I shudder involuntarily whenever I pick up another motorcycle racer biography lately. I’ve come to expect the worst sort of get-rich-quick schemes to capitalize on the latest flash in the pan rider who maybe won a couple of races. A contract hack spits out a quick 125 pages or so and emails it to the printer, who adds some cheesy photos from the family album and calls it a day.
So when I came home tired the other day and found this Rossi autobiography in the mailbox, I really wasn’t in the mood.
Until I picked it up and started reading.
I was hooked after the first paragraph. THIS is the Rossi biography (OK, autobiography) I’ve been waiting for. Rossi got help from Enrico Borghi, a MotoGP journalist for the weekly Motosprint in Italy. I have no idea how they assigned Borghi to Rossi to help him write — but let’s face it, Rossi’s English language skills are, shall we say, quaint? (No offense meant).
A “With Enrico Borghi” byline exists under the title on the frontispiece, but that’s it. You can always judge how much of the “auto” is in autobiography by counting how many times the assistant writer’s name shows up on the book and what size typeface is used compared to the person who is the subject. In this case, Borghi is simply the channeler for Rossi. The book reads just like Rossi’s sitting at the desk with words simply flowing from his pen onto paper. Borghi is transparent in the whole affair, which is great.
The book also doesn’t take the standard and boring “start at the beginning” track. In fact, it starts almost backwards, with Rossi describing his excruciatingly close but crushing victories over Max Biaggi in 2001 and Sete Gibernau in 2004, both in the exact same spot on the track at Philip Island.
Rossi quickly gets to the dirt that everyone wants to hear — the details of how and why he decided to rock the motorcycle racing world by leaving an incredible career with Honda and going to underdog Yamaha in 2004. It’s simply fantastic to hear it from Rossi himself and to read firsthand how he became convinced to take the plunge.
There are a lot of details in this book, and some of them get jumbled together and it can get a bit dense, but it’s like a treasure trove of Rossi, stripped bare and finally released from the sound bites that the handlers feed us mortals. We see Rossi and hear his voice straight up and unvarnished.
The book has just been published; it brings us right up to Rossi’s first Ferrari test in 2004. I was surprised to find that he takes many pages to describe the experience. It’s only within the last week or so that I have read that a 2007 Ferrari drive may be much more of a reality for Rossi than I thought. Now that I can see in his book how impressed he was with F1, it’s starting to make sense, and I’ll bet that will be the next chapter.