There can be no doubting 2018 has been a year in which Luca Marini has come of age. Now 21 years old, one of Italy’s great hopes for the future has recently proven his worthyness of a place alongside Moto2 championship favourite Francesco Bagnaia in the Sky Racing VR46 team.

From collecting his first front row start at Assen, Marini has mainly been one of the class’ front-runners, riding to four podiums in six outings, coming agonisingly close a first grand prix win in a last-lap thriller at Brno, and successfully backing up Bagnaia at the recent Thailand Grand Prix.

Crash.net recently sat down with Marini to discuss his interests outside of motorcycle racing, the merits of being a member of the VR46 Academy, overcoming a pesky shoulder injury, and whether being Valentino Rossi’s younger (half) brother was an advantage in his recent rise.

Crash.net:
Motorcycle racing has always been central to your family’s life, but what about you personally? Was it always something you liked or did during your younger years?

Luca Marini:
For sure it was an important part of my life because I started with pocket bikes when I was four. But I started because I always did a road in the car with my parents that passed a mini-bike track in Cattolica [in east Italy, 5km from Circuit de Misano]. Every time I saw some children that were playing with pocket bikes. I wanted to try. Maybe it was something inside me that pushed me to take this decision. But for sure I don’t think my family influence me to start this career, this game. When I tried for the first time I was really excited. I wanted to ride more, play more with the bike. It was like a game, a pleasure and then when I grew up I started to be more serious and take this game like a job. But it’s always fun. The most important thing is to have fun with bikes. I’m happy to do this, I want to continue you like this.

Crash.net:
From what I understand, there were other paths you could have taken when you were deciding what to do...

Luca Marini:
Exactly. Because my parents let me do a lot of things, a lot of sports. In winter we went to the mountains to ski. Then I started snowboarding. In the summer I go sailing. Also I played tennis. I played football for eight years. I tried a lot of different sports and I took the decision to continue with motorbikes because it was the sport that caused me more emotions, better feelings.

Crash.net:
You said you played football for eight years. Was it ever a serious consideration, to take this further?

Luca Marini:
Well, to take that road for sure I would take a different decision. For example, to try and go with a bigger team close to my town. I remember in that period my friends went to Rimini or Cesena that were good teams to start. But I wanted to continue playing with my friends in the team close to my town. I’m happy to because I think this was the correct decision.

Crash.net:
Did you take your studies seriously?

Luca Marini:
Yes. I always think about my studies like I have to finish them. It’s really important. I wanted to do high-school when I was younger. When I took this decision I wanted to finish this process to learn more. When you are young you don’t know how important school is. When you grow up, year-by-year, you learn something more and you understand it’s more important. For the life, you can learn languages and also culture, which is really important. But now the motorcycle world is very competitive, very difficult and it’s very difficult to continue the studies. I didn’t want to do two bad things; I preferred to do one on good thing. I wanted to continue like this, with motorbikes. But in the future, I don’t know. Maybe my goals will change and I would to learn something more. Because I’m very interested in a lot of things. I like to learn every time something new.

Crash.net:
Is there anything in particular you would like to study more?

Luca Marini:
Different things. It’s really difficult to take a decision because I like a lot computers. Also history. Ecological sites, I like a lot. Also the universe. I have a lot of options. I’ll wait a little bit for a few years and when I grow some more I’ll take a decision.

Crash.net:
With some racers it seems they go home and do little else other than live the sport. Would it be fair to say you are a little different?

Luca Marini:
Well, sincerely I work a lot when I’m at home. I never stop being focussed on the championship because I think the work here is not enough now to be strong and to win a title. You have to work every day at home. Like other riders, I train a lot. I watch all the races on the Sky MotoGP channel. But I like to do other things. I spend a lot of time with my girlfriend, but I also play videogames. I have a good passion for videogames. I try to have a good time, and also stay in my town, which is a very nice place.

Crash.net:
You made your full-time debut in the Moto2 class in 2016, which is slightly unconventional. Was doing this, and missing out on years in Moto3 an advantage for you, do you think?

Luca Marini:
Well, there are for sure advantages and disadvantages. When I passed to Moto2 in the European championship, I took this decision with my parents, with my brother, with VR46 because I was really tall for Moto3. It was really difficult. But I would have liked to do one year in the Moto3 world championship. But it was not possible. So I took the decision to pass to Moto2 and do one year in the European championship. It was a good decision. When I tried the Moto2 for the first time I felt much better, much more comfortable and this also made me feel better. I worked a lot to improve in Moto2. I saw I could do better things with that bike. Moto3 was more difficult because I was too tall, too heavy. But to start in a difficult category like Moto2, the world championship… for sure the first two years, I had to improve a lot. I learned a lot of things. I think I’ve grown up a lot. Now that I have more experience, it’s much better. I understand a lot of things. Now I feel much more competitive.

Crash.net:
How long did it take before you felt comfortable in the world championship?

Luca Marini:
This feeling never stops improving. The first year I was quite fast. Also when I saw myself on TV I was not happy with my riding style. I tried to improve a lot. Last year I did. Also I saw in some places, in some corners I was not so fast – especially left corners. This year I tried to work on that part and improve a little more. I think every year you need to improve something. It’s impossible to be perfect, and the other riders are working every day to try and beat you. You have to do something more to be the fastest and the strongest.

Crash.net:
You mentioned last year. You started the season well, but things started getting difficult after your crash in France…

Luca Marini:
I started very well. I was really happy at the beginning of the season and then at Le Mans I crashed with Pasini. I had an injury in the left shoulder, like always. It was really difficult. I rode in Mugello after and did a good result – maybe P6. But in a shit physical condition. In fact when I arrived in Barcelona, I could not race. It was too difficult to do the race in Mugello and the next Sunday there was the race in Barcelona. I couldn’t race. Difficult. Then other races, for example the Sachsenring, I didn’t race. This year, when I had an injury with the shoulder I had more patience, I did the correct things. I waited a little more to ensure I would come back stronger during the season.

Crash.net:
As you said, that injury flared up again this year. Didn’t you dislocate your shoulder twice in a week before the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez?

Luca Marini:
I don’t remember, but for sure when I had the dislocation in [Spain] maybe… I went to the first hospital that I saw because it was in a critical condition with a lot of pain. Talking with the doctors there that day, they didn’t believe me. So they tried to do what they wanted, but they did a mistake and it was difficult to recover. While three weeks before I had the same injury, the same dislocation [after a crash] at the Ranch, but I went to our doctor that we know very well. It was much better, the recovery was better. At the next race I could race quite good. But the race after the second dislocation at Le Mans, I could not race. It was like this.

Crash.net:
How is the shoulder now?

Luca Marini:
Up and down. Up and down because autumn is coming and the humidity changes. I have a little bit more pain. But it’s OK. Now I can race, not at 100 percent, but for sure at 90. So it’s good. It’s enough to race.

Crash.net:
Shoulders can be very particular. What aspect of your riding does an injury like this affect the most?

Luca Marini:
It’s particular, yes, but I think a lot of riders have this problem. Someone has more pain, others less. For example, [Lorenzo] Baldassarri and [Marc] Marquez, when they have a dislocation they can race the day after. For me, that’s impossible. It depends. For sure after an injury like this, the change of direction – for me, for example, from right to left – is really difficult. Also the strength in the braking was really difficult. But with painkillers and the Clinica Mobile we work a lot. You can race in some way. But it’s not at 100 percent. In these years you have to be at 100 percent to be competitive.

Crash.net:
Aside from the injuries, how would you assess 2018, your first season with Sky Racing VR46? Are you pleased with how the season has gone?

Luca Marini:
A lot. A lot. The team is incredible. We work very well. My mechanics are fantastic. I want to thank them because they work very well. They take particular attention to the details and this is very important in Moto2. I’m very happy with my championship because I think I’ve grown up a lot. I gained some good results, and this was my goal at the beginning of the season. So now I want to continue and finish this season in the best way, giving 100 percent in every practice. It’s very important for next year.

Crash.net:
Your brother told MotoGP.com that you had a talk before Assen in which he told you to work harder and apply yourself more. Was this crucial in your upturn in results?

Luca Marini:
Well, also Assen was the first race that after the injury I felt in a good condition. So also this helped a lot. With the bike my feeling improved. During the season you work on the bike and every race [it was getting] a little bit better. I spoke not just with Vale – I speak with Vale at every race – but also I had a meeting with VR46 Academy with Uccio [Salucci], Carlo [Casabianca – VR46 trainer], [Alberto] ‘Albi’ [Tebaldi VR46 Manager] and Gianluca [Falcioni – VR46 Marketing Manager]. We tried to find something more that could help me do better results. In the first part of the season, because of a lot of things, I couldn’t achieve the results I wanted.

Crash.net:
What did you find?

Luca Marini:
Different things; it’s not just one. My physical condition improved. My feeling with the bike improved. Then also Kalex brought us a new chassis. Also with Ohlins we did a great job. All those things together.

Crash.net:
Are you able to learn a lot from working alongside your team-mate?

Luca Marini:
I think being able to learn from another rider is one of the most important things. I learn something interesting from Pecco. But also I think he learns something interesting from me. We help each other a lot. We try to do a great job for us because this is a single [solo] sport, but also for the team. The team gives us a lot. We want to give the team good results, podiums, victories, and he’s trying to bring them the title. I’m happy to have a strong team-mate. It’s easier to learn. You have the fastest rider in Moto2 and you can see his data, how he brakes, how he uses the throttle, the tyres… a lot of things. It’s very good. We have a good relationship. We speak a lot.

Crash.net:
You’re one of the taller riders in Moto2. Next year the class is switching from Honda 600cc engines to Triumph 765s. Do you think riding style will need to be adjusted? Could the bigger engines be an advantage for you?

Luca Marini:
I don’t know. In my opinion there will not be a big change. The chassis is very similar. Yes, the engine changes a lot but in the end we won’t have electronics like I expected. The tyres are the same. Maybe at some tracks you can use a different gear, a different line, but it will be very similar. I hope we can be faster because it’s important to have a faster bike that also prepares you better for MotoGP. But I see that Moto2 now is preparing our riders very well for MotoGP. Riders like [Johann] Zarco, Franco [Morbidelli], [Jonas] Folger… For sure Pecco next year will be strong.

Crash.net:
Is that the intention for you – to be in MotoGP as soon as possible?

Luca Marini:
Not as soon as possible - think in the good moment. I have to do a good job here. I have to do great results, and I’ll try to win a race and then more races, if it is possible. I’m here to do this. When I’m strong and I have a good option for MotoGP, if I feel ready, for sure it’s my dream and my goal.

Crash.net:
You are a member of the VR46 Academy. Is there one aspect of preparation / life it helps you with more than anything else?

Luca Marini:
For sure there are a lot of good things. They help us a lot in a good way. We are growing up a lot and learning a lot. It’s not easy. From the first year, I think they have improved a lot. But the most important thing for me is their experience because Vale has the biggest experience in this paddock, while also the people that work in VR46 are people that have stayed in this world for a lot of years. They know very well MotoGP, but also the other categories. They can transmit their experience to then [help us] take the good decisions. Finally it’s the rider who takes the correct or incorrect decision, but they try to give us more things that we need.

Crash.net:
I’m sure you get this question a lot Luca, but has it been difficult coming into the sport as the younger brother of Valentino Rossi? How have you dealt with it?

Luca Marini:
Difficult for me? No. I think there are more positive aspects than the negative. I can learn a lot from him. I can speak a lot with him and he can give me a lot of advice, and this is very important. So it’s just a pleasure. I think that he’s the greatest of all time. To be his brother, and just being close to him, I can learn a lot of things – and not just in the motorcycle world, but in all of life.

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