Petrucci: Superpole Race ‘like a fight in a bar, they really slammed my face’

Danilo Petrucci has admitted he needed to ‘wake up’ following the opening lap of the Superpole Race in Phillip Island, after being caught out by the aggressive nature of racing in WorldSBK.
Danilo Petrucci, Barni Ducati WorldSBK Phillip Island 2023
Danilo Petrucci, Barni Ducati WorldSBK Phillip Island 2023

The WorldSBK rookie started on the fourth row but was pushed down to P18 by the conclusion of lap one, before making a recovery to 11th.

Having never taken part in a sprint race before, Petrucci was not expecting the level of aggressiveness shown by other riders, which is why the Italian admitted to it being like a ‘fight in a bar’.

Summing up his first weekend as a WorldSBK rider, Petrucci said: "Was really full of emotion. On Saturday it was a really tough race and I went into the race without ever trying in my life the rain tyre and this bike with the wet setup. Was challenging but it was fun, but also difficult with visibility. 

"In the Superpole Race it was like a fight in a bar. The first [few] laps they really slammed my face in every direction, and at the end of the first lap I was in 18th position. 

"I said ‘oh, I have to wake up as soon as possible’. Finishing 11th… I was not happy, but it was a really nice weekend and I’m really happy to have joined this paddock."

While other rookies also showed potential during their debut, especially Dominique Aegerter after the Swiss rider claimed P3 in qualifying and overtook Jonathan Rea on the final lap of Race 2, Petrucci came away with ‘top rookie’ in two out of the three races.

The Italian, who has always been one of the most honest riders wherever he's raced, was quick to point out what could have been better about his performance, although the final race of the weekend is one where he regained confidence following the Superpole Race. 

Danilo Petrucci , Race 2 Australian WorldSBK, 27 February
Danilo Petrucci , Race 2 Australian WorldSBK, 27 February

"Not an easy Sunday," added Petrucci. "This morning it was very windy and I lost confidence with the front. In the Superbike race, I paid the consequences of having no experience of the sprint format. 

"I was pushed around off the line and made a terrible first lap. When you only have ten laps, you can’t get away with that, so I need to improve there. 

"In Race 2, it was a bit more of a normal race but I didn’t have the pace to stick with the front five, but around mid-race I got closer and felt more confident. 

"Then Aegerter passed me and I couldn’t follow him because I’m not totally sorted with the setup yet and was losing a few tenths through the fast turns. 

"The aim is to be further forward. We’re still missing something but we’re not far off. We’ve worked well and I can be pleased with the progress made with the team."

Petrucci, who is a former two-time MotoGP race winner, is the biggest name to have joined WorldSBK in 2023, a list that also includes world and domestic champions such as Remy Gardner (Moto2 champion) and Bradley Ray (BSB champion).

So while Ducati will be expecting him to challenge for podiums as the year goes on, Petrucci knows the first few rounds are about being realistic.  

"To be honest I want more, but we have to be realistic," said Petrucci. "Two out of the three races we were the top rookie but we want to be more in front. 

"The top guys here are really fast and they racedhere just a few months ago. Was a tough job but I have to look at the positives."

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