An exclusive interview with Danilo Petrucci, who is moving to the Pramac Ducati team in 2015, after spending three MotoGP seasons with Ioda...
How is the off-season going so far Danilo?

Danilo Petrucci:
For the Nascar event I will do only two laps in a motor show in Bologna on Sunday. I am also doing some training for next season. You know, I am one of the tallest in MotoGP so I have to start my preparation a little earlier than my colleagues. Because I'm a little taller I have to work a lot to make the weight go down for the bike. My weight was never a problem but this year I have everything for doing my best so I want to work a little more than previous years.
Have you had to change your training approach because of the Ducati and its added power?

Danilo Petrucci:
Maybe. Especially in the last year I have more experience compared with previous years. This year was the third in MotoGP so I've done [close to] 60 races. Riding the bike, I am very powerful compared to other smaller riders but this year I want a good preparation.

The bike [Ducati] - yes, it's physical but not much more than the other bike. I want to stay 100 percent because the riders in the front of the group are very professional and the races are often decided in the last five laps. A lot of concentration is needed and when you are tired your senses go down and it's difficult to keep a good pace. The last five laps are very important - I often watch the top riders and they push a lot in the last laps. I want to be like them.
Now that you've had some time to reflect, how do you feel the 2014 season went?

Danilo Petrucci:
I think 2014 was my worst season since I raced in MotoGP, because the first year I was on the slowest bike in the history of MotoGP. This year at the beginning it [had the chance to be] my best year because I had an Aprilia and all the team was happy with this decision.

[But] in the winter there were many problems with my team. We missed the two tests in Sepang and Aprilia changed the chassis and the electronics [to] the Magneti Marelli ECU for the 'Open' class. Without testing and especially with the new chassis and software we tried to do a lot, especially in the beginning.

The situation was very difficult. In Jerez, I don't know if I was unlucky to have an injury because [there] the situation was difficult with the bike and software, the chassis... especially with the tuning from Aprilia.

[It] was annoying because my hand doesn't work. For the normal life it's a problem but I don't have problems riding the bike. It was a strange period but it gave me the strength to continue the championship. I also do some development on the bike. At the end it was pretty good and I got some good points and some good races.

In 2014 the level was high and the old CRT like Avintia or Aprilia were very slow. I was the best with the CRT machine; I was often very close to the 'Production' Honda, sometimes in front like Valencia and Aragon. This difficult situation gave me the chance to appear stronger to Pramac Racing and they gave me the chance with a very good bike.
You showed some strong form towards the end of the year, notably in Valencia where you finished twelfth, ahead of the likes of Bautista and Hayden. Was this the highlight of your season?

Danilo Petrucci:
In Assen it was very emotional because I came back. The first practice on Friday morning I was last. I remained calm and lap-by-lap I had the confidence to push harder. In qualifying I did a very good lap, three tenths faster than [Aleix] Espargaro in 2013, who dominated the CRT class.

I started the race 25 seconds later than the others because I cannot hold the clutch with the left hand [and] I switch off the bike on the starting grid. You see everyone going and [then] the safety car you think, 'another shit weekend!' One of my mechanics jumped onto the circuit to switch on the bike. I was thinking I push hard, then I can lap with everyone. I think I was five seconds faster in the pit-lap than the other riders of my level.

Valencia was an emotion because there was Suzuki, Pirro, Aoyama with the new Honda so the level was higher. When it started to rain I tried to push even more when the other riders try to understand the condition. When it's raining you don't know how wet the ground [is].

My chief mechanic, Giovanni Sandi, was on the pit wall and he gave me the time of Marquez so I can understand how the track was. The first two laps it's raining I ride like Marquez... when you see other riders going slower I pass Hayden, Aoyama, Bautista. I lost eleventh position with Barbera, he passed me on the final straight. Ducati has so much power so it was impossible to stay in front, but twelfth position was good after all the problems I had this year.
Is the wrist injury that you suffered in Jerez still giving you problems?

Danilo Petrucci:
The wrist since I came back at Assen was day-by-day becoming better. In Indianapolis I had an accident - I managed to not crash but I felt the wrist very painful. When I come to Brno I did an injection to ease the pain [and] when I came back home I did another x-ray and there was another dislocation with the wrist. The hand is not in place, it's strange because I can't move the wrist. I have some pain but always when I am training and at home. I have to overwork the left hand, it's difficult for me [as] I'm right handed.

When I ride I don't have so many difficulties. At the beginning I had, especially when I brake. There is so much load on the arm - it was very painful. I think from Misano I rode normally like before. These days when I start to do my winter preparation I can't do Motocross or Enduro, which I love, because I have too much pain. I think it's not a good situation because I feel the hand has less power than the right hand.

The operation that I could do is very difficult because I have to do the fusion with two bones. In Barcelona they said that I have to stay eight months out of racing. If you're going out of MotoGP for eight months it means you stop racing. I can continue for about ten years with this wrist so maybe during this time the situation can change. I hope to improve but for the moment riding in MotoGP it's ok.
As you already mentioned, there were issues with funding and the Ioda team from the start of the year. Do you feel you received the support that Aprilia said they would initially give you?

Danilo Petrucci:
The situation in 2014 was difficult because the sponsor doesn't renew the deal with Giampiero [Sacchi - Ioda team boss]. In February Giampiero doesn't have sponsors for this season. Aprilia was a bit late with the construction of the bike. We missed the test, where you have time and can be calm and relaxed for doing all the testing.

In the races was very difficult. I still remember the first day of testing in Qatar. Two weeks before the race, the first time I go out the quickshift doesn't work. When you go out you see all the riders going faster. It was their third test, it was difficult to work. We have to try a lot things and in the second day problems with the software began because they and the bike were very young. We missed the second day and we start the championship really late. We were always trying new solutions. The crew was very close to me, they understand the situation. They always push me in better condition. [But] When you have nothing to improve or develop it's difficult.

Next year I understand there is everything for doing my best. The bike is at the highest level of [its] development. The GP14.1 is pretty similar to the 14.2 [raced by Dovizioso and Iannone at the end of this season]. The GP15 will be ready [for the factory team] for Sepang II. I think in the beginning the GP14 is the best solution for me. I also have all the data of the past season and many riders to compare.

In the last three years I was the only rider [who rode the] Ioda, Suter and Aprilia - the only rider with that bike on the grid.
Was there a chance to race with Aprilia in MotoGP in 2015 and how did the deal with Pramac Racing come about?

Danilo Petrucci:
I really want to continue with Aprilia. You know it's a factory bike. There's time for improve the bike [and] they are working for a new bike in 2016. With this difficult year the feelings for us was not good. Aprilia doesn't ask a lot so I start looking outside my box.

In Indianapolis some teams come to me to talk - one was Pramac Racing. I talked with Francesco Guidotti on the Friday evening for the first time. During the season many rumours can happen. Then we started to think about another solution like going to World Superbike with a bike to stay at the top - then come back to MotoGP in the next season.

When I have to choose Francesco Guidotti gave me the chance to ride with Pramac Racing. I think about these two solutions. The best solution was to continue with MotoGP because the bike is very good. It's important to stay here for 2016 because many changes are coming.

In 2011 I was with Ducati [developing] the Panigale Superbike. I was always very close to them. In my first year in MotoGP I tried Valentino's bike after the Mugello race [and] it was like a dream. I was thinking one day I wish to race with that bike. Also in 2013 we were close to make a deal in World Superbike as a factory rider but Giampiero Sacchi made an offer with Aprilia factory in 2014 but the reality was different. We weren't Aprilia factory - we were Aprilia stock!
How did you find acclimatising to the GP14.1 in Valencia?

Danilo Petrucci:
Often I was six tenths from Marquez only in one sector and now being six tenths from Marquez at the end of the lap was great! We are only at the beginning. The time is very good but I was not so happy because the pace with the harder tyre was not so good. It was difficult to go faster like the 'Factory' riders. I have to work on race configuration but the lap time was really good.

I saw many riders that are not so incredibly fast in qualifying but if you finish the races you can make eighth place, one time tenth, one time eleventh. At the end of the championship it pays a lot. 18 races are too much and if you score points in every race you can be in the first ten. I want to work especially on the pace for doing my best in the race, not just qualifying.

The bike is very good for qualifying, a little less for the race. My crew chief Daniele Romagnoli, who work many years with Lorenzo, Valentino and the last years with Crutchlow, we managed to work with the tyre and race configuration. Only at the end of the third day we try to go out with the soft tyre. The experience I did with the hard tyre paid [off] as the time with the soft came pretty easy. Being seventh position, not so far from Smith and Rossi, riders who often are two or three seconds [ahead] per lap, was great.
Is there a chance that you will progress to the GP14.2 during 2015?

Danilo Petrucci:
I don't think so. Ducati is working very hard on the GP15. Maybe you know that the factory riders will participate at Sepang I with the GP14.2. There are not so many bikes at the moment and spare parts not so much. At the moment I have to do all the championship with the GP14.1. In Ducati they are concentrated to build the new bike, not for building spare parts for the GP14.2. Maybe during the season the situation will change but for me a season on the GP14.1 is no problem. It's pretty similar.
Pramac Racing team boss Francesco Guidotti said he believes you will be scoring points at every round in 2015, maybe more. Is that your aim?

Danilo Petrucci:
Yeah. I hope so. Scoring points all season. I score points at every race almost in 2013, maybe only a few races I missed the points. In 2015 it would be a good target. Maybe sometimes I hope to finish in the top ten. But I don't set targets. Obviously in testing to finish less than one second from Marquez was good. I have everything to do my best. The team is great, the bike too. I don't set targets myself, only doing your best is a good target. In three years I didn't have the chance to do my best. 2015 will be the first time I have everything. Now all the results that are coming for me are good.
When you rode in European Superstock in 2011 you competed against the likes of Davide Giugliano and Sylvain Barrier - now top WSBK riders. Does it still annoy you that you lost that championship by such a narrow margin?

Danilo Petrucci:
I lose the championship by two points. Maybe in 2011 at the beginning Giugliano was stronger [but] during the championship I was faster, especially at the end when I win all the races. I did seven or eight pole positions, we were very fast. One time in Brno I crashed and in Nurburgring when I was in front my clutch goes out. That was the crucial point.

Maybe sometimes, especially last year, and next season, when I watch Superbike I always think about Giuglianio. He's very fast. Maybe I think it was better to switch to World Superbikes for being at the head of the group. For a rider this is better than staying in the middle or the bottom. Many people from the paddock say, 'If you go to World Superbike you can win and stay on the podium.' This comparison this year was very easy because Giugliano was in the front and I was often in last position of the group [in MotoGP].

When you look back to the past it's easier to make comments. I always defend my choice to stay in MotoGP and it pays off because now I am one of the twelve 'Factory' riders. I don't think at the beginning or during the season I'll stay in the top ten but I have the chance to stay and improve my performance.

In the same moment I hope Giugliano and Ducati have a great season. If Giugliano wins I know I can do the same thing. In Superbike I have good consideration and one time I would be pleased to go there and have some good fights.
Ducati is looking very strong ahead of the 2015 World Superbike season too...

Danilo Petrucci:
Yes. I was happy to go in Superbikes with Ducati because next season it could be the best bike. In 2011 I did many kilometres [of Ducati testing], sometimes with Bayliss at Mugello, so the Panigale is like my baby. I'm happy if the bike wins or if Davide fight for the championship. I know Rea, Sykes, Guintoli will be very competitive but it seems the Ducati is the best bike.
You have said in the past that you take it personally when things with the bike or the races go wrong. Does this still happen?

Danilo Petrucci:
No, not so much. From the rider to the team manager, everyone is doing their best. At the beginning in 2012 the bike was slower. I was sad because I can't show to the world what I can do. Everyone doesn't know me and many people thought the rider wasn't so fast. At the beginning when you don't have as much experience and are not known to the world it's difficult to be happy.

In 2013 we switched to Suter and the bike was good. The situation changed. This year the people start to see the bike was not so good, not the rider. I was happy with this. Going to Pramac Racing was the certification that the rider was good. Now I have to show what I can do with a good bike because for sure it's not easy.
Can you tell us a little about your father's career. I know he used to work with Loris Capirossi and Team Pileri in the nineties...

Danilo Petrucci:
Yes. My father since 1990 works with Team Pileri until 1997. Then he switched to another small team of 125 with [Mirko] Giansanti. In 2002 he started a new adventure with KTM road racing. Then he stopped working because I start racing in 2006 so the first year I switch from my championship to MotoGP and then he came back in 2011 with Ioda and Giampiero Sacchi. One year later I come to this team.

In 2014 it was the first year we work together. For the last year [2013] he was with my team-mate [Lukas] Pesek. It was very special for me because I remember when I was three years old he filled up my tank with fuel. This year in MotoGP after 20 years he also fill up the tank and this is very good for a father.
Is that how you got involved in racing?

Danilo Petrucci:
Everyone in the paddock knows me since I was a child. Team Pileri, their headquarters was in Terni, my city. It's the only city in the world that has two world championships - Libero Liberati in 1957 in the 500 class and Paolo Pileri in 1975 in 125. In Terni the feelings for the bike is very clear. It's a small city in the centre of Italy. We don't have a circuit close to us but we have a good story. There was also Giansanti in 125 and 250.

For me I'm very happy to be in the MotoGP class. It's great to have my father in the paddock. From the outside the paddock is really strange but if you're in there you know many movements, many rumours. I think this helps me to go there. [Although] If you have father in MotoGP it doesn't mean you have a place there.

You know many riders have to pay to race. I pay a lot of money in the Superstock class. That was my father that funded me to race. He works for me since I was a child and he helps me a lot. Sometime I hope to earn money from racing. I think that's important.
You are part of the Italian State police sports squad - did that include police training when you were younger?

Danilo Petrucci:
It's really strange to speak about this with you, it's difficult to explain. In Italy we have many sports group from the soldier, Carabinieri, fireman, aeronautics. Only the police have a sports group in motorcycling. The best riders in Enduro and Motocross - now we have [Alessandro] Lupino - are from the police sports group.

Loris Capirossi, when he was a child, was in the police sports group. In another sports like swimming, fencing, running there are not so much sponsor. Athletes can't live but the police help the best athletes in Italy to continue the sports career. They give you the chance to remain in the group and at the end of the career you can choose to go out of the police or work like a policeman.

It's an honour to stay in the police. I have always the dream to be fast like Loris Capirossi - he is my idol. He was in the police when he worked with my father. I was growing up with that theme and one day it comes to reality. Now I only miss three world championships to be like Capirossi. It's the most difficult part!
But Loris was 17 when he won his first!

Danilo Petrucci:
I think now it's impossible to be like him! I can't race in the Moto2 or Moto3 so I have to win the three world championships in MotoGP and I don't think this can happen immediately! This is also difficult for me. I have never ridden a 125 or Moto2, I start in MotoGP. I choose to be the small fish in the big aquarium. When you have to do experience with Pedrosa, Marquez, Rossi, Lorenzo, it's difficult as they are the big fish in the sea. It's difficult to grow up but step-by-step I have done a good progression.
Recently you have competed in Valentino Rossi's ranch dirt track events. Can you tell us a little about that?

Danilo Petrucci:
I often go to Valentino's house. Two weeks ago we decide to organise a 100 kilometres race. Each team was composed of two riders. I was in a team with Mattia Pasini. Valentino was coupled with [Andrea] Migno. [Nicol?] Bulega and [Lorenzo] Baldassarri won the race. It was great. The race was organised for friends.

At the beginning when you go to these races you imagine the atmosphere is relaxed but when you start riding everyone is a rider and starts pushing to the limits. At the beginning of the race Mattia crashed and we lost the second position. In the end we finish third. We won one salami and some sausages. The winning team won an entire ham and we were fighting for that ham!

It's great because at the races when you saw Valentino you don't see the real person. It's great to be at his home with his friends. Now it's a great group to do some training. We arrive at his house on Saturday afternoon and there is always good drifting and good laughing. Now I can say it's a great thing to have some training with Valentino and the riders from his academy. You can compare, give some advice to the young riders. They can give you some tricks and I always feel you have to learn from everyone and understand many things.
When you cast your eye to Moto3 Italy certainly has some exciting talent coming through. Has anyone in particular caught your eye?

Danilo Petrucci:
At the moment there are many riders. [Romano] Fenati always starts the championship very strong but is not so consistent but he is a great talent. I think Bulega, who races in the Spanish championship; he goes in the last races on the podium. He is 15 and has the time to learn and maybe try to win the 'Junior' world championship next year. He will be very strong when he comes to the world championship.

Also [Francesco] Bagnaia, Migno are very strong. They are very young but very experienced. The greatest thing is they have a lot of fun when they ride. That's the secret of the big champions like Marquez or Rossi - he is riding a lot of years. If you race like it is not a job then you will have a long and great career. If you can understand that you are lucky I think it's great.



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