Danilo Petrucci’s arrival in MotoAmerica was greeted with great enthusiasm by the organizer of the championship (former three-time world champion of the 500 Wayne Rainey), by all the staff, and also by his opponents.
The idea of presenting himself with the word "Handyman" on the back of his helmet after his success in various categories, including the Dakar, elicited unanimous support, and the Americans couldn’t help but appreciate the genuine character and manners of a good guy like Petrux.
From the very first moment, Danilo was welcomed with open arms. “He’s one of us”, they said.
The reason for all this was immediately clear. Petrucci was the touchstone for what the American riders were worth: if we can beat him, or even keep up with him, the consideration regarding the level of the championship will increase.
The wave of consensus didn’t fade after the double victory in Austin, and it continued even after the most difficult race at Road Atlanta, where Petrux expressed his first criticism related to management issues (an engine exploding for having been kept running for too long on the grid).
However, the situation plummeted in Virginia, when the Ducati rider harshly criticized what happened after his accident, after crossing the finish line in third position in one of the fastest points of the track.
We’re not going to repeat Danilo's criticism, we just reported it by talking to him immediately after the events. Respecting his sincerity without indulging on the picturesque. That’s how riders are. If you catch them on the fly, as soon as they remove their helmets, you definitely get a heated comment, but perhaps not completely related to the facts.
For clarification purposes, we asked Paul Carruthers, who handles the press for the championship, and also Wayne Rainey himself, who gave his version of the facts, with great honesty, as we expected. MotoAmerica is not the MotoGP, nor does it pretend to be. It's not even the World Superbike. The circuits are what they are – take it or leave it – but they’re not that better off in the BSB, just to be clear.
MotoAmerica is perfect, like everything else, but you have to be familiar the competitions in the States to offer proper judgment. For example, on one of my first visits to Daytona – oh, Daytona! – which is idolized in Europe, I was baffled. The organization was mostly at the level of our Vallelunga superbikes, where Franco Uncini raced, and Checco Costa did much better in the 200 Miglia.
In fact, I still don't understand the sacred fire that Kenny Roberts put into trying to improve the safety of the World Championship since 1978, I must say, backed by Barry Sheene, who didn’t even like him. It's true, there were dangerous circuits in Spa, in Imatra, in Rijeka but, in those days, it's not as if Kenny was racing between rubber walls in the States.
More than anything, I think Roberts took it out on the FIM at the time – the president was Nicolas Rodil Del Valle – since he only represented himself. The riders were paid pennies, and they had to line up to get them, at the end of the race. King Kenny didn’t like that at all because, in America, the organization was more “down to Earth”.
And it still is. Perhaps it would have been better if, after the fact, Danilo approached Wayne directly, perhaps shouting in his face what was wrong, instead of complaining on social media. Rainey would definitely have listened to him, since Petrux isn’t a cry baby. And, in a sense, his complaint was misinterpreted. It was the outburst of a sincere guy who doesn’t keep his thoughts in check. The criticism is all there, for God's sake, but you have to understand Danilo. He was angry, because he risked badly, but knowing him, it was going to be all over in ten minutes.
Now, as a consequence, since we have to be good journalists about it, roadracingworld.com let Danilo Petrucci's opponents talk, and what emerged is that of a rider who, having had a couple of setbacks, started complaining. Certainly, the Americans have to defend their championship, the only one in which they can race and hope to grow. And even their words must be passed through a sieve.
We’re not going to report everything. Those who want to can read Danilo’s criticism HERE. The title is: "MotoAmerica: Riders Don’t Back Petrucci’s Complaints", but I’d like to dwell on one statement, Josh Hayes’:
“So, I understand, coming from the speed he was and the time dilation (meaning: 3" are a lifetime when you’re sliding at 280 km/h). And he’s Italian, so he’s dramatic. I do think he's a bit of a hot-headed and unfair in a way but, at the same time, I understand his plight.”
Josh’s was a slap on the wrist, but that “And he’s Italian, so he’s dramatic”, is the typical “pasta, pizza, and mandolin” stereotype that we Italians and Petrux don’t deserve.
The Americans gave us a bunch of great riders, who crossed wheels with our best, and some, on both sides, lost their lives when the safety conditions on both continents weren’t what they are today.
“Mess with the best, die like the rest”.
Petrucci in MotoAmerica is a wonderful opportunity for everyone, Europeans and Americans alike. Let's take Danilo's words for what they are: an outburst, with certainly an intrinsic truth. Wayne Rainey would've been able to pick that up. He already has. And Danilo's colleagues must also understand that criticism, even when misrepresented, is an added value for them as well.
When Kenny Roberts, at the Spanish Grand Prix, took off the winner's laurel wreath from around his neck and threw it at the feet of Rodil Del Valle and the King of Spain, it wasn’t a princely gesture but it was the beginning of a change that brought benefits to the world of motorcycling.