The ups and downs of ‘Lucky’ Lucchinelli
As a hard-nosed newspaper reporter would probably note, Marco Lucchinelli was ‘one of the more colourful characters’ to win a world 500cc championship. A blindingly quick rider of the 70s and 80s with a particular penchant for the ladies and a good time, Lucky had an even more intense and destructive addiction to hard drugs.
Insiders knew of Lucky’s predilection for dangerous narcotics for some years, and his association with the seamier side of life came to a nasty head several years after he retired from racing in 1988.
The international bike scene was left stunned when reports on 9 December, 1991 revealed that then Ducati World Superbike team manager and 1981 world 500cc champ Lucchinelli had been arrested on suspicion of running an international drug ring.
The then 37-year-old was held along with four Peruvians who were alleged to have smuggled cocaine to Bologna, the home of the Ducati factory, from Peru. Police alleged that the syndicate transformed the cocaine into an invisible film that wrapped the suitcases of the drug couriers.
At the time of his arrest on 6 December, 1991, Lucky shouted, “I am a cocaine addict, but not a drug dealer.” Lucchinelli was eventually acquitted of the more serious charge of being associated with the Peruvian drug traffickers but nevertheless received a hefty five-year sentence in February 1992 for possession of 200mg of the venal white powder. He was released after about two years and said the time in the slammer helped him reassess his life, and cure his addiction.
Almost a year before he was arrested, Lucky had a very lucky escape at Phillip Island after his star rider Raymond Roche had wrapped up Ducati’s first-ever World Superbike Championship on 10 December, 1990.
Lucky, two of his Ducati mechanics and a wrench from another team were travelling across the bridge that links Phillip Island with San Remo on the mainland when an apparent front tyre blow-out sent their car veering over the gutter and through the guard rail. Almost certain to plunge 20 metres to the mud-bank below, the car was arrested by a steel cable that became miraculously entangled with the vehicle.
‘Lucky’ was later breath-tested by Victorian police and released…