EX­CLU­SIVE IN­TER­VIEW Grin it to win it

From Su­per­stock Cup ob­scu­rity, Danilo Petrucci has taken Mo­togp podi­ums and be­come best mates with Rossi, no won­der he’s the grid’s hap­pi­est rider Con­tin­ued over

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Pertucci Interview - By Mat Ox­ley MCN GUEST WRITER

anilo Petrucci isn’t your av­er­age Mo­togp rider. In fact, he’s unique. Whereas ev­ery Mo­togp rider comes from 250s or Moto2, like Valentino Rossi and Marc Mar­quez, or from win­ning in World Su­per­bike, like Cal Crutchlow, Eu­gene Laverty and Loris Baz – Petrucci comes from some­where com­pletely dif­fer­ent. He didn’t even grad­u­ate to Mo­togp from a world cham­pi­onship, but in­stead from the Europe-only Su­per­stock 1000 se­ries. So he’s a bit like a Sec­ond Divi­sion foot­baller who finds him­self liv­ing the Pre­mier­ship dream.

And how. A podium fin­ish in last year’s rain-lashed Bri­tish GP and a po­ten­tial win­ner at Assen, then again at Sach­sen­ring just a few weeks ago, Petrucci has gained a rep­u­ta­tion for shak­ing up the sta­tus quo, es­pe­cially when it’s rain­ing.

And even when it’s not. A cou­ple of years ago at the sea­son-open­ing Qatar GP, Petrucci stood out from the crowd in the class-of-2014 pho­to­shoot. Amongst all the rid­ers’ base­ball caps sell­ing ev­ery­thing from fizzy en­ergy drink to, er, fizzy en­ergy drink, was a cap bear­ing the word LOVE. It was sat atop Petrucci’s frizzy mop of black hair.

The sig­nif­i­cance of that sen­ti­ment in a sport that is all about fight­ing, bat­tling and stitch­ing each other up had half the pad­dock won­der­ing what Petrucci had been smok­ing. What they didn’t know was that the cap was telling us that he was ready to quit the cruel world of rac­ing.

“That was a strange pe­riod of my life, like you see in the ca­reer of an artist!” says the 25-year-old, his bushy black eye­brows arch­ing above his smile. “Five days be­fore the first pre-sea­son tests Gi­ampierro Sac­chi [owner of the Ioda Mo­togp team] calls me and says

Dwe can’t go test­ing, we have no money. I was com­pletely de­stroyed, so I say to my­self I must quit rac­ing. I wore the LOVE cap at the first few races be­cause I didn’t want to be an­gry with any­one in the pad­dock. The cap said peace and love to every­one.”

Petrucci didn’t quit and even­tu­ally his per­sis­tence aboard Sac­chi’s hor­ri­bly slow Aprilia CRT bike paid off. His tal­ent for em­bar­rass­ing fac­tory rid­ers in the rain con­vinced Pra­mac Du­cati team man­ager Francesco Guidotti to give him a go on a Des­mosedici last sea­son. Since then he’s been a reg­u­lar top 10 fin­isher, but it’s been a long road.

“I didn’t start road rac­ing un­til I was 18, when Valentino had al­ready won five or six world ti­tles,” he adds. “I came into Mo­togp in 2012 from nowhere, with one of the new CRT bikes, with a com­pletely stan­dard Aprilia RSV4 en­gine, which Sac­chi’s team bought from a shop. I didn’t know the tracks, the tyres or the car­bon brakes, plus our bike was in­cred­i­bly slow. Dur­ing that pe­riod I was very an­gry with every­one be­cause I was usu­ally last on the grid and last in the race.”

No won­der: Petrucci’s 2012 Ioda Aprilia did 192mph at Mugello, 23mph slower than the fastest bike, Rossi’s Du­cati.

The Ital­ian from Terni, an hour’s drive north of Rome, is a bear of a man, un­like your av­er­age lean, mean Mo­togp whip­pet. He weighs 80kg – 29 more than Dani Pe­drosa – which cer­tainly can’t help his straight-line speed. Per­haps that’s why he has the air of a gen­tle­man racer, who’s rac­ing for the ad­ven­ture, fully aware that he will never scale the lofti­est heights. But noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth; Petrucci lives and breathes to win, just like Rossi.

“All my life, I thought one day I’ll be in Mo­togp, but I started do­ing tri­als, which is very far from Mo­togp. It’s like want­ing to play in the football World Cup when you are a bas­ket­ball player. I had some very tough days, months and years but I never thought of any­thing else, I never lost my pas­sion. My num­ber-one dream was to be a pro­fes­sional rider, the other was never to have a proper job! OK, so this is a job but it’s not proper work be­cause I re­ally en­joy what I do. I’m very lucky to be a pro­fes­sional rider. It’s not my dream to fin­ish sev­enth or eighth, but I need more time!”

Dur­ing the past cou­ple of years Petrucci has be­come best mates with Rossi – they live a cou­ple of miles apart near the Adri­atic town of Pe­saro.

“The first time I met Valentino was when I was a Du­cati test rider in 2011. We were both test­ing at Mugello: me on the Pani­gale Su­per­bike, Vale on the Des­mosedici. Uc­cio [Salucci, Rossi’s right-hand man] had been watch­ing out on track and came to my box with Vale to have a look. He said, so you are the crazy guy who rides Casanova Savelli in that way; how can you ride through there so fast? Then Valentino recog­nised my fa­ther, who has al­ways worked with me and also worked with Loris Capirossi many years ago. From then we be­came friends.”

Petrucci’s friend­ship with Rossi has helped him in many ways and given him a unique in­sight into what makes the world’s great­est bike racer tick.

“First of all, Valentino en­joys a lot

‘My num­ber-one dream was to be a pro­fes­sional rider, the other was never to have a proper job!’

what he does; this is the key to ev­ery­thing. Quite of­ten I go to his house and he’s watch­ing a Moto2 race from two years ago. I say, why? The an­swer is that he truly loves rac­ing.

“His se­cret at home is that he’s very pro­tected. Ev­ery­body works for him like a team and there’s no sched­ule, so he can choose ev­ery hour of the day to do what he wants to do. For sure this is a big power for him. If he wants to go train­ing at 10pm, then he goes train­ing, be­cause he trains lots and lots. Or if he wants to wake up at 7am and start rid­ing at the ranch at 8am, ev­ery­thing is set.

“It can be quite strange for the peo­ple near to him, be­cause some­times we are all sit­ting around his pool and he gets up and goes; he leaves every­one at his home to go train­ing. For him this isn’t a prob­lem but it’s strange be­cause you are at his house and he isn’t there.

“One of the coolest things about Valentino is that although he loves rac­ing he knows when to stop. If we are at din­ner and we drink two or three or four bot­tles of wine, then the day after we go to the sea­side and we don’t train.

“After Barcelona [where Moto2 rider Luis Salom lost his life] he did two days test­ing at the track and ar­rived in Ibiza for din­ner at mid­night on the Tues­day. We had din­ner and then we stayed up all night. For him that’s nor­mal. He said, Danilo, we have two weeks in­stead of one be­fore the next race…

“We nearly didn’t go to Ibiza, be­cause we thought it wasn’t the right mo­ment be­cause of what had hap­pened at Barcelona, but the night after the race we both said there’s noth­ing we can do. And after a week at 350kph [215mph] we de­cided we de­served a few days of calm. We spoke a lot about what hap­pened at Barcelona. But mostly we talked about mo­tor­cy­cles, about how our pas­sion is not beau­ti­ful women but beau­ti­ful bikes!

“I’ve learned a lot from him. He doesn’t know it but he’s helped me a lot with my be­hav­iour in the pad­dock and on the track. It’s funny be­cause he’s very cu­ri­ous: you would think that you’d ask him the ques­tions and he would an­swer, but the strange thing is, it’s al­ways him ask­ing the ques­tions.

“In Mo­togp there is so much stress and so much pres­sure be­cause you are rac­ing the fastest bikes in the world against the fastest rid­ers in the world, so ev­ery­thing is at the max­i­mum. But for Valentino it’s like he’s go­ing out to ride just like a nor­mal per­son goes out for a Sun­day ride. He just thinks, I en­joy rid­ing my bike as fast as pos­si­ble. I don’t know many rid­ers who have this way of think­ing.”

Petrucci’s great­est mo­ment so far was chas­ing down Rossi at Sil­ver­stone last Au­gust and then shar­ing the podium with his two best rac­ing friends: Rossi and An­drea Dovizioso. The three spend a lot of time rac­ing dirt track in Italy,

‘The TT? No! I’m quite scared of the TT – I will have to be­come a lit­tle mad­der to do that!’

Brave, ag­gres­sive rid­ing at last year’s rain-soaked Bri­tish GP saw Petrucci steal sec­ond, and frighten fac­tory star Dovizioso (04)

Best bud­dies share the 2015 Sil­ver­stone box. ‘Now we cel­e­brate in Ibiza, yes?’ Petrucci went from rid­ing a Du­cati 1198R in the 2011 Su­per­stock Cup di­rect to Mo­togp Rid­ing for Ioda, start­ing last and fin­ish­ing last made Petrucci’s early Mo­togp years very a

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