Stories from the Old Site: Understanding Eraldo

Eraldo Ferracci and Pascal Picotte talk things over. Picotte came back to Laguna Seca the following year and won the Superbike race, repeating the feat that teammate Polen accomplished in 1993.
Eraldo Ferracci and Pascal Picotte talk things over. Michael Makarczyk

(1999) After almost ten years of hanging around him, working with him to a degree, I have gotten to the point where I can almost understand what Eraldo Ferracci says. Being born in Italy to a large family and moving here in the late sixties, when he was in his thirties, English has always been an obstacle for Eraldo, at least to a degree.

Oh, he understands English perfectly, make no mistake about that. It’s just returning his side of the conversation that’s the problem. And it’s not a problem for Ferracci, either. It’s your problem. He speaks the way he does and it’s up to you, the listener, to sift through the chunks of words that sound relevant and make sense of them. Sample sentence from the recent Mid-Ohio Superbike race: “Zee, whan happen whon you turn up the trottle juz a little bit, see?”

That was stated by Eraldo to Laguna Seca WSBK winner Ben Bostrom, who it seemed tried to understand what Ferracci said, but in the end kind of gave him a queer look and replied hesitantly, “Yeah” in response.

Now that I have to work with him a dozen or so weekends a year, I can tell you what he said. He said to Bostrom, “See what happens when you turn the throttle up just a little bit more?” Ferracci was trying to implore to him that turning up the throttle was what made Ben Bostrom go from second place to first at Laguna Seca.

And it’s not just me who had the problem understanding Ferracci, oh no. 1998 Ferracci Ducati rider Tom Kipp confessed that when he rode for Ferracci, they would have short conversations when he could not understand a single thing Ferracci said. He’d come out of the team room from the Ferracci Ducati transporter after having a huddle with Ferracci and if asked what the topic for the meeting was, he’d say, “Something about the forks. I think.” Kipp had mechanic Vic Fasola there to translate Ferracci’s Italian/English into English.

Ferracci is steadfast in his ways, as any 58 year old man is, and he has other idiosyncrasies too. Like names. Ferracci only rarely remembers any names. I think he gave up a long time ago trying to remember all the names of persons that cross his path.

His standard greeting to anyone he recognizes but previously didn’t have a million dollar conversation with is “Hello my friend.” At the racetrack, he repeats this dozens of times with people that he sees. Me included. About a year ago, he greeted me that way when I waltzed into his transporter and it occurred to me that I had never heard Eraldo use my first name, unless he was returning my call on the telephone where it had been written down for him. And then as most Italians, he called me “Dan”.

Ferracci’s mechanics also had heard his bosses generic greeting in the transporter. I asked Phil Seiberlich one of Eraldo’s right hand men, “Phil, ‘Ferrach’ doesn’t know my name does he?”.

Phil replied, “Nope.”

There are three levels of respectability with Ferracci. The lowest level is “Hello my friend” which means he remembers you, but not your name. Maybe your wife.

The next level up is him actually knowing your name, and saying it when he greets you. If you are one of these people, you can hang your head high. You have his respect.

The top shelf:  Hey, paisan’ or paisano. This term of endearment is rare with Ferracci. I’ve only heard him call a few people paisan’. Troy Corser. Kevin Schwantz. Terry Vance. Doug Polen and Anthony Gobert.

Hello my friend!

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