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On the occasion of the Misano round of the WSBK we spoke with Leandro "Tati" Mercado, currently working for the Team MIE Racing. In his Palmares he can boast the title of Superstock 1000 Champion won with the Ducati of Team Barni in 2014 and is a regular presence in both Superbike and national trophies.

It's an all-round chat that allows us to discover many facets of a pilot's life.

F-Fastback M-Mercado

F: Tati, you were born in Argentina in 1992 and started racing on the American continent before moving across the ocean: how was the transition? Is the concept of racing different?

M: Yes yes of course, very different. I started racing when I was 6 years old on flat track dirt ovals which are very popular in Argentina. I then did some speed there and then they selected me to race the Rookies Cup in the United States. At that point I had to make a choice: leave home, leave friends, leave school and change my life. I didn't think about it much because this was my dream, it's my dream, to race outside and get to the World Championship: it was a very difficult choice but I was sure. So at 15 I left home, friends and everything and lived for 2 years in the United States and then in 2010 I arrived here in Italy. Let's say it's my second home because I've been here for many years. It was – along with the races – also a personal challenge because I was alone for a long time, I was very young and I didn't know anyone.

F: And life here in Europe?

M: For a 17-18 year old boy to be in Europe and have to make do... it's one thing to live a normal life, another when you play high level sports. In this world everything is very beautiful when you win but when things don't go well it's a little harder and then you're alone... and my house wasn't an hour's flight away but on the other side of the world! It was an important choice which nevertheless helped me grow and it was nice to get this far and let's say Europe - Spain and Italy above all - is where motorcycling was born. Many people don't know this, but for a Latin American being here is very difficult: you see your family once a year, you miss birthdays and anniversaries. Then you go back to Argentina and see that your grandmother has gotten older and you don't spend time with her, I also have a granddaughter who is growing up. In Latin America the concept of family is very important.

Leandro "Tati" Mercado

Leandro “Tati” Mercado while getting dressed before entering the track

F: So it's a personal challenge, getting out of your comfort zone and having great motivation.

M: You have to be very sure of what you want, of where you want to go, otherwise it lasts one or two years. I know people who have tried to come and then after a year or 6 months bye bye... you have to be convinced, sure of what you want and have a lot of passion. If you don't have that it's difficult to bear the many things necessary to stay. For example, even just when you get hurt and have to go to the hospital alone..

F: In your work you relate to the sponsors who are the ones who allow you to move forward: how did you experience your relationship with them? Directly, with intermediaries, do you have any brands that have supported you more than others, to which you are more attached?

M: At the beginning yes, Kawasaki Argentina helped me, they are the ones who brought me here at the beginning: the president of Kawasaki Argentina at the time was an enthusiast, he had helped many other riders, so it was a direct relationship. My family obviously helped me to be able to stay, to be able to live here, always trying to look for sponsors. Sometimes there were people who helped me find sponsors while other times it was me more directly. This has always been very complicated due to the situation Argentina has found itself in for some time. Unfortunately, the economy is a weak point in my country and therefore it is always difficult to find investors.

Leandro Tati Mercado

Mercado returning to the pits and fixing the protections

F: You have a long career in production derivatives: have you seen an evolution in these 12 years of staying in this field?

M: Of course yes, there has been an evolution, Superbike has grown a lot overall and I believe that this last year, even the current one, the level is higher than ever, both that of the riders and the technical one. As a result, everything around it has grown if you look at the paddock. Obviously in the last 2 years the pandemic hasn't helped because it has been a big blow to everyone in all areas of life. It was difficult but the championship has grown a lot.

F: Do you watch what happens "beyond the barricade" in MotoGP? Is it a world you would have liked to know or is that approach with all that pressure less suited to your conception? Do you see this difference, does it fascinate you?

M: Yes, I've always watched MotoGP and that paddock (MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3), even now I watch everything...I was sorry maybe not having tried for maybe a year but in the end I made my career with the production derivatives, I arrived here and grew up from the 600 to the stock 1000 when it was there, then the Superbike championship so my whole career has been in this paddock here and I've always felt very comfortable..

F: How would you see yourself in a Moto 2, a MotoGP with your skills, your talent...?

M: Difficult to say because I've never tried, but I've always been curious, what would have happened if I had gone there... I shared the track with riders who came from there and I raced against some of them on superbikes and there I was to ask myself "what would have happened.."

Mercado taking off his helmet

Leandro Mercado taking off his helmet

F: You've certainly seen how they ride, what the bikes are like, the different technical characteristics they have like the carbon brakes, the lightness... you're still young so maybe a thought...

M: Yes, well I don't think so, I'm getting old too (laughter) but I'd like to try at least to feel the sensation, what the carbon brakes are like, the power, feel a motorbike that I've never ridden... I'd like to try to understand... and obviously the drivers are aiming for that kind of experience.

F: And would you rather win the Superbike World Championship or be able to race in MotoGP?

M: Difficult question eh... winning the superbike world championship, yes yes yes.

F: And do you have a relationship with social media, are they part of your life, do they help you in your business, in supporting you or in promoting yourself? Or are they something you do in your free time, just an outlet?

M: Social media? I manage them and I do a bit of both, I try to show a bit of my private life but also to make the sponsors known, a bit of image, to show people the sponsors I have.

F: But does this direct interaction "without filters" bother you or is it something you tolerate well?

M: I tolerate it well yes yes, even if sometimes it depends. For example in the race in Argentina when it becomes a little more difficult for me to manage, there is more pressure, a lot of people and I have a lot of things I have to consider.

F: In Argentina you are very popular, aren't you?

M: Yes, in Argentina there are a lot of people who follow the races and then there are friends, the fans because in the end they never see me race live so... I have a lot of people who follow me over there.

MIE Racing Team - WSBK Misano 2022

Mercado returning to the pits and having a conversation with the technicians

F: Do you also play other sports? We know that you often train on the bike?

M: Yes yes I train with the bike, I also go running... I'm not a big bike enthusiast like Aleix Espargarò or like Hafizh Syahrin, my teammate. For example, I really like riding the motocross bike as training, so I alternate the 3 things. Cycling and motocross help you keep fit physically but also mentally

F: Since you have great experience in this world, do you see yourself arriving here tomorrow as a sports director, with a team...maybe thanks to your connection with Argentina, thinking of bringing talent...would you like to stay in this world?

M: Of course, yes, I would like to stay in this world, I would like to... The idea is to bring kids not only from Argentina but from all over South America and I've been working on it for some time. I'm making a project to bring kids and I'm also thinking about a completely Latin American team with a Chilean owner. There are some interesting Argentine drivers and then there are also the girls. The team headquarters is nearby, I follow the kids and give them a hand: the goal is to make them grow starting when they are young, make them grow here and give them the chance, the opportunity that they don't have and that I didn't have . Because you know I have always been practically alone, I have learned and grown through mistakes and therefore I would like to lend a hand to them. This is something I'm planning and it would be really cool to work on an all-Latin team!

F: Do you think it would be easy to involve local businesses and brands that would be interested in supporting such an initiative?

M: It's something that requires a lot of work, but I believe that a similar project could be of interest because at the moment I'm the only Argentine driver. And then we need to bring more kids and obviously it's nice to get them to the world championship, the world championship must be such and have riders from all countries in it.


Leandro Tati Mercado - Tattoo

The tattoo on the left forearm

F:Is this project also aimed at girls? The movement is growing more and more, do you think they can compete on equal terms in this sport?

M: Yes of course, we want to make them grow by working in the right way. Here in Europe for example there is the European Women's Championship... I think they can compete on equal terms as Ana Carrasco and Maria Herrera have demonstrated. It would be nice to see more girls and it would also be important, in the end for them too it's just a question of having the right opportunities.

F: And regarding your current career, would you like to try electric motorbikes such as the MotoE?

M: I've never tried an electric motorbike but it would be nice to try it, right? All that torque, the acceleration... it must definitely be something different than I'm used to. However, to tell the truth, I like the noise more (laughs)... the motorbike has to make noise!

F: We see you as very motivated Tati, a rider who wants to get to the positions that count even if it takes a lot of work.

M: The important thing is to persevere, never give up... From the outside everyone thinks it's a physical question, of training... but just one small thing, an extra motivation and everything is different. Even just an adjustment that makes you feel better makes a difference, it always has been and still is!

F: Thanks Tati!

MIE Racing Team box

MIE Racing Team box

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