I found myself lost at Ducati once.
Coming back from the after lunch cafeteria in Bologna, I saw someone I knew and stopped to chat, and the guy who had taken me to lunch had to get back to his office. He just told me to walk down to Corse when I finished my conversation.
"You know the way back, of course," he asked and said simultaneously, while walking away.
Starting out after him only several minutes later, after a few wrong turns, I realized the correct answer should have been of course not.
Ducati's headquarters, in Bologna, is about fifteen old buildings all interconnected, part of it an old airplane hanger and if you don't know your way around, it can be incredibly confusing to try and navigate through. In three minutes I was hopelessly lost.
I pushed on, down old hallways, up flights of stairs, away from the sounds of the assembly line. Finally, through swinging doors I saw light and walked through the open door of some woman's office. Unknowingly, I barged right in, just grateful to have found another human being with a hopefully operational telephone.
She spoke no English and me not a bit of Italian, but with enough gestures on my part, she realized I was lost, and picked up the phone.
While she dialed Corse to have someone come and rescue me, I looked around at her office. Rectangular in shape, it was quite sparsely decorated, with only a desk, and two chairs as furniture, but still nice in an Italian minimalist sense.
I looked at her. She was in her late 40s, somebody's mom no doubt, but dressed to the nines as all Italian women are any time they go out in public. Pressed jacket, vest, starched white shirt, gold bracelet and necklace hung from her body. Her make-up had been applied with the same precsion an American woman would have used?on her wedding day.
Judging from the spreadsheets on the Italian woman's computer screen, I assumed she was some sort of accountant at Ducati, and her job required silence, as she was far away from where most of the business offices are located.
As we waited for someone from Corse to rescue me, there was a wall of respectful silence between us. I continued to look around her office, gesturing for her to go back to work.
On the wall behind the desk of this 40 year old female accountant at Ducati, in her sparsely decorated office, there were only two pictures hanging. They were both the same size and were hung at about eye level if you sat at her desk, which she did most of the day, I assume. They were all she had to look at, and must have been very importanmt to her, both images had been profesionally framed, and hung perfectly straight.
One was a print of Jesus Christ on the cross, painted, it looked like, by El Greco, with the eyes of Christ looking up, enlarged, pleading ... 'Why Father ? '
And the other was of Carl Fogarty. At speed, looked like at Assen or Hockenhiem, big number one plate on the front of the bike, out of focus crowd of competitors behind him, trying to chase him down.
Foggy and Jesus. I smiled. She looked back at her pictures, smiled too.
That, in a nutshell is how racing is perceived by nearly everyone who works at Ducati. From Corraddo Chechinelli down in the engine labs, to Federico Minoli on the BoD, to the twenty-somethings on the assembly line to the 40 year old matron-like accountants buried back in the bowels of the old buildings, racing is not just an activity they partake in to add to their marketing endevors or to help build a brand, it is who they are. Ducati makes motorcycles that are raced. They have been succesful in racing because from the very start, nearly the entire company is behind the racing team, and minor political batles aside, if the racing department needs something, they get it. No one in the company wants to see them lose. There is total commitment at Ducati to racing. That they are succesful at it should come as no surprise, they have made the commitment, they have allocated the resources, they put no internal obsticles in the way of the Superbike team winning races.