Randy Mamola’s two-up rides have become legendary within the MotoGP paddock. The list of pillion partners the ex-500cc rider has scared half to death includes everyone from supermodels to F1 drivers, with TV stars and famous band members getting the occasional seat. At the recent Laguna Seca US GP, I was by some good graces able to add my name to that list, an opportunity I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
The MotoX2 program is funded primarily by Marlboro, yet Dorna oversees much of its operations and Ducati has its obvious influence. Alpinestars lends a hand by supplying gear for each of the riders and Bridgestone keeps the specially equipped two-up bike on fresh rubber. The bike itself is a repurposed Desmosedici GP6 990 complete with rear seat, passenger pegs and tank-mounted grab bars. Mamola says that a new 1000cc two-up bike is in the works, and that the reason for not upgrading to the 800cc model was due to the rev-hungry nature of the engine, which would have hurt longevity.
The two-up ride is taken seriously by its orchestrators, and each rider is sent through a medical evaluation before given the green light — it’s really impressive to see how professional the program is run and to see how passionate everyone is — including Mamola. From there it was off to the MotoX2 tent, where I signed my life away and had fresh gear thrown at me like some Christmas morning free for all. Once suited, I headed over to the Alpinsetars rig and tried to not let my nerves overwhelm me. Yeah right. Moments later Randy walked in and gave the riders a briefing on the program, in addition to a background on his racing career, instilling a bit of confidence in those who otherwise didn’t know him from Adam. Minutes before we went on track, Randy slung each rider over the tail section of the GP6 and gave us some pointers on how to not completely ruin the ride, all the while photographers hovered over us.
After two warm-up laps Mamola came to a stop on the front straight, at which point I was given a nudge of encouragement and helped onto the bike — I’ve participated in my fair share of races and have been in plenty of pressure cooker situations, but walking out to that bike was hands down one of the most gut-wrenching things I’ve ever done. Scared? Yeah, I’ll admit I was.
Mamola lofted the front wheel right out of the box, as expected, then grabbed gears and accelerated over turn one and down toward Laguna Seca’s turn 2. As he passed the brake markers I thought to myself, okay, he’ll probably start grabbing the brakes soon. About five seconds later — with his hand still on the throttle — I realized this was going to be a long lap. One of the most impressive things about the bike is how much power the brakes have, and how long Mamola can be on the binders while still increasing lean angle.
Turns 2 through 4 were all a lesson in how hard the 990 accelerates. I was worried that Mamola would have a little fun with me by spinning up the rear wheel (the bike doesn’t have traction control), but fortunately he kept things relatively mellow. Entering turn 5 was twice as frightening as going into turn 1, however, and the rear tire squirmed around all the while my feet started to slip off the pegs. I tried to remember what Randy told me earlier about looking through the corner and not moving around if and when my feet came off. By now I was just about ready to get off the bike.
Dipping through the corkscrew was the pinnacle of the lap, and the drop from left to right literally took the wind out from underneath me. Rainey Curve was more about survival than anything else, and in the blink of an eye I was back on the front straight, with barely enough strength to hold on for Mamola’s patented stoppie at the start/finish mark.
In the end, the MotoX2 ride was hands down the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done on a motorcycle. The adrenaline rush that followed was so intense that as I stepped off the bike I could barely even undo the strap of my helmet, let alone remove the grin from my face. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. And if you ever have the chance to do so as well, take it!