It’s like 1997, and I’m talking to Eraldo Ferracci about writing a book about his life and racing explots. In the run-up to a meeting with the publisher and Eraldo’s family lawyer, Eraldo’s eldest son, Lawrence (Larry) says to me “look, we need to talk” and asks me to call him when I can block out some time. A week or so later I call the shop and they put me through to Larry’s office.
Larry and I are good friends. We were same age, with young, at the time, families. Larry’s background is in finance so I assume this phone call will be about money, but it’s not. The subject of money actually never comes up.
“Look, I want to talk to you about my father,” Larry says. “And this stays between us, okay? My dad doesn’t need to know.”
Of course, I answer, wondering to myself if Eraldo is ill or if he thinks I am going to spill a bunch of Ferracci Ducati tuning secrets when the reality is I barely understand how a four-stroke engine works. And even less about Ducatis. In fact, I didn’t quite understand how the bevel system in a Ducati functioned until Kevin Cameron mentioned that every car basically has a bevel drive in it–it’s the ring and pinion in the rear end. Oh! Okay, thanks Kev. I get it. Now.
Larry’s cautionary tone continues. I’m mentally prepping for a back story like “I Was A Fugitive From A Chain Gang” or that Eraldo is a plant for the CIA or Justice Department and is in the paddock to find fugitives or bail jumpers (trust me, it would be a lucrative side business). My imagination obviously goes turbo in just seconds with such a cryptic introduction by his eldest son. Or, maybe, I wonder if it’s that Eraldo wants to do a cook book instead of a Eraldo Ducati book (which is not a bad idea).
“Everyone here at the shop knows this, okay? We all know what I am going to tell you. Aaaaaannnd … it’s not a rule so much as it is a good practice, okay? You follow me so far?” Larry asks. I do. I do follow him.
“Okay, here it is: The thing about my father is that he gets up every day and wants to go racing. Every day. Not like, lets get ready for the next race, no, he wants to go race somebody every single day. He’s always been this way. So you might be working with him on this book and I just want to let you know to be careful what you say to him. Like, for example, we know here at the shop not to say to him ‘You should go back and race WSBK again; Honda says they can kick your ass’. Because if he gets that in his head BOOM! he’s making plans to go back. And I am still paying off the WSBK adventure (Ferracci Ducatis won the WSBK world championship in 1991-1992). So I just want you to think about what you say to him, okay? And it’s not just limited to that stuff, major stuff, like don’t say to him that there’s some guy in New Jersey or Connecticut who says his bike is faster than my fathers because he will get up tomorrow morning, load the truck and go to the guy’s house, okay?”
The book never happened. I still believe that the author of such a book should first, be Italian, and also be fluent in English, in order to do “Ferrach’ ” justice. Getting an American guy to write Erlado’s story could be done, I think, but I believe it would be like walking down the bread aisle in an American supermarket. Sure, technically, Wonder Bread is an interesting interpretation of bread but it’s not really bread. It’s American bread. It’s bread for people who have never experienced REAL bread.
Look at the lead photo, above.
I think of that phone call with Larry when I see that photo. I shot it with my phone at Laguna Seca WSBK in July of 2017. From a much larger perspective it’s just a moment under the MotoA’ tent. On the left is Claudio Domenicali, current CEO of Ducati Motors. On the right is Eraldo Ferracci and in the center is three-time world champion Wayne Rainey. I was chatting with Rainey when Domenicali and Ferracci came into the conversation at the same time. They had not seen one another in years. Ferracci and Claudio began talking in Italian, and since I have never learned any Italian outside of very vulgar insults, I stepped away in order to take a picture of them.
In this case not knowing Italian did not prevent me from understanding the conversation between Domenicali and Ferracci. I have known Eraldo for over thirty years and I’ve known Claudio since he was a co-engineer/designer on the Supermono, even before Ducati Corse was formed; so I can surmise their conversation just based on body language. In this photo, Claudio, who is in no way nostalgic about racing or motorcycles, and does not really focus on anything but tomorrow, is leaning in and asking Ferracci the same thing he asks all old friends when he sees them “What are you doing now?”
Ferracci, I suspect, replied that he was kicking back, in retirement mode. Doing a lot of hunting and taking care of his wife.
Domenicali asks, just as I shot this, “Are you doing any racing, now?”.
Ferracci is holding his right hand in a WFO throttle position in the photo, and just after this photo, he took his right hand and made a motion like he was shooting a syringe into the underside of his left forearm. It’s easy to interpret: racing is my drug but I am trying hard to stay on the wagon now. I’ve been clean for over two years.
There is no medal awarded for being clean from racing for two years, or any years.
I’m virtually certain that Eraldo did not sleep well that night. He got up the next day and wanted to go racing.