‘I USED TO STEAL MY BROTHER’S HONDA 350 FROM HIS GARAGE’

With a lit­tle help from his fam­ily Frankie Chili launched a bril­liant ca­reer

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week -

What was your first bike?

When I was 13 I was worked in my un­cle Pier­luigi Al­drovandi’s work­shop. He raced in the 125cc world cham­pi­onship and was Euro­pean cham­pion in 1981. Some­times I’d take a bike and go on the road. You had to legally wait un­til you were 14, but he’d seen me ride mo­tocross so was OK about it. At 16 I had a 125 Yamaha for the road and some­times stole my brother’s Honda CB350/4 from his garage.

First racing bike?

I raced a Malanca 125 in 1982, with my un­cle’s help, and then I was ju­nior 125cc Ital­ian cham­pion in 1983, sixth in the Euro­pean cham­pi­onship in 1984 and won it in 1985.

You went from 125s straight to 500cc Grand Prix?

I moved from 125s to the 500 Suzuki with Team Gal­lina in 1986. It was a good ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause I re­ally wanted to be in 500s, but the bike wasn’t at the level of the other factory bikes. But I en­joyed it. I rode the Honda three-cylin­der in 1987 and got some podi­ums, then the V4 in 1988, ’89 and ’90. I was fast in 1990 but I had some bad luck, break­ing my hand and my back, so I had to miss six races.

Didn’t you help Harada come to Grand Prix?

I did two years on the 250 Aprilia with Team Valesi and one year on the Yamaha 250 in 1993 with Tet­suya Harada, when he won the ti­tle. At the be­gin­ning of that sea­son I was test­ing the Yamaha in Ja­pan and this guy [Harada] over­takes me two or three times and I couldn’t fol­low him. I told Yamaha that this guy was special and they should bring him to Europe. When they did, they doubted he could ever win the ti­tle but he did it in his first year.

What was your favourite bike in World Su­per­bikes?

For sure it’s Du­cati, es­pe­cially when I rode in the factory team in 1998 − that was more than just an­other factory bike. Un­for­tu­nately I never won the cham­pi­onship and I lost my ride. I was so dis­ap­pointed – I cried for three days.

But Suzuki of­fered you a life­line?

I was so low after Du­cati, but Fran­cis Bata of­fered me the chance to ride the Suzuki GSX-R750 in 1999. After two races I was in a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. I used to bat­tle for wins in 1998 but I was 1.5 sec­onds off the pace and couldn’t turn the bike like I wanted. I lost my con­fi­dence and said to Bata and my me­chanic Moro, who is now with Chaz Davies, that maybe it’s a good time to stop, but we worked through it. Just before qual­i­fy­ing at Don­ing­ton my me­chanic changed a lot of things and we got pole. Af­ter­wards, Aaron Slight came to me in the press con­fer­ence and said ‘wel­come back’!

When did you re­tire?

I raced a Du­cati again in 2002, ’03 and ’04, with Honda in ’05 and stopped in 2006. I broke my pelvis and did some in­ter­nal dam­age to my leg test­ing in Misano. Fix­ing the break wasn’t a prob­lem, but I had prob­lems with in­fec­tions in the leg, which I still have from time-to-time now.

Do you still ride?

Some­times with classic bikes. I rode my ’99 Suzuki re­cently, which be­longs to col­lec­tor Steve Wheat­man, at an event in Varano and re­ally en­joyed it.

What now?

This year I got my li­cence to be a life­guard, be­cause my fam­ily has two beaches where we rent out sunbeds. I also rent out some beach apart­ments. Un­til last year I had a team with my cousin in the Ital­ian cham­pi­onship, but I never en­joyed it. I never had the same pas­sion as when I raced. I’m very lucky to have other stim­u­la­tions. Work­ing on the beach is not so bad.

SCO PIERFRANCE ÔFRANKIEÕCHILI 250, 500GP AND WSB LE­GEND Now re­tired from racing,chili’s swapped his race leathers for a pair of life­guard’s speedos...

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