There’s a box that is rarely opened. It’s a box full of memories transformed into images. Photographs faded by time or trapped in the eternal present of bytes, jumbled up like a memory, which play with the past, deceiving time when we look at them. We opened that box to celebrate Valentino and his forty years. Most were lived at a fast pace on the circuits, in races, adrenaline that emphasized every moment, victories like defeats, joy and pain that, in life, they reciprocally exchanged places.
Long blond hair and the blue eyes of those who try to look into their own future. A colorful mop to celebrate success. Long curls, a shaven head, hoods lowered to hide from the world, for a moment, and a challenging glance. A pinup smile and frowning forehead in concentration. Hugs, important friends, colorful suits, and helmets as recognizable as a familiar face.
Forty years during which it’s difficult to distinguish the man from the rider, as if they were fused together and are just fine like that, united forever. Then there are - always - motorcycles. Even when they don’t appear, you can smell the scent of the 2-stroke Aprilia, hear the scream of the five-cylinder Honda, the explosion of the four-cylinder Ducati, and Yamaha’s friendly voice as he whispers loving words while he offers it a flower.
It’s an anarchic story. Four decades during which the child has become a superhero, an icon, a symbol, an enemy, burnt out, old. So many contradictions, as in any self-respecting story, where good becomes bad, and vice versa, depending on the occasion. For forty years, podiums, victories, world titles, and falls are hard to recount. They simply don’t care about labels and go their own way, whether they’re created by the curves of a circuit, or the square and cafè where he’d hang out with his friends.
A modesty hidden under a hard face, the questions in front of a door to be opened for the first time, the awareness of maturity, the joy of doing what you like, regardless of the consequences.
Because, all in all, it’s easy to tell the story of Valentino the rider, by rattling off statistics, overtaking and being overtaken by his opponents, legendary races and thundering falls, but these photos say something different. The lens shamelessly captures moments that everyone, even without ever having put a helmet on, can recognize. Valentino was (and perhaps still is) a small-town boy who transformed the world into his playground. He faced it with the arrogance of an adolescent, transformed it with the strength of youthfulness, and now faces it with maturity. Continuing to do what he does best and that he has always wanted: to race.
At forty, he has another season ahead of him, other curves to face, in order return to the starting point. An age that becomes a burden only when it is reproached and the awareness that the races which were raced are much more than those that are still waiting. There are also a few wrinkles to remind us that it’s not enough to go fast and deceive time, but there’s also the strength of not caring, continuing to follow a passion and quashing reason.
Maybe because forty is just a number or, as Pablo Picasso said, “I am that age when you finally feel young. But, it’s too late.”
Thank you Gigi Soldano for having given us the keys to that box.