Having left the MotoGP grid, Danilo Petrucci, currently making headlines with a brilliant Dakar Rally debut, will revert back to being a MotoGP fan this season.

That includes watching the races on TV, something Petrucci has avoided in recent years due to the frustrating nature of his 2020 campaign for Ducati - albeit including a wet victory at Le Mans - and farewell season at Tech3 KTM.

After his final race, Crash.net asked Petrucci who he will be cheering for from the sofa this season:

"In the last two years I didn’t watch the MotoGP races. When you don’t like yourself, you don’t look in the mirror! So watching the races for me was difficult," replied the Italian.

"From [2022] I’ll start to watch the MotoGP races again on TV. One of the best friends I have is Jack [Miller]. He’s really similar to me… I’d like to see him winning, sincerely.

"There are many people, all the Italians that I am cheering for, but with Jack I have a special relationship."

That friendship was strengthened during their time as team-mates at Pramac Ducati in 2018 and Petrucci bore no hard feelings towards the Australian when Miller was signed to take his seat at the factory Ducati team for 2021.

Miller won two races last season, his first premier-class wins in the dry, and finished a best-yet fourth in the world championship behind Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), team-mate Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) and Joan Mir (Suzuki).

Petrucci meanwhile rarely looked comfortable on the RC16 and - with no other MotoGP options for 2022 – followed his heart and accepted KTM's surprise Dakar offer, but is also tipped to make a return to asphalt with Ducati in MotoAmerica.

At the Italian's final race weekend, Miller rejected Petrucci's description of himself as the last 'normal rider' to make it in MotoGP.

"Danilo is one of these guys. He wants to sell himself short every time," Miller said. "Danilo had a talent. But not only a talent, he worked for it. If you see photos of him on the Ioda with a [big] face out here like a moon and then when he hopped on the Ducati what he did to his body [weight loss] to change it, to be competitive here, he worked for it.

"The guy is a legend."

Danilo Petrucci - KTM Factory Racing - 2022 Dakar Rally.jpg

Petrucci lived up to that praise by winning Stage 5 of the Dakar, an incredible feat for any rookie, let alone a rider whose professional career was on asphalt and has never competed in a Rally Raid event before. The Italian, out of the overall Dakar running due to a terminal Stage 2 electrical problem, was also third quickest on Stage 4.

A rest day - especially welcome for Petrucci after a heavy accident on Friday's curtailed Stage 6, which had been treacherously chewed up by four-wheel vehicles - takes place today (Saturday) before the Saudi Arabian adventure continues to the finish on January 14.

“It’s hard to put into words my emotions after what has happened over the last few weeks," Petrucci said during the rest day. "From nearly missing out on the race [due to a Covid test result]  to taking my first stage win – it feels like I have already lived a lifetime here at the Dakar.

"Everything has been new – the bike, the style of race, and I have to say it has been the most demanding thing I have ever done in my life. For sure my goal is to finish the race, but I have already enjoyed an incredible experience here, and I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to do it.

"I’m looking forward to the next week, it’s going to be tough, every day is very tiring, and I am learning all the time with the terrain and the navigation.

"Already, I am the first one in history to win a MotoGP race and a stage of the Dakar, so I have completed that goal, all that is left for now is to enjoy the rest of the race.”

KTM rally team manager Norbert Stadlbauer added: "Danilo has been incredible, we knew he would be able to hold his own offroad, but for him to take a stage win is very impressive."