Francesca, Woman in Love with the TT Aura

Manx Independent - 31 May 1996
By Julie Blackburn

FRANCESCA Romana Giordano is one of only a handful of women riding in this year's TT races. Francesca, with a long mane of dark, wavy hair and the sort of accent that makes you think of sun-shine and espresso coffee.

The sight of her in her leathers, astride her 750cc Yamaha, makes most men go weak at the knees, but she's not married and she thinks she knows exactly why: 'I'm too expensive for a husband - there's tyres, petrol, bikes...,' she laughs as she reels off the list.

'I manage to cover my expenses racing, but it's not something you can ever earn money from. We're always without money - that's our normal attitude.'

In any case, Francesca is completely in love with moterbikes. When she is not racing on them, or practicing for races, she is busy running an organisation called Associazione Difesa Moto, which she set up herself to promote the interests of riders and encourage more of them to get together and enjoy some moterbike themed social activities.

She even has her own TV show in Milan, where she plays host to guests who talk about bikes.

But Francesca didn't start out to become a bike racer. Like her father before her she trained as an architect and only began riding bikes seriously six years ago.

'My first bike was a Honda 500,' she says, 'then I bought a Ducati Pantah 600 - quite a sporty bike.

'I went to a rally at the Vallelunga circuit, near Rome. They made us do five laps and I didn't want to stop!'

She loved it so much that she spent the next year helping out at the racetracks, 'polishing bikes and taking tyres to the mechanics.'

Her parents, not surprisingly, had mixed feelings about all this -and still have. "They say I ought to be doing architecture instead of playing with bikes,' she laughs. 'When I first started racing they liked the idea, but then I had a bad accident and broke a lot of things, so they didn't like it anymore.'

The accident occurred when Francesca was practising for a race. She was hit by three other bikes and broke an arm, a shoulder and 10 ribs. But she was determined to make a quick recovery.

'There was a 125cc championship starting in four months' time and I really wanted to do it,' she recalls. 'Claudio Costa, who is a famous doctor who looks after riders, came to see me and he said: "OK - you will have one month in hospital, two; months in plaster and one month's physio. If you do everything properly you'll be able to race in four months' time" '

With typical grit she made it, though she admits she was nervous about getting back on the bike again.

'But I really wanted to do if,' she explains, 'and the idea of doing it was-stronger than the fear. I did two races and I was afraid. Then I was practising and I fell off again, but this time I wasn't hurt and the bike wasn't damaged, so the fear just went away.'

She is currently the only woman taking part in the Italian 750cc championship and she loves the big bikes. When she first went round the Misano circuit on a 750cc machine, she says: 'It was so beautiful - it was the best bike I have ever ridden. On the 125cc and the 250cc you never feel you have enough power, but on the 750 you have all the power you want - it's beautfful, just beautiful!'

Unlike the smaller bikes where it pays to be light and agile, riding a 750cc machine takes strength and power and Francesca works hard to keep herself fit enough to be up to the task. 'I do a lot of gym and lately I have bought a mountain bike - that's very, very good for your breathing and good for your legs,' she says.

'Riding the large bikes, a man obviously has more power and more muscles than a woman.'

Francesca is not the only famous member of her family. Her elder sister Domiziana is a well-known actress: she has done a lot of Italian cinema and she recently appeared in the Tom Cruise film Interview with the Vampire.

When Francesca first began racing she says all the articles in the Italian press described her as 'Domiziana's sister.' But as she has become famous as a racer, she says she is starting to have articles written about her in her own right - a measure of her success at keeping herself in the public eye enough to attract sponsors like Agip and Pirelli.

Once she had started racing, Francesca says that she always wanted to ride in the TT. 'It is something famous - the most famous race in the world,' she says.

She got her chance when an Italian journalist told her the Hailwood Association was running a scheme to help foreign riders come and compete in the TT. 'Through them I met Geoff Duke and he organised the trip for me to come here,' Francesca explains. 'He also took me around for some laps - Geoff was a very, very good teacher.'

Someone told her you need to come to the TT three times before you can really race in it. 'I understand that now,' says Francesca. 'The first time you ride around here it is really like a dream. You are very, very excited - you feel like you're a part of history. I think this year will be good because I am past that situation now and I know my way around the course.' IN 1992, Francesca's first year in the TT, she was riding a 125cc machine which had a lot of engine problems and seized in the first practice session.

In 1993 she rode for the Gloucester Kawasaki team. 'This year I'm racing with Bill Smith Motors on a 400 and a 600 Yamaha,'she says.

She is going to pay particular attention to the mountain section of the course. 'I know my way around ft but I stiU find it difficult to do the lines,' she says.

Apart from Geoff Duke, she says Alan Warner, the manager of Gloucester, has been the biggest help in showing her how to ride the course. 'And Steve Hislop,' she adds, 'because I keep watching his videos. Nick Jefferies' videos are also very good.'

Francesca has travelled to the TT by herself, in a large camper van, and she is quite happy to be on her own. - 'I live by myself' she says, 'and I am very independent. You have to be, because if you wait for other people to come and help and they don't come, then you have to do it yourself.'

She is, nonetheless extremely glamorous and you can be quite sure that, even when she goes out for her practice sessions around the course at 5am, she will have her make-up on.

'I think it makes you feel better if you are wearing a little makeup. If you're a woman you don't want to look like a man because you race - you can be feminine and go on bikes.'

As far as the future goes she says one day she may go back into architecture, but she has no inclination to give up racing just yet.

'I think, in a certain way, it's almost like a drug,' she says. 'If someone rings me up and tells me there's a race next week, 500 miles away, even if I don't have any money and I don't have the bike ' I still say yes right away. I'd like to race always.'

The Associazione Difesa Moto of which Francesca is president fights for the intests of bikers in Italy, lobbying goverment over issues such as the high cost of moterway tolls for moterbikes, and the introduction of first aid motorbikes to carry doctors quickly to the scene of an accident.

The association also has its own laywer who will help bikers with legal problems and they can offer insurance at concessionary rates.

Francesca is trying to expand the association to cover all Europe and she is taking her lobbying to the European Parilment in Brussels.

If you would like to become a member you will be in good company. She has just signed up Steve Hislop.

You can write to Francesca at Viale Isonzo, 25-20135, Milano Italy. Membership costs 10 and includes a free T-shirt.

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