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

This is a well-rounded 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 and then moved across the ocean: how was the transition? Is the conception of racing different?

M: Yes yes of course, very different. I started racing when I was 6 years old on the flat track type dirt ovals that are very popular in Argentina. I then did some speed always 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 much about it because this was my dream, this is my dream, to race outside and make it all the way to the World Cup: it was a very difficult choice however I was sure. So when I was 15 I left home, friends everything and I lived 2 years in the United States and then from 2010 I came here to Italy. Let's say it's my second home because I've been here for so many years. It was - along with the races - also a personal challenge because I was so long alone, I was very young and I didn't know anyone.

F: What about life here in Europe?

M: For a 17-18 year old to be in Europe and have to get by...it's one thing to live a normal life, it's another when you're playing sports at a high level. In this world it's all very good when you win but when things go less well it's a little harder and then you're on your own...and my home was not an hour's flight away but on the other side of the world! It was an important choice that in any case helped me grow and it was good to get this far and let's say Europe-Spain and Italy especially-is where motorcycling was born. A lot of people don't know this however for a Latin American to be here is very difficult: you see 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 during dressing before entering the track

F: So it is a personal challenge, getting out of the comfort zone and having great motivation.

M: You have to be very sure of what you want, where you want to go, otherwise you last 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 hard to endure the many things necessary to stay. For example, even just when you get hurt and you have to go alone to the hospital....

F: In your work you relate to sponsors who are the ones who keep you going: how have you experienced your relationship with them? Directly, through intermediaries, do you have any brands that have supported you more than others, that you are most attached to?

M: In the beginning yes, Kawasaki Argentina helped me, they are the ones who brought me here in the beginning: the president of Kawasaki Argentina then was a fan, 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 in a more direct way. This has always been very complicated because of the situation Argentina has been in for a long time. The economy unfortunately is a weak point in my country, so it is always difficult to find investors.

Leandro Tati Mercado

Mercado on re-entry to the pits and while fixing the protections

F: You have a long career in series derivatives: have you seen an evolution in the 12 years you have been there?

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

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

M: Yes, I've always watched MotoGP and that paddock (MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3), still now I watch everything..I was sorry maybe not to have tried maybe one year however in the end I made my career with the production derivatives, I came here and grew from 600 to stock 1000 when there was, then the Superbike championship so my whole career is in this paddock here and I always had a very good time.

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

M: Hard to say because I never tried it, however I always had the curiosity, what would happen if I went there..I shared the track with riders coming from there and I raced against some of them in superbikes and there I would wonder "what would happen."

Mercado taking off his helmet

Leandro Mercado as he removes his helmet.

F: You certainly have seen how they ride, what the bikes are like, the different technical features they have like carbon brakes, light weight...you are still young so maybe a thought...

M: Yeah well I don't think so, I'm getting old too (laughter) however I'd like to try at least to feel the feeling, how the carbon brakes are, the power, to feel a bike that I've never ridden...I'd like to try it to understand...and of course riders aim for that kind of experience.

F: And would you like to win the superbike world championship more or be able to race in motogp?

M: Tough 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 your persona or promoting yourself? Or are they something you do so in your spare time, an outlet and that's it?

M: Social media? I manage them and I do a little bit of both, I try to show a little bit of private life however also to show sponsors, a little bit of image, show people the sponsors that I have.

F: But does this direct "unfiltered" interaction bother you, or is it something you tolerate well?

M: I cope well yes yes, although sometimes it depends. For example in the race in Argentina when it becomes a little bit harder for me to handle, 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 following the races and then there are the friends, the fans because at the end of the day they never see me racing live so... I have a lot of people following me down there.

MIE Racing Team - WSBK Misano 2022

Mercado returning to the pits and talking with technicians

F: Do you practice other sports as well? Do we know that you do a lot of bike training?

M: Yes yes I train with the bike, I go running walking also...I am not a big bike fan like Aleix Espargarò or like Hafizh Syahrin, my teammate. For example, I really like to ride a motocross bike as a workout so I alternate between the 3 things. Biking and motocross help you keep in shape physically but also mentally

F: Since you have a lot of experience in this world do you see yourself one day coming here as a sports director, with a team...maybe because of your connection with Argentina thinking about bringing in talent...would you want 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 boys not only from Argentina but from all over South America and I've been working on that for some time. I'm doing a project to bring guys and I'm also thinking about a completely Latin American team with a Chilean owner. There are some interesting Argentine riders and then there are also girls. The headquarters of the team is near here, I follow the boys and give them a hand: the goal is to make them grow starting 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 on my own practically, I have learned and grown through mistakes and so I would like to give them a hand. That's something I'm planning and it would be really nice to work in an all-Latino team!

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

M: It is something that a lot of work has to be done for, however, I believe that such a project can have interest because at the moment I am the only Argentine pilot. And then you have to bring more guys and of course it's nice to get them to the world championship, the world championship has to 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 as equals in the sport?

M: Yes of course, we want to develop them by working in the right way. Here in Europe for example there is the European Women's Championship..I think they can play on a level playing field as Ana Carrasco and Maria Herrera have shown. It would be nice to see more girls and it would also be important, in the end it's also just a matter of them getting the right opportunities.

F: And as for your current career, would you like to try electric motorcycles such as MotoE?

M: I have never tried the electric bike however it would be nice to try it wouldn't it? All that torque, acceleration..it definitely must be something different than what I'm used to. However to tell you the truth I like the noise more (laughs)..the bike must make noise!

F: We see you very motivated Tati, a rider who wants to get to the positions that matter even if there is a lot of work.

M: The important thing is to persevere, never get down on yourself..From the outside everyone thinks it's a physical thing, a matter of training..but all it takes is one little thing, one extra bit of motivation and everything is different. Even just a tune-up that makes you feel better makes a difference, it always has and still does!

F:Thank you Tati!

MIE Racing Team box

MIE Racing Team box

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