Then you landed in Italy...
Yes, it was 1968. I was raised in Milano where my father opened a car workshop. He thought that motorcycles were just for fun, but I've always believed that they could actually be my job.
Phonz: I miei ricordi più vividi sono legati a mio padre, che negli anni ‘70 era un pilota di motocross. Un vero ribelle. Quando ero piccolo, a casa dei nonni, amavo andare nella sua vecchia cameretta, e osservare le foto delle sue gare appese alle pareti…
When did you discover your talent in customization?
They called me by many names: artist, designer, creative.. I've always defined myself as motorcycle mechanic. Who lessens the importance of this role doesn't know anything about mechanics. Yes, I constantly change things. It's a great mess sometimes. It happens with everything, not only with bike prototypes, but I do what I need to do inside.
Do you remember your first bike customization?
There was a sparkle, with which everything began. When I was a boy I went to the cinema to watch Easy Rider, the movie. It was a Saturday night. The next morning I cut a Lambretta to obtain a sort of chopper. It never worked! A real disaster. But something started to change in me. Shortly after I tried to elaborate the postman's motorcycle: a Bianchi Aquilotto. It caught fire (Dino laughs to tears recalling it!) Mechanics rhymes with a little bit of craziness to me: it's like finding the Neverland. That's what I love of the customization world.
From these first trials, to dragsters, to Bonneville. Why did you create the Open Eyes Dream project and why Bonneville Salt Flats?
The idea of chasing a record at Bonneville Salt Flats has been engraved in me since many years, but it came true only last year when I decided that it was my last call to go, engaging 101% to make it happen. I did whatever I could to find the budget. Even Pakelo Lubricants gave me a little hand among the other sponsors. The team was made of 20 people and everybody invested a piece of dream to build a bigger common dream. The project had a 2-year incubation period.
What's the atmosphere there? Was the Bonneville Salt Flats like you expected?
Bonneville Salt Flats is something else. The situation, the context... you are at 4265 ft, 122°F (50°C) by average by day. It's like making sauna 20 hours a day. You get slowly grilled. Everything is shockingly bright, no reference point to help you. Imagine a skii slope, but made of salt. And here you find people from all over the world, top teams that are more than eager to help you and exchange ideas with you. There is a tremendous respect among riders, mechanics.. everybody knows that apart from the fancy facade life is at stake. At the Speed Week it's not the rider the protagonist, but the vehicle. Records are vehicles' records. That's the correct point of view.
What did you feel just before trying to break the record?
When you reach maximum speed you need to go as straight as possible. When you change gears you feel the rear wheel abandoning you and if you enter a pool of water you get goosebumps. It's difficult to see the rev counter. Ahead of you the endless White. White is the soil, white is the sky because of the heat. You try to search for the fluorescent signs to keep the right direction. You don't have to think about speed, there's no time for that. You only need to check the bike. And open it all. The most intense moment is at the end of it. When you stop and you find yourself alone, in the nowhere, in the silence, where nobody could see you. You feel small in that immensity, part of the lake.
The dream broke when you had an issue with the prototype. What happened?
It was the last day. The lithium battery caught fire. I am far the most emotional person of the team and I cried. Everybody was down but I want to see the glass half-full: we got a record in the GPL category, we passed the five licenses. We'll come back to make the official record... without lithium battery!
Who contributed most to this adventure?
My partner in crime Rosaria Fiorentino, that dealt with logistics. Federico Rizzo the engineer that studied the aerodynamics of the bodywork, Francesco Bellesi who organized our communication. But there are many people to thank lie Fabrizio "Vetroresina" (Fiberglass) like I call him and Eleonora Tiezzi who painted the bike and my son that made the airbrushing. And then there's my work, 20h a day for the previous six months.