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A SENSE OF FREEDOM Italian Paraplegic Moto Racer Nicola Dutto Finishes The SCORE BaJa 1000 By Dan Sanchez Photos by Get Some Photo Once motorcycle riding gets into your blood, nothing can stop you from the joy and sense of freedom it can bring you. Perhaps there’s no better example of this than watching Nicola Dutto, a paraplegic rider from Italy, as he made it look easy to compete in the 56th SCORE Baja 1000 race in the Pro Moto 30 Class. If you don’t know his whole story, 13 years ago, Dutto was in a motorcycle race accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. His presence at the SCORE Baja 1000 had racers in awe of his actions and SCORE Fans cheering for him everywhere he passed them on the course. The images of him riding and succeeding to finish blew up SCORE’s social media, with everyone wanting to know more about this amazing moto racer. We had a chance to interview Dutto about the race, and especially about the logistics it takes to do it. In the Pro Moto 30 Class, as the rider of record, he also had Julian Villarubia, Ruben Saldana, Nick Boyer, and Justin Boyer as co-riders and Ghost Riders for the race. Dutto explained why he wanted to compete in the SCORE Baja 1000 and why he chose one of the longest and most challenging races in SCORE history to compete in. SCORE Journal: After your accident, you got back on a motorcycle in 2012 to continue your prestigious moto racing career and became the first paraplegic moto rider. Had you at that time or before ever raced the SCORE Baja 1000 or any other SCORE race? Nicola Dutto: Yes, I raced the SCORE Baja 500 in 2006, the SCORE San Felipe 250 and SCORE Baja 500 in 2007, and the SCORE Baja 500 and 1000 in 2008. After the accident, in my mind, I had a dream of racing a SCORE Baja 1000 from point to point. I prepared a lot to do this race. I had a lot problems out there, but that’s all part of it. Baja is the best place in the world and my heart is always there. Coming to Baja for me, it’s not just a race, it’s a trip. What I would tell people with health issues is that life doesn’t stop. It’s very hard when you have a spinal injury, and it becomes a different world that is very hard to adapt to. It is a scary world, but if you want to do something, go for it. SJ:Aside from the obvious challenges and bike modifications, what other obstacles, logistically or otherwise, do you face when competing in a long-distance off-road race? Dutto: On a logistical level, the effort is greater because I have to prepare the bikes and the spare parts. Also, we have to prepare the same for the Ghost Riders, so everything is multiplied by three. SJ:What are the responsibilities of your Ghost Riders and what scenarios were you prepared for out in the desert? Dutto: The responsibilities of the ghost riders are simple: they help me in case of a fall and they warn me when the trophy trucks behind us arrive. I know the Baja California desert, and I’m prepared to face the whoops, the silt, and the fast sections. Planning the race, I avoided the sections that would have put me in more difficulty. SJ: You have tackled Dakar, but what made you want to race the SCORE Baja 1000 this year, on one of the longest Peninsula races in SCORE history? Dutto: Yes I raced the Dakar in Peru, but I was totally disappointed. They describe it as the hardest race in the world, but for me, it’s just the most stressful. The organization, after collecting the money from the registrations, does everything possible to exclude you from the ranking. You don’t fight against the desert but instead fight against the rules that change depending on the convenience of the ASO. Running the SCORE Baja 1000 point to point has been my desire since I was a boy. I feel at home in Baja California, and for me, it is the most beautiful place in the world. The SCORE organization understood what my particular needs were and they worked to put me in a position to compete. SCORE moves towards off-road out of passion, not only for businesses like ASO. I raced in the 30 class and completed the 400 miles I had set myself. I decided to race in this class because, knowing the route, I knew that there would be some very tough sections where I would put myself and my ghost riders in danger, nullifying the final result. SJ:In brief, what was the race like for you from the early morning start, through the course, and finally finishing? Dutto: The race was really tough, because following the bike, you don’t have the chance to rest, especially mentally. There is always the worry that something could happen to the bike or to the other riders. We had some logistical problems but fortunately, we managed to resolve them and kept moving forward. SJ: Finishing the race must have been a joyous occasion for you and your team. What did you feel like as you came back up to Ensenada and crossed the finish line? What was going through your mind? Dutto: Arriving in Ensenada was an immense joy. I was so happy, I was almost speechless. I cried like a child. The warmth of the crowd I met along the way made me emotional; it only happens in Baja California to have such great support. SJ:What do you want people to understand from your ambitious challenges, and is there something you are trying to prove to yourself or others? Dutto: I don’t want to prove anything to other people. I decided to get back on a motorbike because I was a rider before the accident and I still am. On a motorbike I feel free— this is what I’m looking for. SJ:So you say you will be back in 2023 racing again in SCORE. What is in the immediate future of your racing career? Dutto: In the immediate future, I will run the Africa Eco Race which will start from Monte Carlo on December 30 to arrive in Dakar on January 14. It involves 6500 km through Morocco, Mauritania, and Senegal. In the spring, I will definitely return to Baja California, but I don’t think I will race the SCORE San Felipe 250. Maybe I will watch it as a spectator. I would like to make the SCORE International World Desert Championship better known in Italy and bring Italian riders to live a unique experience. SJ: What motivates you to do what you do and how many people/sponsors/etc have helped you get to where you are? Dutto: The motivation I have in doing what I do is absolutely the sense of freedom that I feel when I’m on a motorbike. The people who helped me achieve this first of all are my wife, Elena, and my daughters, Federica and Beatrice, and then all the closest friends who surround me. SJ

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