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Randy Mamola: A life in the MotoGP paddock

Published: 17 November 2018

Achieving 57 podiums across four different manufacturers and finishing third in the world on three occasions with separate teams, Randy Mamola is widely regarded as the greatest Grand Prix racer never to win a premier class title.

In a world championship career spanning 13 years, Mamola locked bars with copious racing legends including; Barry Sheene, Kenny Roberts, Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey (the list goes on...) before moving into testing role and later a career in television.

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Although finishing his last competitive GP race 26-years-ago, Mamola remains heavily imbedded within the MotoGP circus; moving on from 10 years of Eurosport coverage to present Spanish television, as well as comparing talks with VIPs during race weekends and riding the explosive two-seater Ducati MotoX2 MotoGP bike.

Mamola stands on the podium in West Germany 1994

MCN caught up with the 59-year-old between duties at the British Grand Prix earlier this year to discuss life after racing and how today's championship differs from the savage 500cc two-strokes he last raced almost 30 years ago.

"What’s unique about myself is that although my last race was 26-years-ago, I’m still alive and kicking and probably still just as busy as ever. The good thing about my life and the way that the racing works is I can take four or five months off in the off-season and pick and choose what I want to do with my time. 

"One of my primary jobs in the paddock is riding the two-seat bikes with Ducati," Mamola explained. "I do that at 12 Grand Prix a year and at a couple events outside of racing. We do between 500 and 600 passengers a year and I've been doing that for 18 years - first with Yamaha and then Ducati for the last 16 years.

"I will also do talks in the VIP suites and this year I began presenting Spanish television. I’ll do that for probably five hours a weekend at 15 of the races."

Mamola leads the 1981 Race of the Year at Mallory Park

Spanish television duties

Despite a 10-year tenure with Eurosport, Mamola’s move to Spanish TV posed one immediate problem - he would no longer be speaking on camera in English.

"Although I live in Spain, most people speak English and - like you British - we Americans become lazy and just want to speak our own language," the former factory rider confessed.

"English is probably one of the most used languages in the paddock and so at 58-years-old, I had to go back to school and learn Spanish. I did two hours a day for a month in straight lessons and even though I can now talk to someone perfectly well, I can block on television when I’m trying to give audiences an insight into racing.

"It’s quite fun though and the people watching enjoy my character because I am not a typical Spaniard – because I'm not Spanish!" 

The 1987 British Grand Prix

The Ducati MotoX2

Away from his work on screen, Mamola is also in the gifted position of still being able to throw his leg over a fully-fledged MotoGP machine when hosting passenger rides on the Ducati MotoX2. Despite being modified to accommodate a brave passenger, the American rider insists they are just as much the race thoroughbred as a single-seater.

"I am still so involved in riding that I can’t miss it! Getting to ride a 260bhp two-seater bike and giving people rides on it almost every weekend makes you feel like you really aren’t missing anything!

"I don’t get to ride the bike between the final round at Valencia and then Jerez the following year - which is a good five months - and every year when I go there I wonder if I can remember how to ride the thing.

"I promise you though, by turn six I'm already laughing because it’s so much fun to ride. It’s a bespoke Grand Prix bike built for two and the only real difference is that we are using the engine from 2012 and that’s because they have an abundance of those motors left over. We will hit 184mph two-up at Silverstone."

The 1983 British Grand Prix

Getting your classic kicks

Alongside riding this passenger-friendly missile, Mamola (like many riders of his era) will also be invited to classic events, allowing him to his own former machines and rekindle his love affair with the brutal powerband of a 500 GP bike. 

"A 500 has a very narrow band of power and when it hits it makes you smile just as much, if not more than when you ride a modern day bike," he reflected. "Those bikes had so much torque and acceleration, which made them both hard to ride and unique in performance. When you don’t get to ride one for years and then jump back on you just think ‘how did I ride this thing?'"

Spending such a large portion of his life in the Grand Prix paddock has also given Mamola a unique insight into the series - viewing the changes in both regulation and popularity of the sport over almost four decades first hand.

The 1983 West German Grand Prix

Despite crowds falling, he also believes today’s racing is some of the best ever witnessed, saying: "For some reason, we've lost about 50% of the crowd. I don’t mean that negatively - it's just the way things are - but I remember times at Assen, in Holland, when there were 180,000 people watching. The race track back then was nearly 8km long and it was full the whole way around.

"Going back to the racing, we had runaway winners when I was racing and we've also got them now. That said, these last two years have been fantastic because we have watched the sport revolutionise to a single ECU box and we've had some unbelievable finishes and close battles. 

"The Dutch TT this year was probably one of the most fantastic races that I’ve seen in many a year and you can’t compare it to anything else, because it’s a new era."

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