Ducati Riding Experience Mugello

The Ducati Riding Experience gives you an opportunity to ride legendary tracks in foreign countries

Michael Gilbert riding Mugello Circuit as part of Ducati Riding Experience
After dreaming of riding the Mugello Circuit for so many years, it made for a total surreal experience when I finally had my chance.Photo Courtesy of Ducati

Fifteen turns. A combination of nine rights and six lefts make up a world-famous racetrack that I've been itching to ride since I first watched motorcycle racing, which made even being there a surreal experience. The track flows among the hills of Tuscany in a truly unique, high-speed layout that doesn't offer much comparison to typical tracks in the United States. And the front straightaway is fast…actually, holy freaking fast! After years of watching a very famous Italian by the name of Rossi rule this place—the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello—it was time to finally experience it for myself.

It's not often that the opportunity to ride a track like the Mugello Circuit comes around, but I had my chance during a Ducati Riding Experience, a one-day riding course hosted by—you guessed it—Ducati. There are actually four levels of courses at the DRE, and I enrolled in Track Evo, the second-most advanced course offered, which is structured to help improve riding skills for those who already have experience on the racetrack. The event also featured the Track Master course, which is slightly more advanced than Evo, as well as the Track Warm-Up and the Precision course, which take place primarily on coned tracks in the paddock.

Ducati Riding Experience Group at Mugello Circuit
With each rider being assigned their own Ducati for the event, it made for a swarm of Italian machinery on track.Photo Courtesy of Ducati

In Track Evo, riders are split into groups of four to six based upon skill level and given one instructor for the entire day; each student is assigned their own Ducati Panigale 959. Many students also took advantage of the Ducati-branded riding gear rental program that made for a constant sea of red among the paddock and racetrack.

Before we were allowed to turn a wheel on the racetrack, we sat down for a basic briefing about the DRE and track riding. Although the Track Evo course is designed for riders with some track experience, I still found the briefing to be extremely simple and geared toward first-time track riders—but reminders never hurt. Throughout the day there was much less formal classroom instruction than I anticipated, but all the DRE instructors were happy to answer any questions or give tips on how to get around Mugello safer and faster.

Ducati Riding Experience Michael Gilbert with Dario Marchetti at Mugello
The technical director of the DRE, Dario Marchetti, took time out of his schedule to lead me around the Mugello Circuit for a session after I had a question about line choice.Photo Courtesy of Ducati

On track, however, the program was very structured and didn’t allow a great amount of freedom for students to explore their limits. Although the pace was neither too fast nor too slow, each group was required to follow an instructor for every session throughout the day in order for them to offer advice based on what they had seen with the student’s riding. I would’ve liked to at least experience the Mugello Circuit at my own pace, but the instructors were there to do their job of providing assistance to the DRE customers looking for instruction.

Ducati Riding Experience group talking with Leandro Mercado
After each on-track session, my group sat down with our assigned instructor, World Superstock racer Leandro Mercado, for tips before heading back out.Photo Courtesy of Ducati

Speaking of the DRE instructors, the lineup of coaches at the event may have been the most impressive part of the whole thing. These guys are fast…really fast. Several of them are national and world champions like Andrew Pitt, Michele Pirro, Manuel Poggiali, and Leandro Mercado—who was the leader of my Track Evo group. Being around these riders and following them on the racetrack was possibly the coolest part of the whole experience.

Unless you’re an elite rider yourself, riding among ex-MotoGP, World Superbike, and other accomplished riders doesn’t happen all too often, and that’s why I found the DRE so unique. No matter where I was on track during the day, I was always surrounded by one of these coaches, which made riding Mugello that much more special. Not only was I able to ride among these ultra-fast guys, but I was also able to connect with them as a friend as well as a student. Not one of the staff members had an ego, and they all went out of their way to make sure that each student’s experience was the best it could be.

Ducati Riding Experience Michael Gilbert Certificate of Completion
At the end of the day, each DRE student receives a certificate of completion. Mine will be hanging on the wall for a long time!Photo Courtesy of Ducati

Obviously for most, attending a DRE event would be a heck of trip and involve traveling overseas, but you might be surprised at how many do. Ducati fans from around the world fly into Italy to make a vacation around the event, and that may include a visit to the Ducati factory in Bologna, which is only an hour away from Mugello. DRE events are also held at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli in San Marino as well as special dates like this year's event in Bahrain.

My day at the DRE event in Italy will go down in the books as one to remember. As the name suggests, DRE was all about the experience. Traveling to Italy to ride a legendary track like Mugello was an incredible time by itself, but being able to spin laps with some of Ducati’s greatest racers made it even better. I can’t name another event that gives the average rider an opportunity to ride with so many world-class riders and provides this sort of experience.

Ducati lover or not, attending the DRE at least once is a must.

Precision: Paddock course = $502
Track Warm-Up: Paddock course w/ limited racetrack sessions = $1,105
Track Evo: Racetrack = $1,160
Rack Master: Racetrack = $1,660