Humble, honest, and a dreamer, Danilo Petrucci is a man of bygone times, when family and principles came first. Only three years ago, he was close to quitting MotoGP and today he is one of the heroes in the premier class on a factory Ducati. His dream seems to have come true, but "Petrux" works every day to realize his life goal: a nice family with kids. He aims to see his kids grow happily and possibly in two comfortable houses, one in Italy and one—why not?—in California so that they can live all year long in summer time.

Petrucci is unique also for the way he joined Grand Prix racing in 2012 at the age of 22 without having done a single race in the 125 or 250cc classes. He instead became known as a fast and capable Superbike test rider after winning the 2011 Italian Superstock Championship and finishing second that same year in the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup.

The end of the 2014 season represented a turning point for Petrucci. He didn’t have a MotoGP seat and had turned down a contract with a salary in World Superbike. Instead, he accepted the chance to race for free with OCTO Pramac Ducati. In 2015, he surprised everyone and was even paid for his work, despite the fact that this was not in his contract. This year, he can finally fight against the top riders with more equal weaponry.

danilo petrucci in the motogp paddock
Danilo PetrucciCourtesy of OCTO Pramac Racing

You went from being close to stopping racing in MotoGP to riding a factory Ducati. How do you feel about your current situation?

It’s a great feeling to work with the engineers on the development of the bike, and I’m happy to continue with OCTO Pramac Racing in 2018 riding a factory Ducati. Despite some offers from other teams, I prefer to stay. I’m grateful to [team owner] Paolo Campionati. The team called me when I was close to quitting MotoGP.

What kind of work have you done this year for Ducati?

They needed feedback from a third factory bike so in the winter and in the first four races I tested some experimental material that was not safe enough or needed a back-to-back comparison before being used by Andrea Dovizioso or Jorge Lorenzo. As a result, we lost a lot of time in the practices. I also had two DNFs because some parts broke. But this was part of the deal. From Le Mans, the situation became more stable and I could focus on the setup in preparation of the race. As a result, I scored a third place in Mugello and I almost won in Assen.

danilo petrucci motogp race action
Danilo PetrucciCourtesy of OCTO Pramac Racing

What has changed in your mind after these two podiums?

I’m a humble person and I think I can learn also from Moto3 riders but these results were a great reward after many cries, disappointments, and slamming doors. They represented also the answer to those who didn’t believe in me.

How would you describe the Ducati GP17?

It’s the fastest bike I have ever ridden. I’m in love with her. The Ducati is a beautiful lady with a strong unique character. She can drive you crazy, but she also gives extraordinary sensations.

Many riders arrive in Grand Prix racing because their fathers were also riders. Your father was a truck driver. How hard was your path to GPs?

My father has been working in the paddock since the 1990s, but I didn’t have fast access to the GPs. Our sport is expensive, and my family is of humble origin. My dad and mom sacrificed 20 years of their lives for me to race. It also affected my brother, as all of the family was focused on me.

danilo petrucci headshot
Danilo PetrucciCourtesy of OCTO Pramac Racing

How did you live with these sacrifices when you were a kid?

I could feel it, but I had the clear certainty that I would make it. My parents were motivated but didn’t put extra pressure on me. It was also their dream to see me happy.

How did you get started in racing?

At the age of three, I made the first step on trial bikes, by nine I was racing minicross, and at 14, I started road racing, not 125 or 250cc GP bikes because they were too expensive, but 600cc Superstock, which suited my size better as I was already 5-foot-9 and weighing 176 pounds.

Were you concerned that you wouldn’t be able to repay their sacrifices?

I felt the pressure, but like a trapeze artist, when he flies, he doesn’t think he can fail; he only thinks how to go beyond. In the same way, I never thought that my adventure could stop before its time.

danilo petrucci motogp practice action
Danilo PetrucciCourtesy of OCTO Pramac Racing

Have you ever thought of stopping?

I thought many times about stopping during my first years in MotoGP [he was riding a non-competitive bike in the CRT class].

Have you ever doubted your skills?

I knew I could be fast if I had similar conditions to the other riders. This gave me the motivation to continue in those two to three difficult years in MotoGP.

How would you describe yourself?

A dreamer. I am always waiting for my dream come true. I work to make my life project real. I aim at having a nice family, kids, see them happily grow. I would like to have a comfortable house, possibly two so that we can live always in a warm, sunny place. I also like simple things like cooking and eating. I love pasta and pizza, but I’m almost always on diet so I try to eat fresh vegetables from my garden.

danilo petrucci interviewed by maria guidotti
Danilo Petrucci with Maria GuidottiCourtesy of OCTO Pramac Racing

You have a special relation with America. Why?

I would love to live in California. I have my cousins there. My great-grandfather also emigrated there, but then he came back. Every time I go there, I discover new places. It’s a fascinating but contradictory country. America is considered the land of freedom but they are the first to be enchained. When you go to the supermarket, everything you eat, “they” add something that is not good for your health. It’s a result of the interests of big corporations that run the country.

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