Danilo Petrucci will continue to race in what is his true specialty: the all-rounder, or ‘Handyman’ if you like. In fact, today came the news that Petrux will replace Enea Bastianini at Le Mans after the news that his fellow Italian is still recovering from his shoulder injury in Portimao. It’s a return to red in MotoGP for Danilo, who will find himself projected onto the saddle of a factory Ducati after also trying out the Suzuki at Buriram in 2022. Another striking example of his skills as a quick-change artist.
On the first day at Barcelona, Barni's rider did not cut a bad figure, but probably tenth in the combined standings does not fully do justice to his potential and there is considerable suspicion that Danilo is the rider most penalized by the cut in engine revs on the Ducati . Danilo, it must be remembered, is a heavy guy, who has no chance of winning a skinny model competition and who has probably suffered more than others for the loss of power resulting from the rev cut. But the first questions for Petrucci are about this wild-card at Le Mans, which ironically is also the last track on which Petrucci won in MotoGP, riding a Ducati Factory in 2020.
"Last night Ciabatti asked me if I was available - explained Danilo - I think because Pirro wants to race at Mugello for CIV and they don't have any other riders who have tested the MotoGP. My last time with a Ducati MotoGP was in 2020, with a MotoGP in general it was last year. I said yes, this morning they sorted everything and I will try. I know where all the buttons are, they also have a lot of data from the past, but they are just simple things, because already having the riding position is a great thing because it saves time. It's a V4, I've always ridden a four cylinder. Last year with Suzuki I had no idea what to do and for my part I remember the first braking area well. I braked, looked one way and the bike went the other. It was difficult to adapt, the race was also a nightmare, we had no data on the wet and they just told me to try and finish the race. This year I have no expectations, I just want to have fun, but I enjoy it when I go fast, so I'd like to be fast."
A welcome return, you must be happy!
"Yes, definitely! It's a great pride and a great honour for me. The last time I rode a Ducati at Le Mans, I won the race. First of all, I'd like to see Enea back in shape as soon as possible, because he is great and he deserves to fight for the win. Then I think it's a great honour for my career in Ducati, in the end I've always had a great rapport with the whole team. That's why last year I did a race with Suzuki and this year with Ducati. Le Mans is a track that I like, I just want to have fun and it doesn't happen very often to try out a world champion MotoGP bike. I am very disappointed to miss next week's tests at Misano, but this might be my last race in MotoGP, so I couldn't say no to this offer."
How did Barnabò react to this news?
"I'm sad for him because we miss a day of testing, maybe we can make up for it the following week, but we'll see. Marco is always very nice to me, even when the opportunity to do the 24 Hours of Le Mans came up, he didn't cause me any problems. He told me that if a rider is happy, he's faster. So if I was happy, he was happy too. He just told me not to have high expectations and not lose my temper if the results don't come. But I won't be there for the result".
Going back to SBK, you lose 250 revs from this round. What do you think?
"Honestly, I think it's not right, because it's mainly Alvaro who makes the difference with this bike. I don't think it's right for the others to lose power, because we're not in a position to dominate the championship. In fact, I'm struggling a bit, I'm not 100% happy doing what I'm doing. I want more, but it's also not fair to find out about this on race Thursday, we just had time to sort out the gearbox. We had data from testing, Barcelona is always difficult with the grip, but we have to talk at least to understand what the rules of this algorithm are and which points of it matter the most, but mainly I think it's not right to take 250 revs away from all the Ducati riders".
Have you tried the new front Pirelli?
"Yes, I tried it, but I don't think it's a tire for long races, I think it's more suitable for the Superpole Race. But I'm not in a position to fully understand the behaviour of the bike. We're working a lot to try and solve my problem, which is the same as at the beginning of the season, i.e. I have to ride slower when the tire is new, because in this situation the bike doesn't stop the way I want, the rear tire pushes a lot the front and the bike doesn't stop, so I don't have any extra grip. My setup is quite normal, compared to the small riders it is quite normal, but compared to what Redding had in the past it is very different. We have to at least try to follow his indications because I had Scott in the garage for two years in Pramac and the difference wasn't as huge as it is now in terms of setup. Maybe it's an indication to follow another path, because at the moment I'm happy with the way I‘m riding. At Assen, from the sixth lap to the end my pace was to fight for the podium, but in the first laps I was five seconds behind and so it was impossible to catch up with the group. Step by step we are trying to solve this problem."
Are you worried about missing the SBK tests?
"Yes, I'm a bit worried about this, but I hope it rains in Misano next week."
Photo credit ©Guglielmo Maggialli