Lucio Cecchinello and Fausto Gresini came up against each other both on and off the track. The owner of the LCR Team is younger than the late Fausto, but at the beginning of his career he had the opportunity to race on the track against Gresini, who was at the end of his career as a racer. However, the two had no idea that later their rivalry would continue in the role of manager of two highly successful teams in the paddock of the world championship.
Rivals, but also friends, united by the passion for their work and the desire to excel. Lucio told our Speedweek colleagues about the relationship cultivated with Fausto over the years, outlining a rivalry that resulted in a sincere friendship.
"I raced against Fausto in the Italian 125cc championship at the end of 1992 - said Cecchinello - and in 1994 we met in the world championship. When I was 16 I had posters of Fausto, Carlos Lavado, Luca Cadalora and Pierfrancesco Chili in my room. I was a fan of Fausto. I watched all the races and admired all the battles he had against Cadalora when they raced together with Garelli in 1986. Later, when I raced against Fausto, I noticed that he was good on the brakes and above all he showed his skills in fast corners. But when we met on the track, Fausto was at the end of his career. He no longer had particularly competitive bikes, he was racing for Scot Honda. "
From rivals on the track to rivals as managers. Yet the esteem for each other has remained unchanged.
"Honestly, I also became a fan of Fausto later when he built up his GP team after his racing career. This is because he quickly became a benchmark for many other teams as a team owner. Fausto entered his team for the first time in 1997, with the V2 Honda in the 500cc world championship with Alex Barros. I already had my own team in 1996, but initially only in the 125cc class. Gresini Racing soon became a model and a model for all the other private teams in the world championship. The way he worked and the way he treated sponsors reduced the differences between the factory teams and private teams at that time. He also found new investors around the world and brought them into MotoGP. Fausto helped us develop our own business through this, as we have all virtually copied his approach. His business model has been instructive for all of us".
There was also a period of tension between Gresini Racing and LCR, when both were struggling to become Honda's benchmark team amongst the privateers…
"Absolutely. Fausto was a strong opponent on the track as a rider, but he was also a powerful competitor as a team owner. Anything he could do to leave no advantage to the rival teams, he would do it. But honestly, he would do it in a professional and courteous way. Fausto was respectful in his dealings with everyone. I remember creating my 2006 MotoGP team with Honda. I was a little short on time at the time, I had to put the team together in a relatively short period of time. Of course I tried to contact Fausto to get some useful information. I wanted to know how to order spare parts, how many personnel were needed, etc. Fausto was very friendly, but I immediately realized what was happening: he went out of his way to not answer my questions! It was clear that he did not want to give precious and secret information. After all, he knew that I would be a rival as the new owner of the MotoGP team. "
With Honda in the middle, the rivalry exploded but never undermined their friendship.
"Yes, there were a few years where we fought fiercely as Honda satellite teams. But I've always had things to talk about with Fausto. Yes, absolutely. We've always talked to each other. There has never been a communication problem between us. Our personal relationship has always been on a professional basis. But you could see that he always kept certain information to himself to protect his team. That was okay. "
Valentino Rossi could soon arrive as a manager in MotoGP with his team. Cecchinello could therefore find himself in the role of Gresini…
"Yes, you’re right. I would then behave in a similar way to Fausto ....".