Marco “Lucky” Lucchinelli is a cool, funny, bad boy, a biker who, more than races, won the heart of the people.
Marco Lucchinelli was born on June 26th, 1954 in Bolognano which is far from Italy’s “Motor Country” Emilia. So when he discovered his passion for motorcycles his parents were opposed to signing the permission to began to race. In that time, he needed to wait until his 21st birthday. He started to work on a passenger ship between Australia and New Zeland, then in construction, and even for a singer as a driver. When his parents understood that his passion was bigger than they thought at the beginning, they agreed to sign the permission. It was 1974, Marco was 20 and his career was about to start.
He took part in a time road race with an Aermacchi 250cc. Not being really humble, at the bar, he was bragging about how he was focused on winning his first race. But the race gave a different result from his expectations. Worse. He finished last. But this didn’t discourage the young Lucchinelli who tried the next year with the three-cylinder Laverda 1000 offered by Roberto Gallina in Mugello. It was an endurance race But Marco crashed pretty soon breaking his nose.
“Lucchinelli might look like someone who got in without paying the ticket but he’s a great rider” Barry Sheene
You don’t have to be an expert to see that the results weren’t good but you have to be one to recognize a raw diamond. He took part in the Italian Championship, several endurance races, and the World Championship. At the very first race, Lucchinelli took the pole position and Barry Sheene needed four whole sessions to beat that lap time. He became very skillful in the rain and people started to love his entertaining riding style so much that they started to call him “Crazy Horse”. Being a Crazy Horse, he disliked official teams and he spent many years racing for small private teams, probably for a more relaxed atmosphere. And in 1977, he had to stop in the middle of the season because they ran out of money.
Another couple of year went by with few points and a lot of crashes. But we have to remember that in this time the bikes weren’t reliable, the track insidious and twice as long as today. Technical failures were part of the game and crashing was always in connection with broken bones. So it was difficult to be 100% all the time and we’re taking about Crazy Horse Lucchinelli. In 1980, there was a big change. Marco showed is potential in a number of occasions against Kenny Roberts. But in Assen, while in the lead, his visor got so foggy that he had to retire. In Finland, again in the lead with 15 seconds from the second, he broke the engine. In England, he had a puncture. But in Germany, he won the last edition of the Nordschleife, not the 21 km (record still owned by Helmut Dähne, 7:49.71), but the 23 km. Marco set the record of 8:22.2 which will remain there forever.
The Lucky Star and the three wishes
1980 wasn’t really a good year but he showed his ability to win. One night, looking at the clear sky, he saw three shooting stars and he expressed three wishes. He was about to become a father so he wished that his son would be healthy. His father was about to have a heart surgery, so he wished to get well soon. And finally, he wished to win one World Championship. And this is how “Lucky” was born.
In 1981 he won 5 races and finally the Championship on his Suzuki RG 500 against Randy Mamola, Kenny Roberts, and Barry Sheene. He won also the Italian Championship in 1980 and 1981. In that time, in order to take the license for the WC, you had to ride the National Championship.
In 1984, Franco Uncini was probably his worst enemy. They genuinely hate each other but one day, during a qualifying in Paul Ricard, Uncini had a bad crash in an isolated part of the track. Lucchinelli stopped to rescue him and someone took a picture that became so famous for reminding us who is Marco Lucchinelli and why so many people love him.
His adventure in 500cc continued until 1986 and after a short pause, in 1988 he took part in the very first Superbike World Championship. Not many people know that Lucchinelli won the very first Superbike race and finished the championship in the 5th because Ducati decided to save money in not attending the races in Australia and New Zeland.
On the other side of the pit lane
In 1990 he ended his career as a rider and began as a manager for Ducati. He discovered Giancarlo Falappa after he met him on the highway and Falappa opened Lucchinelli’s car door, waved his hand and disappeared on a wheelie. He recognized him when they first met at the gas station and he hired him immediately. Later after a life-threatening crash, Lucchinelli helped Falappa by bringing him to his home and support him while learning to walk and to speak again. He discovered and privately supported Doug Polen who won the championship right the first year like Lucchinelli predicted.
Lucchinelli is a great, funny man, one of the most entertaining riders ever. In several occasions, he reminded us of the old days of racing where they all traveled in trailers and stopped at gas stations to eat all together with the other teams and riders.