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Danilo Petrucci Storms MotoAmerica Superbike

Danilo Petrucci Storms MotoAmerica Superbike
MotoGP race winner delivers victories and podium finishes in U.S. debut
Danilo Petrucci and Jake Gagne took their season-long battle all the way to the final round at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Ultimately, Petrucci and Ducati came up short. Here, in his own words, the championship runner-up describes his season — round by round, highs and lows.
Capturing hearts in the American heartland

Danilo Petrucci captured hearts on a global scale with his victories in MotoGP with Ducati and a stage win at the Dakar Rally on a KTM. Despite those international successes, the 31-year-old Italian very much was the underdog entering this year’s MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Championship.

The 10-round U.S. series led by three-time 500cc World Champion Wayne Rainey was dominated in 2021 by Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha Racing team leader Jake Gagne. The 30-year-old Colorado resident won an unprecedented 17 races — 16 consecutively — en route to his inaugural Superbike crown.

For his MotoAmerica debut, Petrucci was armed with a four-cylinder missile, a World Superbike-spec Ducati Panigale V4R, backed by an experienced crew flying the Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati NYC colors. True to form, unfamiliar as he was with many of the tracks and the series-spec Dunlop tires, Petrucci delivered race wins and consistent podium finishes.

Race 1: first; Race 2: firstCircuit of The Americas — Austin, Texas

“After the Dakar, we went testing — the first approach of the bike — and it was good. But then we went to Misano for another preseason test with the World Superbike guys, and we were much slower than everybody.

“So, I came to this championship with no expectations. At least I knew COTA. It’s a big track, where the strong points of the Ducati show. We won two races quite easily, but I didn’t expect to win there.

“It was really good to win inside the MotoGP weekend, and I was so happy to see a lot of people from last year. It was one of the best weekends of this year, maybe the best one, for sure.”

Race 1: first; Race 2: DNFMichelin Raceway Road Atlanta — Braselton, Georgia

“In Road Atlanta, I discovered that the American tracks are really, really difficult and different, with many types of tarmac. Road Atlanta has some good braking areas, and we could use fourth, fifth, and sixth gears on the bike.


“We had a good fight with Jake Gagne the first few laps of the race. Then, he crashed, and I was able to win again. In race two, unfortunately, we broke the bike before the race started. It was the first ‘moment’ of this year.

“We came out from Road Atlanta still leading the points standings, but with a massive zero in the championship.”

Race 1: fourth; Race 2: thirdVirginia International Raceway — Alton, Virginia

“VIR was the key point of this season, because after Friday, we found a big problem with the bike — an issue with engine braking, that we also found in later races. On Saturday, in race one, I was just trying to stay up and finish the race.

“In the second race, I tried to take the slipstream of Mathew Scholtz, but he pushed me wide. I leaned the bike on the finish line — a sixth-gear bend — and I crashed at 280 kph. It was the scariest crash of my life, really high speed. I still have the bruises on my body.

“I was so upset. For me, many of the tracks we have here, especially VIR, are not good for Superbike.”

Race 1: second; Race 2: thirdRoad America — Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

“Road America is such a nice track, except for the pavement. The layout is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, and we had two good races.


“The first one we were fighting for the lead until the end. Then, Scholtz made a dirty move, and we lost the chance to win that race. In the second race, the track was damp, not really wet. We just managed to arrive to the end with the rain tires, and we scored another podium.

“At tracks with more typical layouts — COTA, Road Atlanta, and Road America — we scored the same points or more points than Jake. In the other tracks, he was simply faster than us.”

Race 1: third; Race 2: secondRidge Motorsports Park — Shelton, Washington

“The Ridge was another new track. It’s another typical U.S. track — so narrow, so small. It was quite difficult, especially because we blew another engine during the first free practice. So, we lost most of the second free practice.

“We managed to score a third and a second. It was a typical weekend: We arrived late — too late — with a good setup.”

Race 1: third; Race 2: SecondWeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca — Monterey, California

“Except for Austin, where the pavement is bumpy but the quality of the tarmac is good, we have no traction. It’s always the same problem: Jake is really, really fast at the beginning of the race, and I don’t have his traction.

“Laguna was the same: If I open the throttle like Jake, I lose the bike. I tried to be smoother, I tried to be more aggressive, but he was just faster. I always have the feeling to ride using 80% of our information, not using 100% of the bike. I cannot really push as I want.

If I try to use 100% of the bike, I lose the front, or I go wide, or I crash. Every corner, I have massive chattering. In Laguna, I was expecting at least to stay closer to Jake, but it was not possible.”

Race 1: third; Race 2: firstBrainerd International Raceway — Brainerd, Minnesota

“Fortunately, we had the chance to go to Brainerd for testing. It’s such a particular track, with many types of tarmac and many strange corners. That weekend, I tried my maximum to stop Jake, to put more pressure on him.

“In race one, I made a mistake. We started so badly, because I crashed hard in qualifying on Saturday morning, and I hurt myself quite a lot. So, I just tried to finish the race. I was in second, and my bike missed a gear. I ran wide, and I finished third.

“In the second race, I was trying to stay close to Jake. I made a small mistake on the first lap and another one after two laps. I tried to copy Jake opening the throttle, but my bike doesn’t have the same traction as his Yamaha.

“Jake was already far away when he crashed. He made a big gift to us, because we regained the championship lead. But it was not a pure win; we won the race, because he crashed. He’s so fast at the beginning of the race. I couldn’t do anything but follow him.”

Race 1: second; Race 2: thirdPittsburgh International Race Complex — Wampum, Pennsylvania

“In race one, we had three starts. I tried three times to stay in front of Jake, but he was too fast. We don’t lose anything on braking, entry of the corner, or in the middle of the corner, but when we pick up the bike and open the throttle, he’s just faster.

“Jake can use the rear tire better. I don’t know if it’s the bike or him, but I have the same feeling with his teammate, Cameron Petersen. In race one, I managed to score a second. But in race two, I was not able to follow even Mathew, and I finished in P3.

“I felt like I was riding a bike with a trailer, because I needed to wait every time for the rear end to stabilize. I don’t have the feeling that the rear tire is connected to the ground. It’s always moving, shaking, sliding. That race was tough to swallow; we expected more.

“Our bike gives its best when you go fast and brake hard. In Pittsburgh, you just brake hard a few times. Many of these tracks are flowing, with a lot of acceleration, a lot of time on the edge of the tire. This is the worst part for us.”

Race 1: fourth; Race 2: firstNew Jersey Motorsports Park — Millville, New Jersey

“For sure, our bike doesn’t like the bumps. And when there is so low traction, we struggle a lot. We fixed a bit of the problem with the qualifying tire, but when the others put on the qualifying tire, we make a good lap time, but just one lap.

“It’s like I’m locked into the rhythm. When I try to push more, the bike doesn’t stop. It starts to shake and vibrate. When I tried to bend the bike, I felt the front closing and the rear following. It was unbelievable. In race one, I could only bring the bike to the finish line.

“Rain on Sunday mixed the cards. In those conditions, our problems are gone. Our bike works so good in the wet, and I like a lot to ride so smooth and flowing — everything comes easy. On Saturday, Jake was unstoppable. The rain helped us a lot.”

Race 1: THIRD; Race 2: FOURTHBarber Motorsports Park — Birmingham, Alabama

“We came here in May to learn the track, and it was a good test. We were able to lap in the high 1:23s many times, and on a used tire, low 1:24s. But since Friday morning, I was unable to stay on the bike. I almost crashed four or five times per session. I wasn’t even close to my lap times from the test, and the guys in front were faster than the lap record.

“We tried everything. For final qualifying, we put in the setup from Brainerd, but I didn’t feel any improvement. It wasn’t a particular area; it was every corner. The edge of the tire wasn’t working. When I released the brake, I lost the rear. I was really scared to ride the bike.

“In the first race, MotoAmerica gave me a jump start, and I finished fourth [the team appealed the decision, and third place was reinstated]. But it doesn’t matter; we were far, far away from the lead. We were not in the game. Not even in MotoGP someone gave me two seconds per lap.

“On Sunday, I was not really under pressure, because we have been really in trouble this weekend. We changed completely the setup, and I rode a bike that was completely unknown to me. I tried to do my best, but with five laps to go, my bike had no acceleration. My rear tire was completely gone, and I lost third place in the penultimate corner to PJ Jacobsen.

“We also discovered that all year we warmed up the tire too much — over two hours. We warmed up the tire just for 40 minutes, and the bike was really nice to ride; I was riding in the high 1:23s and the low 1:24s, at least for the first laps. In general, we cooked the tire all season. I don’t want to think this was the problem, but the championship is gone.

“I’m happy that everything is finished. I put Jake in the same level as the best riders I raced with in MotoGP. He’s very talented. When we came here, we didn’t expect anything, but we fought for the championship all season. We brought a lot of excitement to the series. For sure, it has been very good to race here. I would like to win this championship one day.”

Get to know all the REV’IT! Riders

Danilo Petrucci is just one of a select group of riders that represents the REV’IT! brand in top-level racing series all over the world, including MotoGP, WorldSBK, MotoAmerica, and more. Get to know all the passionate professional athletes in the REV’IT! racing family.