overlooks and typical biker hang-out spots. It was funny because at first they didn’t really notice that we were riding with a world champ. But as soon as they saw his signature lid and poufy sandy-blonde hair hanging out the back of the helmet they‘d start gesturing and talking to one another. Another thing I noticed was that a good portion was also wearing Dainese riding kit, which shows how popular the brand is amongst the Italian sport motorcycle riding demographic.
Continuing west we plotted a course for the city of Biella the site of Birra Menabrea, an old Italian brewery founded over a century ago. After a quick tour of their beer making operations as well as Caseificio Botalla, a cheese factory, we ate a nice heavy lunch consisting of… you guessed it, beer and cheese. After watching Simoncelli being bombarded with photo and autograph requests we were back on the road. Our next stop was the Turin airport to get an up close and personal look of the Eurofighter Typhoon figher jet.
The Typhoon is a twin jet-engine powered fighter aircraft designed and built by a number of European countries. The first production version rolled off the assembly line in ’03 and has since become a part of the Austrian, British, German, Italian, Spanish and Saudi Arabian air forces. Its purchase price varies depending on configuration but it starts right around 50 million Euro according to the chief test pilot we spoke with. The jet has similar performance and flight dynamics to the American-built F-18. Being a big fighter jet buff it was cool to get an up close look at the latest and greatest in aviation weapons technology.
As we closed in our destination of Turin, the folks at Dainese had one more trick up their sleeves for our final jaunt with four motorcycle police escorting us into the city. It was cool because after drooling over the jet for an hour I was in full Tom Cruise Top Gun mode, so as we sped off the runway I was doing synchronized steering maneuvers pretending I was a fighter pilot. As we sped down the motorway with our lights and horns blaring, cars moved out of the way as if we were Moses. And of course, I fully exploited the situation by honking and gesturing with my left hand (VFR1200F with automated transmission allows for left-hand free riding) for those to get out of our way. Even more crazy was how ‘into it’ the bike cops were. One of the cops was a female and I still can’t believe how good of a rider she was. She was doing these crazy swerving steering maneuvers across the width of the street, zipping in between cars. It was awesome, scary and sexy all at the same time.
There were a few hundred folks inside the Piazza San Carlo as our armada pulled up on motorcycles. We parked right in the middle of the square next to the statue of Emanuele Filiberto. As soon as he pulled off his helmet, Super Sic was mobbed by fans looking to get a photograph with him. It’s crazy how in-tune with motorcycle racing the Italian public is, as that kind of thing would never happen if say Ben Spies was walking around downtown Dallas. After going gangbuster signing autographs and posing for photos Simoncelli changed into street clothes and hopped in his sports car and peeled out.
We peeled out too, off to the Fiat Mirafiori Motor Village for a final dinner and press conference where Dainese and AGV announced that they’ll be one of the title sponsors for the three-round Supercross series taking place this fall in Turin. It was a fantastic end to a long fun-filled days of rallying around some of the finest roads Italy has to offer with some racing heros from the past and present. Make sure to check out the Dainese Italian Legendary Tour
page for more photos and reports from this summer’s event.