A Ducati rider for the past six years, Danilo Petrucci starts a new chapter in his MotoGP career with a move to KTM and Tech3 this season.

Both machines are powered by a 90-degree V4 engine, but while Ducati is unique in using the Desmodromic (instead of pneumatic) valve system, KTM is the only bike on the grid with a steel trellis frame (rather than aluminium) and WP (instead of Ohlins) suspension.

KTM proved such variety is no barrier to success by winning three races last season - with Petrucci, sacked by Ducati for 2021 and then swiftly signed by KTM, studying his future machine whenever possible.

"To tell the truth, last year I followed the bike many times, in the warm-up, during practice," Petrucci said.

"Also, when we signed the contract, Mike Leitner [KTM team manager] said to me that the bike is very [adaptable] because at that moment - in June 2020 – Pol had been the best rider with the bike and he is a hard braker like me. He likes to brake hard and ride quite aggressively.

"But Mike also said that [test rider] Dani Pedrosa had made a big, big step and he is not absolutely a hard braker. He maximises speed in the exit of the corner. So Mike said before 2020 that the bike now can be ridden in a lot of ways.

"For this reason, I followed a lot of KTM riders last year and I saw they got very different styles but they were all very fast.

"For sure the one that maybe surprised me the most was Brad [Binder], who immediately since Jerez last year was completely different to the others, but he was incredibly fast since the beginning of the year and won at the third race.

"But all the riders have been very fast so it means that the bike can be very [suited] to all the riding styles.

"It will be tough changing the bike after many years, but I'm just curious because I signed this contract in June 2020, then they cancelled testing at the end of the year, then they cancelled February, so now I'm very looking forward try the bike in March."

The cancellation of the Sepang tests, again due to Covid restrictions, means Petrucci will now have just five days in Qatar to learn his machine before the season begins.

With the opening two races also scheduled for Losail, Petrucci feels he will have plenty of time to get acquainted with the RC16 at the desert track.

However, Sepang is a more difficult and 'complete' track for testing purposes.

"For sure I've been quite sad to not try the bike in November and especially in February in Sepang, because Sepang is a very complete track and you find very difficult conditions for riding the bikes," said the 30-year-old Italian.

"It's extremely hot and the track is very greasy in the afternoon, so it's let's say the worst conditions you can find during the championship. But it's the most true, because often during the races it's very hot and the track is greasy. So the most difficult conditions is the most usual during the championship.

"Now we have only 5 days. It's not a few days, let's say, because 5 days on the same track for me is enough, especially if you have the first two races in the same venue.

"But maybe it's not the best track for testing at 100% all the different scenarios you can have in a championship, because it's not extremely hot [at night], it's not hard braking for example, not so tight corners.

"But we have to deal with it. For sure I like a lot the track, I've always been fast in practice but never able to do a good race so it's time to do a good race also this year."

A single race winner for Ducati in both 2019 and 2020, Petrucci now has his sights set on joining a small group of riders to have won MotoGP races for two different manufacturers.

"For sure the target is to win again and to win with KTM means winning with two different manufacturers, something that only a few riders were capable of doing. So it's a big target but I want to do it," he said.

When Petrucci's KTM move was first rumoured, most expected he would be a direct replacement for Pol Espargaro at the factory Red Bull team.

Instead, double 2020 race winner Miguel Oliveira moves across from Tech3 to join Brad Binder, with Petrucci slotting in alongside young Spaniard Iker Lecuona at the French team.

"I don’t think there are advantages or disadvantages, I mean we are technically speaking all four riders on the same level with the bike," Petrucci said of riding for Tech3 instead of the Factory.

"Unfortunately, I'm the oldest one of the four riders! But also the most experienced. I ride other bikes in MotoGP so I can give a lot of experience back.

"I don’t see any big thing compared to being in the Red Bull Factory team. We are Factory too and Tech3 won two races with Miguel last year. It's a team that I always liked to join, especially because Herve [Poncharal] has always been nice with me.

"So the team is capable to win races and fight for the best position in the championship.

"Maybe in the past [there was less pressure in a satellite team] but if you have the same bike as the Factory, like I also had in the last two years I was in Pramac, this means that you can fight for the top position. So I don’t have less or more pressure than the Red Bull guys."

Nonetheless, after an often-demoralising final season at Ducati, where the new Michelin rear tyre saw both Petrucci and Andrea Dovizioso rarely comfortable on the Desmosedici, the #9 is 're-discovering' the enthusiasm he had when he first entered the MotoGP class.

"I'm working really hard, we have most of the day for training and I'm re-joining the approach I had at the start of my MotoGP career," Petrucci said. "This is the most important thing because I'm re-discovering myself when I joined MotoGP ten years ago and really have the will to work and improve. I also feel more young than before!"

After climbing from 14th to sixth in the MotoGP standings between 2016 and 2019 Petrucci was knocked back to twelfth overall last season, when a wet Le Mans win was also his only podium.

Riders that have won races for two different manufacturers during MotoGP era (2002 onwards):

Max Biaggi (Yamaha and Honda)

Valentino Rossi (Honda and Yamaha)

Andrea Dovizioso (Honda and Ducati)

Casey Stoner (Ducati and Honda)

Maverick Vinales (Suzuki and Yamaha)

Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha and Ducati)

 

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