Two-time MotoGP race winner Danilo Petrucci has returned to the top step of the podium on his debut in MotoAmerica, winning the inaugural race of the season.
Petrucci’s sterling debut in the domestic series comes following his world championship exile at the end of 2021 and a brief foray into rallying that saw him take a Dakar Rally stage win in January.
The Italian started his race from the front row after a strong qualifying at the Circuit of the Americas – and after a technical problem for polesitter and reigning champion Jake Gagne, Petrucci found himself sitting in second place behind South African Mathew Scholtz.
However, he was quickly able to make his way past Scholtz too – and once he did, the Warhorse Ducati rider pulled out a comfortable two-second lead and maintained it until the checkered flag.
The result is something of a surprise, too, given that throughout practice the Italian has admitted to struggling somewhat with the adaptation not to superbike machinery but to the Dunlop tires used as control rubber in the American series.
With Dunlops being stiffer than the Pirelli tires used in other production bike series, it meant unique set-up challenges for Petrucci’s Panigale V4, and that combined with a succession of injuries dating back to testing for Dakar means that he believed ahead of the race that he wasn’t quite ready to win.
“For me, the real target was to stand on the podium,” he admitted after the race, “because these guys are very fast guys and I’ve been racing [non-stop] since January 2021 now. I’ve done a full MotoGP season, I broke my ankle, I went to Dakar, I broke my ankle again, and afterwards I was so tired.
“When I started to feel OK again, I went with my motocross bike and I broke the ligaments in my knee. I can’t even remember how to run, and I feel like I have the legs of another man! I’m not physically fit and the last part of the race was really hard.
“We’ve only had a day of testing with the bike and it doesn’t really fit with the Dunlop tires either, so we need more time. But I’ve had a great time and coming to MotoAmerica seems to have been one of the best decisions of my life.”
The win marks another step in something of a redemption journey for Petrucci since departing the MotoGP championship following a torrid final season in 2021 with the Tech3 KTM team – but couldn’t have come at a better time for him than at COTA in front of the MotoGP paddock at this weekend’s Grand Prix of the Americas.
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