It may not seem like it, but Alessio Salucci is a sentimental person. Someone who when he talks about the guys from the Academy, the ranch, the VR, Tavullia, the world that runs fast and everything surrounding it, always manages to pull out a little nuance.
"This morning I had a meeting with Manzi, I was looking at him, I thought that the first few times we talked he was a child. Kids grow up fast, from fourteen to twenty their growth is exponential. And when you do this sport, when you are in this world, you have to grow up fast ".
Uccio, 41, has also grown up, a life as a ‘midfielder’ close to Valentino Rossi, his long-time friend. But also a lifetime of making ends meet in the team together with Albi and Carlo.
"The racing life when it doesn't work takes something away from you even in everyday life, everything becomes heavier. My brain is busy with my passion, from the Academy to the team, and if things don't go well I'm more nervous, everything is more difficult. With experience I try to split the two floors. But my wife Pamela when Vale goes slow or when he crashes she is worried (and he laughs, ed.), on the other hand I was seventeen when we started, half my life I have spent in the paddock. You can't go on if you don't have passion. "
Apart from the two in Ducati, fifteen years with the Yamaha factory. Next year a satellite team, Petronas. What are you taking away with you?
"A lot of memories. Ugly, great. And then human relationships, many. I’m taking away the fact that I arrived when I was a kid and I’m leaving that I am a man. I take away the image of me in the corner of the garage, I call it my office, the real one. Next year will be different. "
And what will it be like?
"Everyone with whom we have shared what we have done together, with whom we have become friends, will be opponents next year. We are not going very far, it will be next door. But it makes me feel strange. But that's the sport."
Uccio Salucci: "After the podiums there is the custom of having a shot of 'Anima Nera' with the Japanese"
Is there an image that you take away?
"The celebrations after the races. When Vale gets the podiums we have a technical meeting and afterwards there is the custom that we all drink a glass of Anima Nera, which is a (liquorice) liqueur. When the Japanese drink a glass, two fingers are enough, they all turn red, they don't talk anymore. It's funny, we had fun many times. I will miss this too. "
Sorry, why Anima Nera?
"When we started, we were in a place outside Europe, we had to celebrate and they only had that in the place. It has become a tradition. There is the bottle manager, who is the coordinator of the team, who always carries it around, keeps some bottles in the fridge".
This year there hasn’t been much to toast ...
"It's true. But let's wait for the next one".
Uccio Salucci: "This year, it didn't seem like it from home, but I saw Vale was in good form"
What sort of season will it be?
"I can't wait, and Vale too. To tell the truth, this year too has very positive things, at one point we went strong, fast. Maybe from home it doesn't seem like it, but I saw Vale was in good form. I see him better in 2021, super motivated, stoked, eager. Already these days he wants to start working, he's really on the ball".
Uccio Salucci: "What will change in 2021? We will have new stuff from Yamaha three races after Vinales and Quartararo"
Technically, what will change?
"That three races after Vinales and Quartararo we will have the solutions that Yamaha will bring us. Little and nothing, unless there are major upheavals next year. But in MotoGP it is not like that. And then Yamaha have given us a factory bike, we will try to do our best. Our ambition is to have fun, fight for the podium, stay up at the front, stay in the top three, in the top five, and then try to win a few races. We don't think about the title, but we have to be protagonists again. Vale hasn’t been up at the front for a long time, he has to find some feeling again. Then, from there on, he can fight for podiums ".
But did the Yamaha go strong this year or not?
"It's a very difficult bike, tough. Lots of complicated things, tyre wear, etc. But Morbidelli won races, Quartararo too. It was a bike that was protagonist. And I think ours was too, we were there, we were beginning to understand the right path, if you find it, then all you needed was a moment ".
Yes, moments. Was there any moment that you were really pissed off with Vale?
"The last time in Malaysia, when was it? 2018? There were two laps to go, Marquez was pushing but he had to catch us and he had to pass. It is not certain he would have succeeded. But Vale is not like that, he is not someone who gets angry. We grew up together, beyond the racing life we have always been together. Basically, one glance is enough to understand each other ".
Uccio Salucci: "Rossi was like a caged lion during Covid. Watching the races from home was horrendous"
You also shared Covid…
"For me it was more of a boring thing, I was sick for two days, a little fever, a little cough. The first negative swab was a Tuesday. We did another one: positive, isolation. But I was lucky, for some people it was a trauma. I consider myself a lucky guy. My daughter Vittoria and I got the virus, she is eight years old. My wife did not. It wasn't easy, it lasted twenty-eight days , it was Vittoria and I alone, I went from multiplication tables to housework. I couldn't go to the races and so I also lived it a bit pissed off. "
And for Vale?
"He lived it a bit like me, he was almost asymptomatic, little fever. He was a bit like a caged lion. For me, watching the races from home is horrendous, just imagine what it was like for him. He always trained, he has the gym at home, and when we returned to Valencia he was physically fit. Let's say that Covid was the icing on the cake of a complicated year. "
What has Covid changed in the world of motorbikes?
"Many things, the way of working, of thinking. As in all sports, I think. In my opinion it has also changed the fate of the championships".
Uccio Salucci: "Covid was tough, we cut salaries, even in 2021 it won't be easy"
And in the economy? You have a company.
"As a team we have suffered a lot, cutting salaries, to the riders, the mechanics. Partners took away some money, they too were in trouble. The rest was a consequence. But this thing was tough, it caused us a lot of bother. Then we managed to sort out the situation, but in 2021 it won't be easy ".
Uccio Salucci: "In 2021 there will be no VR46 in Moto3, but only because the young guys have grown up quickly"
No Moto3 team…
"No, but not because we lost or otherwise, but because there was an evolution of the project. The young guys grew up quickly, as Academy we wanted to stop for a moment to enhance the group we have, an important group that needs support. The young guys from Moto3 have moved away, and so we decided that way. But it's just a goodbye. "
What do you have in mind?
"Next year we will make a team in CIV Moto3 as VR. We will start working from the ground up with two youngsters, I still can't say the names but we really believe in them. And then from CIV, in two years, in 2023, they will have to do the world championship and therefore it is not certain that we might not decide to put the team back together. I would have done it if Vietti hadn't grown so much in Moto3, but after his exploit it seemed that we were forcing things. It wasn’t a failure, this must be clear " .
Uccio Salucci: "The kids in the Academy work their asses off. It's not easy to deal with me"
Are you surprised to see your kids colonize the world championship in all categories?
"I am and we are very happy. The season of the Acadamy was crazy. Even if in the end we didn't bring home anything concrete. But we have to go and see how things went: with two races to go there were three fighting for the world championship in the three categories. Vietti, Morbidelli, Marini: I am proud of them, of everyone. Because I know what they do, there is a sensational amount of work they do, every day they work their asses off. And then it is not easy to deal with me, with all the others. They gave themselves to us, they believe in it, they believe in us, and they are demonstrating it. Maybe I expected this growth, but not so fast ".
What will 2021 be like for them?
"It will be tough but fantastic. Luca Marini will do MotoGP with Ducati, an important contract for him, and I think he may have an important future. We will have Vietti from Moto3 to Moto2, Bezzecchi will be a candidate for the Moto2 title, he too has had an embarassing growth. And then Manzi, he will be super protagonist at Pons, with a Kalex. Migno with a Honda will have to prove his worth, Antonelli the same. There are so many important scenarios ".
Uccio Salucci: "Nobody believed in Morbidelli, nobody gave a damn about him when I proposed him to the teams"
"Ah, Franco. Fantastic. He will have to consecrate himself among the greats. It will be a season full of emotions. Franco's is a crazy story. Nobody believed in Morbidelli, I have to say thanks to Gresini and Italtrans. Nobody gave a damn about him, I seemed like a madman around the paddock asking to let him race. Then Fausto got him to do the tests, Italtrans saw him and there his career began. Franco came from nothing. What he is conquering is worth double. So it will be a great, important 2021, but it's also a little scary. I'm always very tense, you must never sit on your laurels ".
Uccio Salucci: "Motorcycling has changed, from a sport for madmen it has become one for true sportsmen"
What generation is this?
"It is a motorcycling that is different from before. Now everything is extreme, once it was a sport considered for madmen. Now it is for athletes. Intelligent, careful, precise. It has changed a lot. Riders are professional sportsmen, they are aware of their food, everything. This is the evolution, and I think in all sports. Just saying: a young Valentino is different from a Vietti of today. But in the end he is also the same, because the passion is the same ".
And what is there after Valentino?
"When he is no longer on the track, there will be another fine example, Morbidelli. Or Pecco. The young guys who will arrive at the Academy in a few years will be inspired by them. For now they are watching Vale, assimilating and learning things. Even after his retirement, in a few years, I would like to continue doing what we have created, the Academy, the team. There is a lot of work. And I hope to do some car races with him, support him and follow him. And maybe be the driver".
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