A Dream Interview, With Giovanni Bussei By: Kurt von Ahnen
Ever since I saw the Yamaha R1 listed in World Superbike, this season, Giovanni Bussei has held a special spot in my curiosity. I had never yet heard of him, but found myself glued to the Speed Channel network to learn more about him. Not everyone subscribed to the idea of using a 1000cc four stroke Yamaha against the Ducatis, in fact… Giovanni was the only one I saw listed. It wasn’t a big surprise to me to see Anthony Gobert head down the road, from the Austin Ducati team. After seeing the team dynamic firsthand at Pikes Peak International Raceway, it was apparent that this was not a match made in heaven. I was very surprised however, to hear that Giovanni had been
brought to the United States by Ducati. It’s almost like they just wanted that R1 off the grid. One thing I learned while at Barber Motorsports Park this September, is that Giovanni is here because of Ducati – not Austin. All the same, they seem to embrace our exchange student very well. I missed the opportunity to meet Giovanni at Mazda-Laguna Seca Raceway, but come hell or high water… I would not make that mistake at the beautiful and majestic Barber Motorsport Park. Seeing the team’s difference in result between riders only heightened my anticipation. As I’ve pointed out in these pages so many times before, Gobert said the thing was unridable. Giovanni
consistently not only finishes the race, but finishes well… pretty great for being on a machine that was labeled unridable by another very talented rider! As Giovanni rests between riding duties, his Austin Ducati team members diligently prepare his machine for another strong run. Preventative maintenance is the key!
Mr. Bussei made his way to the press room a couple of times this race weekend, but people (other writers and editors) seem to shy away from him due to his broken English. One thing that rang out in his interviews was the idea that the Ducati was suffering from a “Chatter” problem. This is a suspension and/or tire concern that causes a lack of traction and control for the rider. Even with this concern (still being looked at by the crew) he was able to render the #115 flashy red Ducati to the top of the leader board, during qualifying and practice. All business about his sport, Giovanni made the very wet practice on Sunday while others at his level sat in the dry tent areas of their pits. It was obvious to the casual on-looker that Giovanni was a rider to be respected. While hanging around with my pseudo family, Corona-Suzuki, on Saturday, I met Mike. Mike is on the Austin Ducati team sponsored by Parts Unlimited. He suggested I catch up to Giovanni later in the day. As I cruise my own Yamaha, R1 through the pit area, I was excited to see Giovanni hanging around his pits. I parked the R1 and gingerly approached my new hero. You see… I am no Gregg “Sport” White or Dave Sadowski with the Speed Channel cameras behind me. I wasn’t sure how I’d be received after a hard day at the track. Giovanni was not only professional, but downright cordial. He asked how much time I thought I would need. I figured 10-15 minutes. He grabbed a banana and cold water, and set two chairs aside for us. I hurriedly dug out my voice recorder, almost amazed at his openness. We sat with two other Europeans – one was Daniel Desmarais from Nutec… he asked for a special mention. As we conducted our interview, the others at the table continued in a jovial conversation. With Giovanni in the open, we were interrupted by fans asking for autographs and Dean Adams (amasuperbike.com) hanging over my shoulder. Mr. Bussei reacted calmly and conformed to the requests without any visible distain. I was beginning to appreciate this racer more and more. A pensive Giovanni during a debriefing, on pit lane… I had him in 4th place during qualifying, when this shot was taken.
Following is our interview. I have deleted the umms and aaahhs due to Giovanni’s broken English, and have paraphrased only when absolutely necessary. Off the bat, let me say that his English is better than many Americans that have served me lunch. He was also very certain to make sure that I understood what he was saying, and would rephrase as required. The interview lasted almost an hour.
Kurt: When you got the call to come here, was that good news or bad news? Giovanni: I didn’t know. I was concerned about riding a good bike for a good team. Kurt: Well, you’ve been doing really, really well with the bike… I mean compared to Anthony Gobert. He was saying the bike was unridable, and that it wouldn’t hold up… but you keep finishing really well and doing really well, and you finished great here today (referring to race 1 in Superbike, on a doubleheader weekend). Giovanni: In World Superbike (WSBK) there is just a few bikes (Ducati and Foggy Petronas FP1), but here you have Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Honda. Ducati (Austin Ducati) have shown in any case, it’s a good bike. How cool would it be if this was your commute to work???
Kurt: Having ridden the four-cylinder and now racing the twin… what’s the difference and which do you prefer? Giovanni: What’s the difference between two and four cylinders? (I was waiting for him to do the math and tell me 2 cylinders) First, I need to say that my four-cylinder was not a competition bike (privateer); it was something better of a
Evidently, Giovanni hasn’t heard the “Fat Girls and Scooters” joke yet? stock bike. Here, we are using a good Ducati (race prepped and factory supported). When I was in Italy on four cylinders, the power is all up high, on 750. I think now, with 1000’s, the power (band) is much bigger. The power (characteristics) are more near (to the Ducati). Handling? The four-cylinder is better. You have more weight on the front. It’s easier – maybe not better – easier. Kurt: Is the Ducati harder to steer then? Giovanni: The Ducati is heavy and unchanging. You have a long wait. (He gestured with his hands a left-right transition) Every bike has good things and bad things. Kurt: What suits you better as the rider? Do you do better with the Ducati? Giovanni: I can’t say. My four-cylinder bike was not a bike… not a Superbike. If it were, I don’t know. I like very much four-cylinders… but I can not compare my Yamaha and the Ducati. Kurt: When you’re not racing, what do you do to train? Giovanni: (Darn English… I get a puzzled look) Kurt: When you’re not racing, do you ride on other tracks, street bikes, dirt bikes…? Giovanni: Oh, I dirt bike, motocross, bicycle and running… I just come here for races. I normally stay in Italy. Kurt: Oh really?! You just fly back and forth? Giovanni: (Positive nod and smile) Kurt: That must be really nice. Where in Italy do you live? Giovanni: Torino… it is north… Northwest in Italy. Kurt: When you are here, what do you miss the most about home? Giovanni: Nothing Kurt: Nothing? What about the food?
Giovanni hard at work!!! Turn 2-3 at Barber Motorsports Park.
While many of his competitors hung out in their pit areas trying to stay dry… Giovanni was out doing a little rain testing. Chris Ulrich is entering the pits right behind him.
Giovanni: No, it’s OK. I can miss 4 days, 5 days while I am here. It’s just like when I go away from home for a European round. (WSBK) Kurt: Do you like the tracks here? Do you prefer the tracks at other places? Long Pause… I was afraid he was looking for a polite way to bash our tracks, here in the states. Kurt: Do you like this track? Was it hard to learn? Giovanni: No – it’s fine. What was more difficult was Mid-Ohio. We had really very little time. We just had two hours on Friday, one hour on Saturday and Race. Mid-Ohio… have you been there? Kurt: Yes… a long time ago. Giovanni: It goes round and around and up and down with many, many holes. You don’t need to find the line; you need to find the line without the holes. So, when I was in the race – I was OK, but I didn’t… we didn’t have time to set up the bike. Kurt: Do you have a wife or family? Giovanni: I am Single (huge grin and chuckle) Kurt: When you travel back and forth, are there people that come with you? Giovanni: I take always one friend. Kurt: Who is that? The same guy? Giovanni: No. I have four friends. I have been here five times, four different friends. Kurt: Do they like coming here? Giovanni: Yes – very much. Kurt: Is it hard going back and forth? You know… with the change in time and all? Giovanni: No… well at first… First race I was uugh (tired), second race – better, third race – better. If you do not think about it, and you just turn your watch – you don’t think about home. If you keep the time on your watch (your home time zone), then I will want to go to sleep at five-O’clock in the afternoon. It’s just mental. Kurt: Yeah well… I’ve heard you guys have a real espresso machine, so you’re ok anyway. Giovanni: Yeah, they have… but I don’t drink coffee. It gives me a headache. I like coffee – I can’t drink.
Kurt: Do you know where you’re going to race next year? Giovanni: Not yet. Kurt: Have you thought about staying here with us? Giovanni: I like it. I like it – this team. They are very nice. They treat me as a friend. All the time I come here, it is like home, which is great. When you are far away, maybe you have something you forget… they will get it for me. But I don’t know yet. I would have to say that I would like to race WSBK. Kurt: WSBK again? Giovanni: Yeah, if you have a very good bike… to race with ½ a bike… no. I like AMA. Here I have opportunity to ride a good bike. Kurt: And the 999 next year? Giovanni: I don’t know… but here, now, I am riding good bike. I want to look for that. Kurt: Personally, I like the AMA over WSBK because we have everything whereas WSBK has mainly Ducati and Foggy Petronas FP1. Giovanni: WSBK. If you ride Ducati, is easier than AMA, because if you ride Ducati you are at the same level as everyone else… the other Ducati riders. Here you have Kawasaki, Suzuki, Honda… so it is much more
difficult here. Then, to be 8th in WSBK is OK. In AMA that would be 15th or 20th. To be 10th in WSBK is harder than in AMA – but to be #1 in AMA is the hardest. (This took some time for me and Giovanni to get straight) Kurt: Giovanni, thank you so much for all this time. On behalf of myself and my readers… we enjoy you and welcome you to stay. Giovanni: Thank you. The following day, I positioned myself on turn three to take pictures, during the second Superbike race of the weekend. I watched with special interest, how the flashy red, Parts Unlimited, Austin Ducati was fairing. After three red flags, I got to see Giovanni again. He was at the press conference giving interviews for putting the Ducati on the box. His best performance of the year, he was the star of the show… and he still took time to say hello. Good luck Mr. Bussei.