One of the few MotoGP riders not to compete in the smaller grand prix classes, Danilo Petrucci began his premier-class career on the very slowest of the 'CRT' bikes in 2012.

The team he rode for, Ioda, is long gone but the amiable Italian was rewarded for his persistence with a satellite Ducati ride with Pramac in 2015, a season that produced his first grand prix podium.

A further promotion saw Petrucci gain the latest Desmosedici machinery, increasing his podium tally to six by the end of last season. But only now, in his eighth MotoGP year, has he become an official Ducati Team rider, in place of triple world champion Jorge Lorenzo no less.

As the only factory team rider on a one-year deal, Petrucci knows he must put everything into what will be a career-defining season, for better or worse.

So far, the signs are good.

The Italian, who has been working closely with team-mate Andrea Dovizioso, was fastest at the opening test in Sepang, then again led the Ducati challenge with tenth on the timesheets in Qatar.

The position may sound worrying, but Petrucci was focussed on pace and set a high standard during his race simulation. The #9 was especially satisfied that he looks to have made big steps in solving the tyre-wear problems that have taunted his chances in the past.

"I'm happy with the way the tests went and ready to begin a new season," Petrucci said. "From the very first outing with the team, I've been trying to further optimise my approach, both physically and mentally, to make the most of this opportunity.

"I've also made some important changes to my training and dietary regimes, and I feel as ready as ever for the upcoming battle. We managed to be fast in each session during the winter tests, but in the end it's the race that matters, and that's usually a different story.

"We have a lot of competitive rivals, especially on this track given the recent tests done here: it won't be easy to put them behind us, but I'm confident we have some good cards up our sleeve."

Four of Petrucci's MotoGP podiums have been runner-up finishes, meaning his first goal in 2019 is surely to win a race.

Cal Crutchlow, who says Petrucci is underestimated due to his superbike background, is the only race winner on the current MotoGP grid not to have raced in 125/Moto3 or 250/Moto2.



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