Marco Lucchinelli was the closest thing to a rock star that motorcycle racing has ever had. The long hair, the excesses of drink and drugs, the beautiful women and fast cars, hell he even played at Italy’s massive San Remo Song Festival (think Glastonbury but without the mud) and cut several singles in the early 1980s.
His nickname of Crazy Horse was well deserved but, even so, the motorcycling world was shocked to hear the news that, on December 6, 1991, Lucchinelli had been arrested on suspicion of running an international drug ring. This wasn’t a club racer after all; Lucchinelli was a former 500cc champion of the world, the highest accolade in motorcycle racing. Between 1975 and 1986, the Italian won six 500cc Grands Prix, set nine pole positions and nine fastest laps, and scored a total of nine podiums. Riding a factory Suzuki RG500 he took the 1981 world championship ahead of the likes of Kenny Roberts, Barry Sheene and Randy Mamola.
After his GP career was over, Lucchinelli won the 1987 Daytona Battle of the Twins race on a Ducati 851 and scored two wins in the first ever World Superbike season in 1988 before becoming Ducati’s team manager in the series the following year. He was still in Ducati’s employ when he was arrested on drugs charges along with four other Italian men and six Peruvians. It was alleged that Lucchinelli and the others had been smuggling cocaine into Bologna by a most ingenious method, transforming the narcotics into invisible films that were hidden in the courier’s suitcases.
Lucchinelli had been with two of the Peruvians in a flat he owned in Bologna when they supplied him with 200g of cocaine. The prosecution took this as evidence that the former GP star was involved in the trafficking trade but Lucchinelli insisted he was only being supplied with drugs, not dealing in them. “I am a cocaine addict,” he admitted to judge Michele Massari, “but not a drug dealer.”