After a quiet night in the Tuscan hills, we got up early and broke camp about 8am. We were driving about 15km to the Mugello race circuit to see the Italian round of MotoGP. We’d deliberately chosen a stopping point that was both relatively close, and that would give us a reasonable back country lane route in, so we were hoping to miss the majority of the crowds. Google Maps said this should have taken us about 20 minutes on a normal Saturday morning, but today it was over an hour. And it was already 25C.
We had been thinking about doing Mugello since setting off on Part Deux but we hadn’t found a way to get tickets to us on the road and weekend tickets and camping pass to stay in the circuit were expensive (even with the ‘women discount’). Yes, tickets are cheaper if you are female! As we approached the circuit the traffic got worse and the carparks in fields at the side of the road looked like they were filling up fast. Our plan was to park for the day and just watch qualifying. As we got closer we started to try and find a carpark that would take a campervan, we struck lucky on our second attempt, they had spaces and it turns out were very close to the circuit just before the road had been closed. As it was only €15 a day to park and a few vans had already set up camp we bought two days parking and weekend tickets. Not what we had planned but we had saved €70 on a camping pass! We set up camp and headed into the circuit…
MotoGP and motorbikes in general are a massive part of Italian culture. They love everything on 2 wheels almost as much as football. But they especially love their hero (and Joolz’s too), Valentino Rossi, also known as Vale, VR46 and he is synonymous with the colour sunbeam yellow.
The Mugello MotoGP round is renowned for being a petrol-head mecca, and it’s also know for being a bit bonkers… “Mugello non si dorme”, roughly translating as “Mugello doesn’t sleep”. Fans arrive at Mugello, sometimes days before, to set up their camps. Many people come year after year and some of the setups were incredibly extravagant. People bring BBQs, sound systems, full size fridges, we even saw a sofa and two armchairs set out.
We spent the Saturday watching the practice and qualifying, but also soaking up the atmosphere. And that atmosphere was thick with the smoke from thousands of BBQs. And from the tradition of bringing a chainsaw motors (stripped of the blade, but normally tuned and modified to make it louder and smokier and revving them in a chorus of angry buzzing every few minutes). And from scooters and motorbikes doing burn-outs. There’s also dozens of sound systems competing to be the loudest outdoor nightclub. And lots of beer. And fireworks. And air horns. And someone brought an air raid siren! Which all goes on continuously until they get chucked out after the racing weekend is over. Mugello doesn’t sleep! There was a real buzz, everyone is there is enjoy themselves and despite many people having enjoyed rather a lot to drink everyone is fairly relaxed. We really enjoyed just strolling around taking it all in.
Out campsite was a short distance from the circuit, so with the help of earplugs, we got a small amount of kip between the flash-bangs that went off several times an hour. We got up and headed to the track on Sunday morning to see the race warm-ups. There was lots of sunburn and a few sore heads, but the party continued on… even though it was 31C for most of the day. We found a spot on the grass, staked our claim to our small area with our picnic blanket and hid under our MotoGP umbrella from the blazing sun. Many people bring tape and/or shelters and set these up earlier in the week so they have a prime spot ready for race day. People seem tolerate this and don’t move these!
Unfortunately Rossi isn’t having a great season and he crashed out from a fairly bad position in the race. This dampened the crowds enthusiasm a little, but not too much as the three bikes in the lead were having a great scrap, Dovizioso (an Italian on a team Ducati and title contender), Márquez (a Spaniard and arch nemesis of Rossi) and Petrucci (another Italian on the other team Ducati). They changed positions many times over the course of the race and the decider went all the way to the last corner where Petrucci just managed to just about hold on to a lead. Petrucci has been in MotoGP for a long time, having made his way into the top class the hard way. He’s a well liked guy in the paddock and popular with fans but he’s never before won a race. Needless to say, the home crowd went nuts, especially as he kept Marquez at bay.
As usual at Mugello, there was the traditional track invasion so they could cheer the winners on the podium. It used to be that every year, significant numbers in the crowd would bring bolt cutters and snips to break through the fences and invade the track. Now the organisers know that it’s safer to just open the gates as soon as the track is clear… We joined in and made our way onto track but we were nowhere near quick enough to make it to see the podium.
After 3 days wild camping, our food supplies were low, The Van’s fresh water was all in the waste tank and the chemical toilet was very full. And it had been over 30C every day, so we were stinky. We hung around for a couple of hours until the traffic died down before making a break for the nearest proper campsite where we could ‘refresh’.