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A TOUGH BATTLE Despite A Terrible Crash, Giovanni Spinali Wins The Pro Moto 50 Class Championship  By Mike Vieira Photos by Get Some Photo Going into the SCORE Baja 1000, Giovanni Spinali was in the points lead in Pro Moto 50 with a clear indication, and well ahead in points, of clinching the year’s championship. He did ultimately win the SCORE Pro Moto 50 Championship, at the cost of a near-fatal crash about 365 miles into the SCORE Baja 1000 course, which abruptly ended his championship-winning season. A rock, buried in the sand in a shady area, violently stopped his Yamaha YZ450FX. Traveling at more than 70 miles per hour, Spinali flew over the handlebars and landed more than one hundred feet away. He was sprawled on the ground, unable to move or feel anything at first. A few agonizing minutes later, Vance Kennedy on the 522x bike, his main class competition, arrived on the scene. Kennedy stopped to check on him and saw that he was seriously injured and unable to call for help. Kennedy used the SOS communications system to have emergency assistance respond, and stayed to comfort Spinali.   A few minutes later, another bike approached the scene. It was Tanner Janeski, riding in the Ironman Class. He slowed when he saw the two other riders, but hit the very same rock that had put Spinali out. Janeski also went over his handlebars and suffered some injuries, although much less severe than Spinali. Fortunately, Janeski had a SAT phone and was able to speak more directly to someone in calling for aid. A rescue vehicle was on the way, but a helicopter was really what was needed, so Janeski arranged for that. He then stayed with Spinali to aid him the best he could until the helicopter took him away. In the meantime, unable to render any additional aid, Kennedy left to continue his race. Spinali was very grateful to both riders’ for their efforts in helping and comforting him. When the helicopter finally arrived after the crash, Spinali was safely on board, landing a few minutes later at a small emergency clinic in San Felipe. He was then put aboard an ambulance to cross over into the United States, where another helicopter would carry him to a San Diego hospital. All this while, Spinali had been suffering through it all without any pain medication. The American helicopter crew decided they had to stabilize him before taking off, but when they couldn’t find a vein to tap an IV into, they chose to go “military-style” and drill into his leg repeatedly to administer saline solution and medication to help him. “I’ve never felt so much pain in my bones before in my life,” said Spinali. With the painkillers starting to do their job, the crew was able to put his dislocated shoulder and hip back into place and put him aboard the helicopter for the trip to UCSD.  There, they were able to more thoroughly detail the damage to Spinalli’s body. They included seven broken ribs, two broken arms, a compound fracture, broken vertebrae, leg and pelvis injuries, and on and on. So far, he’s endured three surgeries and is on the mend, but it will still be a long way back. As he heals and goes through physical therapy, he’s stopped the pain medication and is toughing it out without it. Even after going through all that suffering, Spinali’s attitude seems great. He says that winning the championship is “like the silver lining of the whole deal. We kind of won it on a technicality because the other rider of record didn’t start or finish the race. It’s strange because I specifically asked that question at the riders’ meeting because I didn’t want to get up at one in the morning just to roll the start and then go to my section. But they made it very clear that you need to either start or finish the race, so I figured I just better go start the race so we’d have that box checked.” Going back to less eventful races earlier in the season, Spinali had a second-place finish in the SCORE San Felipe 250. Fuel pump issues caused uneven performance for his bike and prevented him from maintaining the speed that was needed for a win over the 522x team. The SCORE Baja 500 and SCORE Baja 400 saw first-place finishes for Spinali without any serious issues causing problems for the team. Motorcycle racing is clearly in Spinali’s blood, and he says he’s been thinking about his return to the sport since the day he crashed. “I race in a lot of other disciplines like motocross and enduro, and I do some GPs and things like that, so it’s not just Baja,” he said. “I’m sure I’m going to race in the future, and I’m sure I’ll race in Baja again. I just don’t know if it’s going to be just to do it so I can say ‘Baja didn’t win’ kind of thing, but I don’t know what the future holds for us as far as going after more championships, because this was a wake-up call.  I’ll race there again, I just don’t know in what capacity.” The danger is just a part of the sport to Spinali, saying that crashing is always in the back of a rider’s mind. “You understand that’s a possibility”, he says, “but it’s kind of luck of the draw.  It’s not a matter of if you’re going to crash, but when, and how bad it’s going to be. I think everybody knows that when you swing your leg over that bike that anything can happen. But you get so much pleasure and fun out of doing it, that I wouldn’t change what happened if I had to give up all the races and all the riding that I’ve done. I get so much pleasure out of racing and competing that it makes up for what I’m going through now.” Helping him out in his recovery are all the good wishes he’s received from fellow competitors and SCORE officials. He’s even thinking about the possibility of running in the Ironman Class in the future, so Giovanni Spinali is not someone who gives up easily, although he doesn’t want to let down his team by going off solo. Only time will tell. SJ

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