No Bimbo

Bike - June 1993

Two years ago Francesca Giordano decided she wanted to race at the TT. This year she will. She's dedicated, smart and doing a lap with John Westlake

BOUNCING ROUND the TT course in the front of a Transit van, Francesca Romana Giordano does not look glamorous. She's bulging with pullovers because it's February, has her glasses on so she can read the course notes and her flowing locks are stashed away down the back of a paddock jacket. Glamour, sex appeal and a chirpy line in chat got the Italian to the TT - she's got sponsorship most racers only dream of and has had more publicity before the TT than most competitors get during the entire event - but now the work starts.

By the end of the afternoon she must know every bump and bend from Ginger Hall to Ramsey, and in three more days she has to know the 37-mile course like the back of her hair-brush. Being a foxy Italian chick certainly helps get you to the start line of the TT, but it's not much use going into 120mph blind left handers.

Obviously, Francesca knows this. Sitting beside her as she cheerfully mumbles away in Italian about gears and braking points (or something) scribbling more notes to re-read as she re-watches Steve Hislop's flying lap on video over the next few months, you get the impression the sexpot image is a bit of a con, manufactured so male sponsors will pay for her to have an excellent time racing.

This year Cagiva is giving her a Mito 125 to race in the Italian National Women's championship and a Ducati 900SS so she can compete in Italy's Sport Pro-duction class. For the TT Gloucester Kawasaki will provide Francesca with a ZXR400 and ZZ-R600. An enthusiastic caravan dealer in Italy has already given her a large camper van. She came a disappointing fourth last year in Italy's women's championship (blaming an Aprilia that seized seven times during the season) but sponsors couldn't give a stuff, and you can see why. The evening before, she appeared carrying bound copies of all her appearances in the Italian press. There were loads. Then there were the glamorous studio photos shot for sponsors. The last entry was a clipping from the local Manx paper which printed a story about her along with a picture on Gloucester Kawasaki's bike the day before. She is a professional, and if getting sponsorship means flouncing round like Jane Seymour, so be it.

Even when starting out Francesca attracted attention. At her local practice track she wasn't taught the rudiments of racing by a mate who'd already done two races. No, she had lessons from a Mr Biaggi, whose son Max is now a contender for the world 250 GP title. "Yes, Max was always at the track practicing," she says. "He will be 250 champ this year. He's a nice guy too. So's Capirossi, and Gramigni - I see them quite a lot."

As soon as you hint that she's had it easy compared to male racers who aren't chums with world champions and have had to survive without sponsorship, you can see her tense up.

"What I've achieved has been through hard work and dedication," she says waving her arm around the cab. "This [the arm] is full of plates and pins from a crash, and my Aprilia seized seven times in one season - very annoying. I've had problems and I've beaten them. I have raced hard and worked hard so that I could race. As far as I'm concerned, the main advantage of being a female racer is that the men help me lift the bike out of the back of the van."

She got hooked on racing four years ago after taking her Ducati Pantah to a race track open day. "It was fantastic. I wanted to stay there forever. Two weeks later I went to the next open day and I knew I had to go racing." She muddled through for a year, racing when she could, then got her big break.

"I broke my leg in a road bike crash three years ago. With the money I got from the insurance payout and my redundancy money (I'd spent so much time off work that they laid me off) I bought an Aprilia 125 and could afford to go racing full-time for a year."

The following year she read about an Italian journalist competing in the TT. "I immediately wanted to do it. The only thing most Italians know about the race is that it's dangerous, but I was into classic bikes first so I knew all about it. I'd done a few hill climbs which were great - racing on roads made me feel like a naughty schoolboy - but they were too short, so last year I put my Aprilia into the van and drove through Europe to the Isle of Man to compete.

"The first thing I noticed about the circuit was the run-off. There isn't any. Just houses and drops and walls. In Italy I was always complaining that there weren't enough bales here and there wasn't enough run-off there, then I came to the Isle of Man and eeeeeeek." Francesca's bike - that Aprilia - seized going out to practice.

This year she's doing it properly, which means bouncing round the course in a Transit van while team manager and TT racer Allan Warner offers pearls of wisdom like "if you're not really scared, you're not doing it right". "I think she'll do OK," says Allan, who's no slouch on the PR front himself. "She's learning the track fast and we're not putting any pressure on her. Sorry I can't chat - I've got to get her and the bike to a TV interview in half an hour..." D

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