Mechanic forges ahead after earthquake
Nov 26, 2012 04:41 PM
By Ricky Monti

Veteran motocross, Supercross and freestyle motocross mechanic Lorenzo Magnoni has had more than his share of ups and downs during his career, but he has always persevered through hard work and determination.

His latest setback was the destruction of his home in Ferrara, Italy, when a 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck the region north of Bologna on May 19, killing 15 people and leaving 6,000 people homeless. As he awaits permission to rebuild his home, Magnoni still sleeps in a tent and uses a camper for a bathroom.

His work provides a nice distraction as he continues to teach prospective mechanics in his workshop, which he can also use as a kitchen to cook his meals.

Lorenzo Magnoni's Life After Quake

See how veteran FMX and MX mechanic Lorenzo Magnoni tries to rebuild his life after an earthquake destroyed his home.

Magnoni developed a mechanical proficiency under the guidance of his grandfather while growing up on a farm in Italy. Getting his hands dirty working on tractors eventually led him to study car repair before working on motorcycles.

"At 18 I immediately opened a workshop in a motorcycle dealer a few miles from home," Magnoni said. "With all the energy of that age, I wanted to focus the maximum in this adventure."

His dreams of riding a bike competitively were halted because of a serious knee injury that required surgery. A fortunate meeting led Roberto Degli Esposti, who was a technical director of a Supercross race team, to bring him to races as a mechanic for his son Davide. He also worked with Massimo Bianconcini, Stefano Dami,

"Roberto always told me 'Lorenzo, hold out that sooner or later it will be your chance …' and so it happened in 1999 I was contacted by Massimo Castelli, who was technical director of the FreeTime team," Magnoni said. "The rider I had to follow as a mechanic officer was Yves Demaria, an idol to me, and working at his side was the greatest."

Magnoni worked with Demaria for two years with varying success before a serious car accident kept the mechanic out of work for almost four years. "At that time I worked very little for my physical situation but in 2003 I came back to work with Degli Esposti, and his son Davide won the SX European Championship," Magnoni said.

As he began working with FMX riders, he developed a friendship with rider Alvaro Dal Farra and began working on the Dew Tour, Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour and Masters Of Dirt.

Magnoni's optimism was inspiring when we visited him at his home in northern Italy to see how he's rebuilding his life [see the photo gallery above] and to discuss his career. How did you get into the FMX world?

I met for the first time Alvaro Dal Farra on a ski slope in 2000, when he was still a snowboard pro and I was still working for Yves Demaria. On that occasion we talked only of our jobs, and I remember a phrase from Alvaro, "I'd like to start doing FMX sooner or later because I love the motorbike!"

In 2004 I was asked to help a team of FMX riders in Turkey for a series of events. And [on] the rider list I was surprised to read the name Alvaro Dal Farra. I never thought that after only three years he could already participate in an FMX event like this. The day of departure from Milan began our partnership, and it is still continuing. Honestly I have to say that at the beginning I didn't like him very much but later Alvaro proved to be a special person, and now he is one of my best friends.

After this experience we started to work together, but more specifically since 2005 when we started to go around the world for events like Dew Tour or Red Bull X-Fighters.

I can say that since I participated for the first time in an international event as Alvaro's mechanic, I noticed that some riders were [having] difficulties during the preparation of the bike before an event because they had no mechanic who could help them. As you know, often the riders do not have their own bike, often only bring forks and shocks, and everything else you have to build there.

Many FMX riders do not come from a history of professionalism in motocross where there is always [a person to manage] the mechanical and safety culture of the bike. Most accidents happen because there are too [many] problems on the bike, maybe when the [throttle is] open when you need immediate power, because maybe there was a dirty carburetor, a slightly deflated tire, a slipping clutch and many other things.

For this reason I began to make some great organization [such] as Red Bull X-Fighters, Masters Of Dirt and IFMXF aware of these problems.

Do you have any anecdotes from X-Fighters?

It was in Dubai, where Rob Adelberg had a serious problem with the suspension. But we could not understand, there was a loading problem and during the jump he [didn't have] the right feeling. I managed to solve the problem in time for the race, and he finished the race in second place behind Levi Sherwood. …

I remember in Rome last year Andrč Villa had a problem with the front wheel and in the air had an oscillation and vibration that [prevented it from performing at] 100 percent. His mechanic was not able to fix it and thanks to my MX background I was able to fix the wheel, giving him the opportunity to participate in the race.

Also in Rome, at the Olympic Stadium, [Javier] Villegas also had problems with his bike, which was struggling to get 100 percent of power. The bike that had been provided was not exactly the best and I had to disassemble the engine, change the piston [arrived in the morning of the race], clean the carburetor allowing him to participate.

For all these reasons it is important to have [someone as] the mechanical supervisor, or [some riders] could not participate.

Describe the night of May 19, where everything in your life changed.

You have to [understand that since then] during the night I dreamed of the earthquake, and I often woke up sick.

That night we did an FMX show in a small town nearby, finishing at 1 a.m., and I had set the alarm clock at 4:30 because I had to leave for another show.

The alarm was already playing when I felt the bed shake, even [bouncing] on the bed because of how strong it was. But being still half asleep, I didn't realize if it was a dream or reality. Then I started to feel much of the noise because of everything was falling in the house, vases, cabinets, cupboards, tables, chairs.

I managed to get out of bed and ran out of the house quickly, and immediately came out with my brother, my father and Alvaro [who was being] hosted by myself. Only our friend David was missing. We came back to the house and David was under a large dresser, but fortunately did not have a scratch.

While we were out of the house I hear people saying, "But … aw s---, aw s--- … what is happening?" In the house everything was falling, there were cracks in the walls, we had already figured out that we could not save my house, even with a profane eye like mine.

The people were all in the streets, scared and worried, and everyone [tried] to fix up the house as all of us worked on Sunday to pull everything out. On Monday we called our friends, the same building engineers [who] confirmed [it was] uninhabitable and had to break it down.

In the following days I received many calls from friends available to help. I remember the first day we had 30 [people helping] to clean up the house. It was great to have the support from the people who love me.

The Daboot [FMX team] gave me a big hand in sending two campers to put in the garden, one used by my brother with his two sons and one by my father and me for a bathroom. I equipped the kitchen here in the shop because we had no other spaces, and slowly we are restarting the routine.

You told me that you realized only a month ago that you had lost your house, why?

I think that the human mind in certain extreme situations is put in situations of protection, at least my head did, partly because I was already experienced in other situations.

You know, I have not thought about what happened but I had to, and thanks to my friends I knew what were the priorities to be addressed, which no doubt was to find a balance of life for me and family.

I had to work hard every day, I have gone almost four months [with] very little sleep at night because I had an obsession of another [after] shock. Right now I'm feeling the effects of fatigue, the few hours of sleep and stress during this period but I cannot stop.

During that time, some relationships with friends are much stronger, the desire to be together, maybe this is the positive side of this tragedy. I think of these beautiful things not about the bad that hit me.

As soon as I rebuild my house it could be possible to restart again, today my life continues in a tent but maybe one day I can rest on a couch as before.

What has changed in your life since May 19?

Let's say that I do not know if my life has changed or not because I do more or less the same things I did before, but without a home, without a roof. Fortunately I eat as before, work as before, friends are [helping] more than ever before, but the main thing is that we are all healthy, I have not lost anyone in my family.

[I'm] definitely lacking all the comforts of a house, because I now live in a tent and I wash in a camper in my garden. We have not abandoned our land. The house was the pride of our family because it was where my grandfather [lived], we have always worked in this land, but fortunately we can rebuild.

When I think of it I suffer, I often cry at night in my tent thinking about what has happened and thinking about what we have lost. Now that we are aware that our land is a seismic zone we have to live together. It is nature and we cannot do much, in fact we have strengthened our workshop, where there is now the kitchen.

It's important to consolidate all of the buildings to stay safe, and even the companies because otherwise [they will] not start anything here because here there are many small- and medium-sized businesses that are the heart of Italy.

Now until the authority will give us permission to rebuild the house, we have to be in these situations.

What do you miss more than before?

You know I cannot tell you what I miss because now there's the idea in my head that I'm sleeping in the tent and I'm washing myself in a camper, then I do not want to think back to how it was before but as it is now.

I'm in this situation and I live this situation, all things considered, I spent a summer in health and this is enough for me for now.

In my life I have never complained and certainly will not do it now, because my mother looking at me from the sky has always taught me to always be happy with what you have. And I can say that at this time I rediscovered prayer.



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