A 2021 impossible to forget. Axel Bassani has had an incredible season in the Superbike World Championship. He was the youngest rider on the track and, on his first experience in the category, “Elbocia” (this is his nickname) didn’t look anyone in the face. After a few races where he took the measures, he always remained in the first positions, fighting with the sacred monsters of this sport, and also managing to hit a podium. No one would ever have thought of such a debut at the first opportunity to compete with the big names in this sport, but Bassani managed to bring his bike to the limit after a few races and to obtain important results, riding his Ducati V4 R.
Axel finished the general classification in ninth position, with two hundred and ten points, putting people like Alvaro Bautista, a former Moto GP rider, behind him. Instead, he finished second in the Independents Trophy.
An unforgettable championship.
«I didn’t expect a season like this», Bassani comments during the winter break, «we started with the hope of staying in the first fifteen positions and therefore going to the points. But after a few races we realized that we were growing in an important way and that we could do something more. We were good, we worked hard, but calmly, without rushing to immediately seek results at a time when they were not needed. It wasn’t easy because when you find yourself on the track, you want to do well and go straight to the top. Race after race we got involved, we made our mistakes, but we made it. Now we hope to start where we left off in 2021. It has been a beautiful and satisfying season, because I managed to do what I have always dreamed of, in the premier category. I was the youngest on the track and the team was also the one with the fewest years of experience, just two, with 2020 only half running due to covid. However, great satisfactions arrived and we hit them almost immediately. This gives you confidence to work even more ».
To truly understand the effort and commitment that Axel has put, on and off the track, to reach a coveted category like Superbike, we need to go back a few years and briefly retrace his early career years.
The debut in an international competition dates back to 2015 when he participated in the last two races of the European Superstock 600 championship on a Kawasaki ZX-6R, immediately collecting excellent results with a sixth place in Jerez in Spain and a second place in the Magny race. -Cours.
In 2016 he moved to the Supersport world championship where he completed all eight races in the calendar, scored points on seven occasions, and this allowed him to win the European Supersport Cup, while in the world championship he finished in twelfth position.
2017 is the most difficult year for the Seren del Grappa rider who enthusiastically moves to Moto 2 with the Speed Up Team, but his adventure lasts only four races because at the gates of the Mugello home race, it is announced at surprise the divorce with the team. Bassani finds himself off the track at home from one day to the next. His return to the lap that counts passes first to the Supersport World Championship and then to the Italian Speed Championship.
In 2020, before landing in Superbike, Axel takes part in the World Supersport Challenge.
A difficult year when you left Moto 2.
“It was bad to find yourself on the sofa while all your opponents are on the track fighting for their dreams, it wasn’t easy at all”, continues Bassani, “when you find yourself in this situation you stop wanting to run and you wonder if what you are really doing the right path for you. The support of my family was very important, but this is not enough, first of all it is the person who must be convinced of what he wants to do. The people who are close to you can tell you anything you want, but you are convinced, or you are not going anywhere. “
The family was certainly a big help.
“Having a family that pushes you too hard and puts pressure on you could even have the opposite effect. Mine was fantastic and helped me in the way I needed, but let me make my own decisions. After the interlude in Moto 2, my desire was gone, but slowly the hunger returned and I was able to get back on the saddle “
In the past few weeks, you announced that in 2022 you will still be racing with the private Motocorsa Racing team, riding the Ducati Panigale V4R.
«We will try to hit a few more podiums and if we don’t succeed, we will try to finish the races in the first five places. The team remains linked to the Ducati brand and will therefore continue our collaboration with the Italian brand. New updates? We won’t have any. We will continue to buy every single screw of the bike independently. What we usually do with Ducati is data sharing, which is still very useful. For the rest we do everything with our hands. Both the team and I don’t have a lot of experience in this category and this at times, during the season, penalized us because we came to solving problems after the others. Being at the level of the officers is really very difficult, but not impossible ».
Racing in World Superbike for an independent team rider is anything but easy. Behind everything, as in many other sports, there is money. The drivers who race for the official teams can count on the parent company behind them which, if there are problems, can help. On the other hand, those who run independently must make do in everything.
«The independent teams have to find sponsors on their own to participate in the World Championship», explains Bassani, «if the budget is not enough, what is missing is asked of the driver. If I didn’t bring my share, I’d stay home on the couch. Almost all drivers who race for independent teams pay to race. Last year I contributed my share and I will have to do it next year as well. A little bit of the money it takes to make the season is up to me. I work 12 months a year together with my manager Tomaso Bacigalupo, my dad and my friends to find sponsors that allow me to run. Without them I would not have the possibility to do what I like and for this I thank them ».
An unforgettable experience at Valentino Rossi’s Ranch. For some years now in Tavullia the “100 km of Champions” has been run on the track built by the 46 team for the training of the academy drivers and of Valentino himself.
At the end of November, Axel Bassani received an invitation to participate that he did not miss. The event was attended by top-level riders including Valentino Rossi himself, Jorge Lorenzo, Chaz Davies, Alex Rins, Maverick Vinales, Dennis Foggia and Luca Marini.
Can you tell us about that two days in Tavullia?
«As soon as they contacted me I thought for a moment whether to participate or not, because I hadn’t used a“ Flat Track ”for three years, the type of bike that is used at the Valentino Ranch. In the end, however, I decided to participate and it was a great experience. I got to be with some of the strongest riders in the world. It is one of those experiences that you cannot have every day. On Saturday we ran free practice and qualifying while on Sunday there was the warm up and the 100km race which corresponds to 50 laps. We run in pairs, I was with Kevin Manfredi, and we alternated every 5 laps. It was a nice way to be in company, but we have to look for the results elsewhere ».
Is Moto GP a dream you still aspire to?
“At the moment it’s not something that interests me. I am very well in Superbike, I like this category, the championship and the Paddock. I’m having fun and I’m thinking about staying where I am right now. In the future never say never, because maybe in a few years I will have the opportunity, the desire and the motivation to race in Moto GP. But now I don’t think about it. The future? In 2022 I will race again with the Motocorsa Racing team, for 2023 my manager Tomaso Bacigalupo is having contacts with other teams but for now there is nothing serious ».
The Superbike World Championship usually starts in April and ends in November, and in between there is always a summer break of a few weeks to give the riders their breath. But what does a rider do between December and March to keep fit?
«It really depends on where you live», says Bassani, «I’m from Seren del Grappa and in these parts it’s difficult to do certain things. Usually I go with the dirt bike or go skiing, which I really like and I have been doing it since I was little. I then alternate running to the gym. Around January or February I start running again on the asphalt to resume some automatisms in view of the tests and the championship. The closest track is the “Alle Cave” in Vittorio Veneto where I ride with a 300. The closest real track for me would be Misano, but racing there is not obvious, you need to have the vehicle, the tires, the petrol and a mechanic. For a matter of costs, this possibility is very complicated. At the end of February I will have the first real test, the others in March and the championship will begin in April ».
In 2021 the Superbike World Championship went to Toprak Razgatlioglu on Yamaha, who ousted Jonathan Rea, on Kawasaki, who held the victory of the last six championships. What do you expect in 2022?
«Toprak will certainly want to confirm and win again, but Rea will give everything to try to get back to victory. However, there are many strong riders, the top ten are all of the highest level. We will also have to keep an eye on Bautista on Ducati and Redding on BMW. For me, however, Razgatlioglu and Rea remain favorites. The best and the most difficult race? Certainly among the most beautiful I put Barcelona, where we finished second, but also Race 2 in Argentina where we finished in fourth position. The most difficult was certainly the last one in Indonesia. We were in the top five and could have fought for the podium but because of another rider I crashed and we also lost the chance to fight for seventh place in the world championship and the first among the independents ».