Ducati MotoGP racer Danilo Petrucci took his first ever win in the premier class today with a hard fought and emotional victory at his home race, the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.
Riding in his 124th Grand Prix, the 28-year-old rider rode a flawless last lap to hold off the attentions of the world champion, Honda’s Marc Marquez, and his factory Ducati team-mate Andrea Dovizioso.
The tall Petrucci is something of a rarity in the championship, having started his career with five years in superstock racing before moving to MotoGP with the back-of-the grid IodaRacing team in 2012. Petrucci’s determination, gutsy performances and strong personality have made him one of the most popular riders on the MotoGP grid, and at Mugello he gave the performance of his life to lead the majority of laps and to make a strong move on the closing lap to seal the win in what was one of the best MotoGP races in years.
Marquez, who like Petrucci was suffering from ‘flu, took an early lead in the 23 lap race but was unable to break away from a six-way fight for the lead that also included Brit Cal Crutchlow, Aussie Jack Miller and Alex Rins on the Suzuki.
Petrucci briefly took the lead on lap four, as he Rins and Dovizioso all took turns at the front. Crutchlow was to fade as the race went on, struggling with unexpected rear tyre wear, while the all action Miller crashed his Ducati on the 16th lap.
By that time Petrucci was bossing it at the front, but unable to make a break along the long Mugello straight. Marquez regained the lead on the penultimate lap but as he and Dovizioso ran slightly off line as they went into turn one for the last time, Petrucci didn’t need a second invitation. The local man forced his way through the gap and rode a perfect last lap to take a tearful win.
“I really wanted this victory and when I realized the pace at the front wasn’t too fierce and I was able to manage my rhythm in the leading group, I told myself it was the right time to go for it,” said Petrucci. “I tried to control the race by staying in the lead to avoid the risk of losing too many positions in the battle, dictating the pace to preserve the energies and the tyres for the final rush. I was a bit worried about the slipstream as we entered the final lap, but I managed to brake really deep and find a small gap between Andrea and Marc to retake the lead, then I simply pushed as hard as I could until the chequered flag. A good chunk of this win came thanks to Andrea, who took me under his wing this winter and gave so many precious tips. Now we’ll keep fighting together for the championship.”
Marquez’ second place sees him extend his championship points advantage to 12 points.
He said: “Today was time to defend, and we did it in the best way we could because usually this is not one of our best circuits. I stayed calm and waited to try something in the last lap. I was able to try but I missed the apex on the first corner and then both Ducati overtook me. Petrucci rode very well at the front today, congratulations to him. My goal was to finish in front of Dovizioso and Rins and we did this so I’m happy. As always, thanks to the Repsol Honda Team as they have worked hard to allow us to fight for victory here.”
Dovizioso added: “It’s been a really exciting race, as it’s often the case here at Mugello. Until the very last lap, everything went to plan. I got off to a great start and I put myself in a good position to manage the tyres, staying always within the top three despite the many overtakes in the leading group. My plan was to seize the lead at the beginning of the last lap, but I had to pick up the bike out of turn one to avoid contact and I lost positions and points. I’m a bit disappointed because of that, but also very happy for Danilo, who really deserved this win. It would have been better to score a one-two finish, but Márquez was very competitive also here. As for us, we struggled a bit early on in the weekend but once again we managed to stay in contention until the very end during the race. We want more and we’ll keep working to improve.”
Italian legend Valentino Rossi had a nightmare in his home Grand Prix. After qualifying in 18th, the 40-year-old suffered a setback after tangling with Joan Mir in the early stages of the race and crashed out, uninjured, while running last on lap eight.
“It was a very difficult weekend, because I was always very slow,” rued Rossi. “We expected to be more competitive, so it was difficult to manage. We also made some mistakes in the practice: I made a mistake in FP3 and because of it I started very far towards the back of the grid. In the race, my pace wasn’t fantastic. I tried to overtake Mir, but he tried to defend his position, and unfortunately we touched. Luckily, we didn’t crash, but we went onto the gravel. After that I tried to push to recover and I lost the front and crashed, so it’s a bad end to a difficult weekend, especially since it’s in Mugello. But that’s the way it is. We will try to do better.”
The next MotoGP takes place at Barcelona, in Spain, in two weeks’ time.
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