Flavio Fratesi, one of the founders and vice-presidents of Rossi’s fan club, jokingly said last year: “If Valentino keeps racing, there is a risk that it will be the first time a fan club has stepped down before its driver.“Now that the moment has come for the doctor to end his career in Valencia, the danger has been averted and his“ yellow people ”are actually being continued with many projects in the pipeline.
“At the moment we are very busy preparing for the second Grand Prix in Misano. We won’t notice that Vale is leaving until Saturday evening in Valencia, ”said Flavio.
Will the fan club continue to exist?
“We have a lot of ideas to evaluate with VR, but one thing is for sure … we will move on. When in doubt, the fans made us think. We keep getting emails asking us to continue. In Austria we had a grandstand for 7,000 people. We also have some excuses not to stop. Vale will keep racing cars, he will have a team in MotoGP and all the Academy riders are there. We have also been organizing initiatives within hospitals for many years. It’s an important part of what we do and we want to continue. We’re not going to retire, ”he said with a laugh.
Will a new chapter begin for the fan club too?
“After twenty-six years we were pretty firm, but now we have an incentive not to age. We come back into the game. “
“We have tripled our membership, even if Valentino no longer wins, they are in 88 countries”
How many members are there currently?
“Before the pandemic, we had tripled our membership compared to Vale. In 2008 we had 6,000 and we had reached 18,000. Usually in sport the less you win, the less you win, but the opposite was true for us. It was good testimony from the fans who love Valentino and therefore his fan club, regardless of the results. We’re now at around 15,000. “
Are there any VIPs?
“I never go there, but I remember a letter from Josè Mujica, the former President of Uruguay, who was one of our members and sent us a letter saying that he wanted Valentino Rossi to be his son. The incredible thing, even more so than famous people, is having members in eight and eight countries around the world. In addition, given its proportions, Asia has almost more than Europe. After all, we filled a grandstand with 15,000 people at the last Sepang GP. You’re very fond of Valentino and now I’m going to brag, ”he said with a laugh. “Even with us, they invite us everywhere. There is a friendship and it’s nice to tell Vales story. “
“The Jerez toilet gag should have a sequel … a diaper for Incontenik”
Speaking of stories, what’s your best memory of all the gags you’ve created over the years?
“The one that amused me the most was the one in Mugello in 2002 when Vale was stopped by the police. His mother called him too and asked if he really had been fined, ”he said with a laugh. “However, the one who represents Vale in every way was in Jerez in 1998 when he stopped on the track to pee. Nobody knew anything about it. He came up with it on Saturday when he was racing on the track. And there should be a sequel.”
Can you reveal it now?
“The gag was so successful that we decided to do it again at Paul Ricard’s next race. But there was a problem because Vale couldn’t get off his bike in the lap of honor or he would have received a fine. In Jerez he already had to pay six million lira. So we took a large diaper that we would have pulled over his suit, and instead of ‘Valentinik’ we would have written ‘Incontenik’ on it. Unfortunately, the chain fell off in the last lap, we didn’t succeed. “
“We had to remove Polleria Osvaldo, it overshadowed the real sponsors”
How did all these gags come about?
“We have never taken ourselves seriously and still do not do it today. Let’s say we’ve expanded our gags. From Tavullia we got them on the line. It was a nice way to celebrate. Polleria Osvaldo, for example, was founded in 1998 when Vale was not doing well. He fell four times. The last one was in Donington. He was down, he almost wanted to stop, he had doubts. So we joked with him and said, ‘Don’t worry, there is always a sponsor. From chicken to chicken, Polleria Osvaldo will always be there (Ed. ‘Polleria’ means ‘poultry shop’ in Italian) ”, he said with a laugh. “It eventually got so popular that we had to remove it because it dwarfed the other sponsors. “
All of these characters are in Yellow Park, the children’s playground that you recently opened in Tavullia.
“Our idea is to take a traveler around the world so everyone can take pictures with the chickens, dwarfs and so on. Of course we didn’t add the inflatable doll, ”he laughed.
“11,000 hats in Misano to see Valentino off with a ‘chapeau’.”
How will you approach the Misano race, like a festive event or with a veil of sadness?
“To tell the truth, I’m so focused on doing everything that I don’t think about it. We are preparing something special. Vale is a rider, so we created a “chapeau”, a fedora, so fans can take their hats off to him and say goodbye. We made eleven thousand. “
Will there be one last gag too?
“We thought about it, but Vale told us that he prefers to say goodbye to all of his fans on the track, not just those in his stands, so he doesn’t want to stop for a gag and run for ten or fifteen minutes currently. Maybe we’ll reconsider from here to Valencia, but I agree with him. It was thanks to the spectators and no one else that we reached this level. We have never lost the spirit of creating others, but the results have not helped us. Even so, Vale decided to keep going and I think that’s why he likes it too. His passion comes before everything else. It is not easy for a nine-time world champion to finish 15th. It takes a lot of pleasure. Not just for racing, but above all for training. I think the Academy really helped him to live with other drivers. “
“We will devote our time to social issues, we will bring children from the hospitals to Tavullia to experience a day like Vale”
At the beginning you mentioned some ideas for the future. Is there one that you are already working on?
“Yes. The idea is to take some children who can leave the hospitals to Tavullia and spend a day as if they were Valentino Rossi. We’ll take them to VR, to eat in our restaurant, to Yellow Park, to the ranch, and finally to the Misano Circuit with an Academy driver. The project will be called ‘I’m like Vale’ and we are already preparing it. Then there is a small circuit in Yellow Park without architectural barriers, and we want to organize a mini GP for children in wheelchairs with a podium. We believe we received a gift that we shared with everyone. That is perhaps the secret of our enthusiasm after 26 years. If we don’t, we are missing out on a great opportunity. “