January 1991. I was hit by a car on my way home from a poker night, an accident that cost me 11% of my body’s mobility and shattered my budding motorbike racing career prospects. I remember the months of rehab, losing 25kg of in bodyweight due to total inactivity, the sleepless nights, and the three surgical procedures needed to install and remove nuts and bolts in my knee and my ankle.
I remember the eyes of my father when I arrived at the hospital, semi-conscious. He looked twenty years older. To this day I still get emotional thinking about that.
My doctor – Dr Franceschini – managed to save my right leg. It was a pretty gruesome sight, and my jeans were unable to hide the worst of it. He put me into a medically induced coma for 48 hours with my legs in traction, hoping that the exposure to air would not compromise the bones as they were stuck back to each other once again.
It worked. He did it. God bless him!
One might think that the experience would be enough for me to stop thinking about motorbikes forever. It was like that for maybe three months, but then the itch came back again. I was on a scooter some 12 months after, and nearly two years later, I signed up for a course of Supermotard – which includes racing over tarmac, dirt and mild jumps – with KTM.
The discipline, invented by the French, was quite new. They decided to modify motocross bikes, installing 17-inch road wheels and tyres, a road-spec front brake, stiffer suspensions and slightly longer gears. The result was a 120kg road bike with some 50hp capable of nearly everything on a go-kart racetrack. I enjoyed the course so much that I signed up for another two, and I ended up being a Supermotard maniac.