Danilo Petrucci was in tears even before starting his last MotoGP race in Valencia on Sunday, the Italian overwhelmed by the welcome he received throughout the pit lane.
“It was really, really nice. When I parked the bike on the grid I was like, ‘Now don’t cry’. But then people started coming, everyone I worked with. and all the people, all the friends in the paddock, I say hello to everyone.
“Then I went to the bathroom as usual, but then, walking back down the entire pit lane, I started to cheer. The whole KTM team and the whole Ducati team. I had to say hello to everyone. I just had to cry.
“Fortunately we were at the start of the pit lane in front. Otherwise it was difficult to start the race. There were three minutes left and they said ‘you have to hurry up’! So I was already sweating, I was crying.
“I was really happy to see all this love. At Mugello, the first time on the podium, I cried. I cried again when I was the first. Unfortunately, when I’m happy, I can’t to prevent me from !
One of those who greeted Petrucci ahead of his final race was Valentino Rossi, preparing for his farewell.
“He said to me: ‘Are you going to run like this !?’ I was wearing the tie and the hat. I told Valentino I couldn’t stop crying! “
Released by other riders in the last two races, Petrucci first battled with Maverick Vinales and Luca Marini before relaxing and soaking up his final racing laps on a MotoGP motorcycle.
“I tried from the first moment but wanted to finish after the last two races. In the first two laps everyone was so aggressive. I tried to stay there. Then my front tire had a very high pressure and it was not possible to brake hard, ”said Petrucci.
“I said, ‘don’t think about it. I have a KTM MotoGP bike for myself and a track. I want to enjoy these last few kilometers on this bike.’ It was a great pleasure to see everyone. I’m ‘I’m really happy.’
The only rider on the current MotoGP grid who has not raced in any of the smaller Grand Prix categories, Petrucci reached the premier category straight from Superstock, on a CRT entry, in 2012.
“When I started this adventure in 2012, I don’t know if I was lost. But of course in the first race I was last and I also broke the bike”, explained Petrucci. . “Until 2014, for many races, I was last in practice, last in qualifying and last in race. I think I was the only one who still believed [in myself]. I never give up. One day the dream came true. “
Managing to score points with the underpowered Ioda and then Aprilia CRT machines, Petrucci finally got his big chance when he joined Pramac Ducati for his fourth season in MotoGP.
The first of ten podiums came in the rain at Silverstone and he was Pramac’s most successful rider at the time he was chosen to replace Jorge Lorenzo’s departure from the Ducati factory team, alongside his compatriot Andrea Dovizioso, for 2019.
A dream victory in Mugello’s last home round against Dovizioso and Marc Marquez followed, before the podiums dried up in the second half of the season. Replaced by Miller even before the start of the 2020 campaign delayed by Covid, Petrucci added a second MotoGP victory in the rain at Le Mans before having a tough final season with Tech3 KTM.
“Maybe I’m one of the last ‘normal people’ who can do it. [in MotoGP] without being a freak, something ultra-natural, “said Petrucci.” When I was young I was just a good rider. I was fast but there were people faster than me.
“But I never stopped believing that I was the best. Twice in MotoGP I showed that I was the best on this circuit that day. It was a great relief. there was only Mugello  maybe he was a ‘hero for a day’. But then I showed up at Le Mans  I can still win races.
“I have no regrets. It’s easy to look back and say that things could have been better. Of course, sometimes I made mistakes. In 2016, maybe I was able to winning at the Sachsenring in the rain, then at Assen the same year, I was in the lead and my bike broke.
“Maybe in 2019 [at the factory Ducati team] I was really fast but I suffered a lot… the team, there was clearly a first and a second rider. Even when I was fast, I was not always considered. I suffered a lot. I started to make mistakes and lost third place in the championship.
“But I always did my best and I’m really happy with what I did.
“MotoGP has never seen a rider of my size and there won’t be any more. I don’t think there will be (another rider) 1m 80cm and 83kg naked. I’m over 90kg on the bike . When you tell that to the engineers, they just start to lose their hair! It was really a bet on me and we won. “
“The guy is a legend”
On Petrucci posing as a “normal” rider, current Ducati stars Francesco Bagnaia and Jack Miller were quick to disagree:
“I don’t agree with Danilo that he was the last one without [supernatural] talent to win a race, because he had talent, ”said race winner Bagnaia.
Miller, a former Petrucci teammate at Pramac Ducati, added: “Danilo is one of those guys. He wants to sell himself every time.
“We are all going through this, you say the word non-phenomenon… A lot of people have come [to grand prix] like a phenomenon and descended back to planet Earth, then [sometimes they] go back up.
“The phenomenon that I don’t think exists. Maybe Pedro Acosta or someone like that, but they’re rare.
“Danilo had a talent. But not just a talent, he worked for it. If you see pictures of him on the Ioda with a [big] face here like a moon and then when he jumped on the Ducati what he did to his body [weight loss] to change it, to be competitive here, he worked for that.
“The guy is a legend.”
Petrucci meanwhile named the Australian – along with his fellow Italians – as the ones he will cheer on when he watches MotoGP as a fan from his couch next season.
“Happiness for me is to go fast by bike”
Rightly so, while Petrucci’s entry into MotoGP was unique, so is his exit route; swap asphalt for dirt with the Dakar Rally.
“My career has been quite unique,” admitted Petrucci. “I was from Superstock. No one ever chose a [Superstock] rider and let him race in MotoGP. Nobody trusted me. But day after day, I started to learn.
“I’ve been pretty unique in the way I go too. Over the last year I’ve started to feel less good, to not really appreciate what I’m doing. Because the pressure maybe. J ‘ve spent so much effort, so much strength to be in MotoGP I did not like.
“So I started to think, OK, ‘what’s your gut feeling?’ I said, ‘I just want to ride a bike.’ So I asked, ‘What is the sport you ride your bike the most?’ It’s the Dakar.
“Since the age of 15, I have been riding motocross. I said maybe I could do it. Thanks to KTM, I will be training a lot in the next few months. I will try to race the Dakar and to finish the Dakar because it’s a dream of mine and then I need to understand if I can be happy.
“Happiness for me is to go fast on my bike. Otherwise, I can just go with my bike around the mountains, around my trail, or just for coffee. Unfortunately, I still want to see a weather and fight the stopwatch. Maybe it’s my way. I need to understand if it’s true… “