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Danilo Petrucci’s journey to MotoGP™ stardom is something quite spectacular, from being a policeman and a European Superstock 600 race winner in 2009, to ten years later becoming the 109th premier class winner at his home Grand Prix. Not just the fact that he has won a Grand Prix at long last, but the obstacles and challenges he has overcome to achieve his dream. Petrucci’s presence in the paddock has grown and with him giving Italy their 243rd premier class win, it will be a popular one.
In 2008, the Italian rider swung his leg over a Superstock 600 machine, in his first full year of European competition. Achieving two pole positions in the season, he took his first wins a year later, on his way to fourth overall. Who would’ve known then that the likable Italian would’ve gone on to become such a high-profile name?
In 2010, it was a step up to the European FIM Superstock 1000 Cup, initially on Kawasaki machinery. A quiet year for the experienced Team Pedercini Racing outfit led him to ninth overall in the championship, before a serious championship challenged followed a year later. His first taste of partnership with Ducati came with the BARNI Racing Team, where second place overall in the championship was good enough to bring him to the Grand Prix paddock with open arms.
However, from winning and podiums most weekends to a perennial back-of-the-field rider in MotoGP™, Danilo Petrucci moved to the Ioda Racing Project and scored points in eight races, including a strong eighth place in mixed conditions at the final race of the season. Again, the former Superstock 1000 runner-up scored points, this time in more races – but still found himself towards the rear of the field.
And in 2014, Petrucci’s Grand Prix experience got worse, with two points from the opening seven events, the Italian not only began to take criticism for his performances but said that he started to think about doing something else with his life. "After three races I wanted to quit my career; I did not feel safe on the bike." With just 17 points and 20th in the championship, ‘Petrux’ was looking at a bleak future.
The first words of the fastest 3 in Italy
Just when he thought his Grand Prix career was over, Pramac Racing came to his rescue and he repaid the manufacturer’s and the team’s welcoming arms with a stunning season, featuring 11 top-ten finishes and a hearty second in torrential rain at Silverstone. He was now on an exclusive list of riders to mount a Grand Prix podium in MotoGP™ and it was clear to see that talent really does need to be scouted and nurtured.
2016 wasn’t as fruitful, with a severe injury in testing hampering his hopes of improving. More top tens and even becoming race leader followed, as the Italian worked his way back to full fitness. Having slipped back to 14th in the championship after finishing 2015 in 10th, was this fairytale story coming to an end?
Not at all; Petrucci came back fitter, leaner, meaner and hungrier in 2017, and his results rewarded him with the extreme weight loss he underwent in the Winter months. Four podiums and being robbed of a victory on two occasions, Petrucci was now making waves in the GP paddock. ‘Petrux’ had a mixed end of 2017 but it was his best yet, with 124 points and eighth in the final standings – most notably and most importantly, just one place behind his factory Ducati counterpart and five-time Champion, Jorge Lorenzo – also, with more podiums.
So, in 2018, Petrucci improves again, taking less podiums but only retiring from two races compared to the five the year before. A podium at Le Mans and a brilliantly consistent season earnt him the right to replace Lorenzo in the factory Ducati seat for 2019, although only on a one-year deal.
"I started to think at the start of this year I may never win one race. On the exit of the last corner, I think for a moment that if we follow the story of my life, I will come out of the corner in first position and cross the finish line in third." How wrong he would be; improving in every race so far this season, the 28-year-old has elevated himself to fourth in the standings and for the first time in his career, took back-to-back podiums and his first GP win. It has been a long, difficult journey to the top, but Danilo Petrucci has proven that if you work hard enough, you can reach the top.
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