Bike India

‘I am like ice; Valentino is like fire’

Luca Marini, 2020 Moto2 runner-up, is Valentino Rossi’s half-brother. In 2021, he joins Rossi on the MotoGP grid. So, what’s it like being little brother to arguably the greatest motorcycle racer of all time?

- INTERVIEW LUCA MARINI

LInterview­ed by:

Mat Oxley

Photograph­y:

Monster

uca Marini has vivid MeMories of his childhood: sitting at home watching his big brother win races on television or, even better, flying halfway around the world to witness big bro win world championsh­ips.

When he was seven, their mother, stefania Palma, took him to australia to watch valentino rossi win his most famous world championsh­ip: the 2004 MotogP title, his first with Yamaha. rossi celebrated that success at Phillip island carrying Marini on his shoulders. Quite an experience for a little kid.

next season rossi and Marini will both be on the MotogP grid. like so many aspects of rossi’s life, it has a hint of the fairy-tale about it.

‘it is something unbelievab­le,’ says Marini. ‘i have many very nice memories from when i was a kid, watching the races on tv, going to the races as a fan of my brother. i spent many good moments with him, always dreaming about becoming a MotogP rider. so, yes, next year will be unbelievab­le.’

Marini was born in august 1997, two weeks before rossi won his first world title, that year’s 125cc crown. no surprise that he wanted to be a motorcycle racer from the moment he first saw big brother riding around in circles, pulling wheelies and wooing the world.

his father, Massimo, took him minimoto racing at the age of five, in the summer of 2002, when rossi ruled the first four-stroke MotogP championsh­ip astride honda’s rc211v.

the fact that both were busy with their own careers made it difficult for them to spend much time together. only when rossi establishe­d his vr46 riders academy in 2013 did they really get to know each other — racing wheel to wheel at the vr46 ranch and generally hanging out.

‘as we’ve got older, we’ve become closer,’ adds Marini. ‘also, because when i was younger, the difference of age was the same but a child sees the world in a different way. now i’m older, our passions are closer, so we speak more about everything.’

speaking to Marini is like speaking to rossi. they are both highly intelligen­t, charming, and fully engaged during interviews (unlike some).

‘luca has a crystal-clear mind,’ says their mum, who didn’t want her second son following her first into the world of 320-km/h motorcycle racing, but never tried to stop it happening.

the maternal half-brothers also look quite similar — there’s a lot of their mother in their faces — but they are not the same.

‘We are not so different in personalit­y, but vale is more extrovert, i’m quite shy. i’m more like ice, he’s more like fire. When i win a race, i am very, very happy, the feeling inside is amazing, but i don’t give that message to people the way my brother does.’

this might have something to do with his father. rossi’s dad was graziano rossi, a wild 1970s grand prix winner who looked more like a hippy than a motorcycle racer. graziano wore white leathers striped with red and green zigzags, for the italian tricolour, and one of his helmet designs featured a painting of two gnomes fishing in a pond. Marini’s father is Massimo Marini, an italian psychologi­st.

‘My father loves motorcycle­s but he never raced,’ says Marini. ‘he is very close to me and it’s useful that he’s a psychologi­st — he gives me books that teach me a lot of things.’

Marini is so icy cool on and off the racetrack that his fellow vr46 academicia­ns gave him a russian nickname: “Marinovich”.

the academy, which won its first world championsh­ips with franco Morbidelli and Pecco Bagnaia in 2017 and 2018, has played a huge part in Marini’s upbringing.

‘i’m very happy to be a part of this incredible thing that vr46 is doing,

January 2021 because it’s not just vale, there are a lot of great people at vr46 who help us to follow our dreams.

‘one of the best things about the ranch is that after every race, we sit together and we joke and we play around. We speak about the motorcycle world but we also speak about other things and spend many funny moments together. this helps us improve as riders and as people.

‘also, when we are at MotogP races, we spend a lot of time with vale. every evening we go to his motorhome and we all ask him for technical advice about riding and the track. he gives us a lot of attention and always gives us good things to think about. if i have a problem at one corner, i message him between practice sessions and he messages me back, telling me what to do. When we are

in his motorhome, we don’t always talk about the motorcycle world but staying together helps us.

‘valentino has also taught me so many things about life. racing is a very special life because it’s not only about bikes and tracks. he gives me advice on the whole environmen­t of racing, the whole life. also, at home i try to learn from him by watching him. this makes me improve and grow in every aspect. i’m happy to spend time with him.’

of course, there are advantages and disadvanta­ges to being a close relation of someone super-famous and super-successful. Marini obviously has rossi on his side, but what about the pressure of trying to follow in the wheel tracks of arguably the greatest motorcycle racer of all time?

‘especially at the beginning, when i was racing pocket-bikes and MinigP, i didn’t feel the pressure,’ he says. ‘i just tried to find and follow my own way. My father helped me a lot. My brother came to give me a hand later, when i raced Moto3 in the italian championsh­ip, and then Moto2 in the european championsh­ip. But i never felt pressure — maybe, it’s my personalit­y. for me, it’s not a problem being his brother; i can manage it very well. i’m just proud of him, he’s my mentor, and i think every young rider would want to be in my place.’

Marini had his first major success in 2011, when he was 14. he dominated the italian 80-cc MinigP championsh­ip astride an italian-made rMu, taking six pole positions and six victories from six events. the following year, he graduated to the italian Moto3 championsh­ip and, in 2013, made his grand prix début as a wild card at the san Marino gP.

he qualified 29th fastest, alongside future World supersport 300 champion ana carrasco, and crashed out at the first corner. i asked Marini how that

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