Danilo Petrucci says his unexpected return to the top of the podium in the rain-affected French MotoGP wasn’t so much to do with his reputation as a wet weather specialist but because of a breakthrough on the Ducati before the weekend.

The second win of his MotoGP career to join a famous maiden success on his and Ducati’s home soil in Mugello last year, it has nonetheless been a difficult period in between as he struggled to maintain that level of form in the aftermath of his success.

However, this weekend’s event in Le Mans appeared to signify a turnaround for Petrucci even before the race when he claimed a front row starting position in the dry. He’d then go on to claim a lap one lead before managing the pace and the conditions from the front to lead almost every lap of the French MotoGP.

While many of Petrucci’s best results before he joined the factory Ducati team were achieved in difficult weather conditions, he maintains it was a new solution on the GP20 in Barcelona two weeks’ earlier that has really made the difference.

“It has been a long period since the season finale last year and the beginning of the season has been difficult for me, but I felt very confident after Barcelona and I came here with the will to step on the podium. I didn’t expect the rain today, but after this morning I knew I could fight for the podium in the dry - I thought it’s the same for everyone. At the start I thought to go in front and stay away from problems, I didn’t know how much water was on the track but I managed to stay up and keep the rhythm.

“[When] the season started, the changes with the rear tyre made me struggle a lot. I worked on the electronics but it wasn’t the way, so in the end at Misano we found something and in Barcelona the bike felt like I wanted it. Then here, I knew I had a big opportunity and made it. 

“In the wet it is about the feeling you have, but it doesn’t happen in MotoGP that if you are not feeling good in the dry, you are fast in the wet because though I am good in the wet, all the riders in MotoGP are good in every condition. 

“The improvements I did in Barcelona helped me to get onto the front row and get confidence to arrive here with much more feeling on the bike, so I could make a good qualifying and be fast in every condition. The bike works better and I like it.”

Looking back on the race itself, Petrucci reveals he almost crashed shortly after setting his best lap of the race, which allowed the competition to close up - and Andrea Dovizioso to briefly get ahead - on a pivotal lap 18.

Amusingly, Petrucci says he was happy fans were allowed to attend this weekend because it meant organisers’ had erected a ‘jumbo screen’ which he was using to see how much time was being gained by the likes of Alex Rins, Pol Espargaro and Alex Marquez behind at crucial moments.

“It was a big help to have fans here because they put up a mega screen and I could see Alex [Rins] come very fast. I saw Pol was fast too, so I could manage but I was scared of Alex [Marquez] coming through the last laps because he is a really good rider in the wet.

“Fortunately I had Dovi between me and Alex (Marquez) who was coming really fast in the last three or four laps, so I just tried to stay upright. There was a slightly dry line and I had no rear tyre but I managed to win. It’s been a long period but I am really happy to be here.

With Petrucci losing his Ducati ride for 2021 before the season had started, he admits the rejection has taken its toll on his motivation, but hopes this victory - ahead of a move to Tech 3 KTM next year - will restore some faith.

“It has been a crazy year, because the season hadn’t started but I lost my seat and it felt like nobody trusted me. Then there were other movements and other people trusted me.

“For sure I have to thank all of my team and people at home that always trusted me and believed I am good riding the bike, this is the proof I can win MotoGP races.”
 

 

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