Ducati lost a great friend last night with the passing of Phil Schilling. In our world Phil was well known for winning the Daytona Superbike race in 1977 with Cook Neilson, a fairy tale journey documented month by month in Cycle magazine as hundreds of thousands of people followed along the “Racer Road”. He also wrote what is my favorite motorcycle story, “A Satisfied Mind” which was a beautiful tale of a young man falling in love with a Ducati motorcycle and the ups and downs of their life together.
There is a long list of achievements, books he wrote, jobs he held, the amazing woman he married, the sort of things that lives tend to boil down to. Phil was a great mechanic. He mentored so many racers it would be difficult to count them all. And his influence on the motorcycle industry as long time editor of Cycle was impossible to measure. But sitting here at my keyboard all I can really think of was how deeply he was loved and by so many people.
Phil passed from Parkinson’s, and we had been losing bits of him for a long time. Parkinson’s steals the ability to communicate and that’s a cruel twist for a man who was brilliant and funny and who could put things into words in a simple way that made the sentiment so vivid you felt like you were there in the room with him when it happened. It took a remarkably long time to truly get the best of him. In between the ups and downs he was right there with us, at WDW posing for photos with “New Blue” the bike NCR built to honor his Daytona win, at IndyGP laughing at a hurricane, grinning from his helmet on the back of Cook’s motorcycle riding along on the Moto Giro in California, at Pebble Beach Concours on the green with Prosecco and that little Ducati that gave him the Satisfied Mind, at Barber Vintage with tears in his eyes when the museum presented him and Cook with a faithful replica of his California Hot Rod they called Old Blue, and finally, in Las Vegas for his Motorcycle Hall Of Fame induction. Always surrounded by people who really, truly, deeply, loved him.
So that is this man’s measure of success and I can report that in that regard he was successful indeed.
Goodbye my friend, you will be deeply missed by many.