This year’s Isle of Man TT will see just one Italian rider in the entry list, like it has been for a few years in the past.
After Marco Pagani and Alex Polita’s withdrawal, Stefano Bonetti will be once again the sole road racer from Italy, even if he will wave the Croatian flag because of the problem about “start permissions” (the Italian Federation will not release any licence to compete in road races abroad).
Stefano’s first TT in 2004 saw him finishing second best newcomer just after a certain Guy Martin and he now has a lot of experience on the Mountain Course under his belt, coming back every year apart from 2006 (after a crash at the North West 200) and 2013 (due to his horrific injuries in Macau 2012).
Bonetti’s story is the typical “bread and butter” rider one, made by himself, with few means but a lot of talent and passion. Forty-years old mechanic from Castro (Bergamo), Stefano is 4 times European Hillclimb Champion and 11 times Italian Hillclimb Champion; he won IRRC races (Frohburg 2017 with Paton), he stood on the podium at the North West in 2012 (before being moved back in 5th position because of some chronometric problems) and he was invited to the prestigious Macau GP in the same year, despite not ending the Chinese experience very well. I was in Macau when Stefano crashed and I can assure you that coming back physically and mentally after an injury like that is something just not for everybody.
In 2014 Stefano set his best TT lap ever, improving it in 2016 with a 126 mph average speed lap and setting the first “sub 18″ lap for an Italian rider (17’57”238).
Luck was not by his side in 2017, though, when Stefano didn’t improve his lap times with the S1000RR (like many other riders by the way, due to the weather conditions) and he narrowly missed a podium finish in the Lightweight class; his official Paton S1 left him with no chance but to retire while he was in 3rd position behind his teammate Michael Rutter and Martin Jessopp. In 2016, instead, he brought a private Paton to the 5th position in the Race.
Now everything is ready for 2018 season with some interesting projects: Stefano Bonetti will be back to the “triangle” Portstewart-Coleraine-Portrush for the first time after 2014.
“My brother Marcello convinced me to come back to the North West. It could be a good test for the TT” says Stefano, who will be in Northern Ireland just with the BMW. He will ride at the TT with the same bike alongside the beautiful Paton S1, this time with really high expectations.
For the 1000cc races (#30) he will have special fairings with the names of his supporters (just like “The People’s Bike” and just like he did last year). The deadline to help Stefano raising money for the season is the end of March, so you can get in touch with him (+393271813213) for a little donation and your name on his BMW.
Like last year, Stefano will give the Italian Hillclimb Championship a miss, probably riding just a few rounds of the European Championship and IRRC. Everything to be decided in the next weeks. Now eyes and mind are totally focused on a great comeback to the North West 200 and the Isle of Man TT!