Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci watched Rossi, Pedrosa and Dovizioso on telly. He still hasn’t quite got used to being a top flight MotoGP racer himself
s a child whose father worked in the teams of national heroes Loris Capirossi and Valentino Rossi, Danilo Petrucci was, you would presume, destined to become a member of MotoGP’s elite.
Yet the 25 year-old still muttered a silent expletive when he saw his name inside the top three at the first test of 2016. Ten years ago he was an interested spectator, watching races from his living room sofa, his background in production racing making an eventual ride in MotoGP seem improbable at best.
This season marks Petrucci’s first year in a fully factory-supported team and – recently broken hand aside - his aim is to place the family name on the shopping list of factory teams in 2017. He spoke to MCN Sport about his relationship with his father, and sharing friendships with both Rossi and Casey Stoner.
When did you first dream of being a GP rider?
Always. Sometimes, when I do an interview, someone says, ‘What work are you going to do if you don’t race?’ I don’t know, because since I was a child I thought, ‘One day I have to be in MotoGP.’
You’re now in a factory-supported team, going well and getting advice from Casey Stoner. Do you have to pinch yourself?
In Sepang testing I was always in front, and I say, ‘Fuck!’ I imagined I would get better but not as good to stay in the top three. The road is still long, but we are getting closer. Two years ago no one knew Petrucci. When I was last and did a big effort to go from 18th to 17th it didn’t change nothing. Now I really enjoy the race.
In the middle of 2014 I was thinking to stop. Then I broke my wrist and I got time to understand what I miss in my life. In that moment, things began to get better. In Silverstone  after I made the podium, there was Valentino and Dovi and I was proud. Ten years ago I watched them on TV. I’d never tried a racing bike. I came from dirt bike, from motocross, from trials, but never one of these. Now to see my name in the middle was a sort of… ‘Fuck! Is that the Petrucci I know?’
Who was your idol, when you were young?
My idol was Loris [Capirossi]. You know, when I was four years old, my father worked with Loris when he won the first two championships in 1990 and 1991, then stayed in the same team until 1995. I grew up with Loris. My only way of thinking was like what Loris did. Then he was a police cadet*, and when I had the chance to become a police cadet like him, I immediately did it. I still miss three world championships and some houses in Monte Carlo though! Anyway, I was a policeman like him, and I race in Moto GP like him. I have to stay in front, but we are arriving.
I like Valentino. My father worked with him in his first two years in 125s. He enjoys a lot working on the bike. I am lucky to be a friend of Valentino. We meet even outside the track. He’s a good friend. Even if I like Stoner!
Have you told him this?
Yes. And Casey! He said that for him it’s not a problem. In 2012 I came to Phillip Island for the first time. On Saturday I met him many times on the track, trying to follow him.
I made a tweet saying the four phases of life normally are you’re born, you grow up, you get a child, and then die. So I changed it: you’re born, you grow up, you watch a lap of Stoner in Philip Island, then you get a child, then you can die. I’ve never seen a man riding a bike so fast. I can’t imagine someone who goes faster on a bike here. It was absolutely incredible. The front wheel and the rear wheel are never in line, always he can control two wheels. All on the throttle. I’m a friend of Valentino and I’m becoming a friend of Casey.
Testing at Sepang and Phillip Island you had Casey there to give you advice. How was that?
I know him since 2004. He was riding for KTM and my father works with them, so he remembers me well. For sure he is one of the biggest talents of MotoGP – maybe the biggest. It’s always nice talking to him about the riding style. We raced together only one year [in 2012]. I was about last position, and I could follow him only for two corners. And now we have ridden the same lap time, more or less. I’m very proud of this.
Your father has a lot of experience around professional riders. What was your relationship like?
It’s strange because he did almost everything in the paddock, from the chef, from the truck driver, to tyre assistant. Now he’s a little bit tired – he’s not a child. I think he only drives the truck this year, and manages the hospitality. Last year he got the chance to stay at home but in the end he didn’t want to.
Last year my father never entered the pit garage. I never saw my father during practice. He always said, “I’ve seen many fathers who train their child. So I don’t want the same situation. I go along to the track and you are doing good, you are doing bad, but I never say nothing.”
So I’m lucky for this. I’ve seen many fathers more involved in the sport than the child.