NOr is it unusual for a MotoGP star to jump into a Dakar without a net. But it is the case of Danilo Petrucci. The Italian sports two victories in the highest category of speed motorcycling, honors that do not guarantee him anything in a completely opposite discipline such as cross country. In fact, he has already verified it in his own flesh, with a first incident that, fortunately, did not deprive him of fulfilling his youthful dream: running the Rally Dakar.
Question: How was the preparation going? When was the first time you rode a rally engine and how many sessions and kilometers did you complete?
Answer: My preparation has been good. Not perfect, because in the last few days I suffered a minor ankle injury. Fortunately nothing serious, but in the end I was able to train a bit in the desert, do some ‘roadbooks’ with my teammates. But I still don’t understand everything I have to do and what the race will be like. I have done quite a few kilometers, especially in the second test in December. And the first time I got on the rally bike was at the beginning of November. It is an incredible motorcycle. I spent a lot of time with her, I got used to it. It is similar to a motocross motorcycle.
Q: What is your previous experience? Enduro and motocross … but rallies are different …
R: In ‘off road’ I started doing some trial races when I was nine years old. From 9 to 14 I competed in minicross and then I moved on to circuit bikes. I usually train with motocross and enduro. I am not at a world championship level in these disciplines, but I see myself with the ability to ride the ‘off road’ bike while gaining experience. I’ve only done one rally in my life, a short one, lasting three days. [Cerdea 2020]. You can say that the Dakar is really going to be my first experience.
Q: You will have experienced that a Dakar day is physically demanding. Have you had to change something in this regard?
R: I have had little time to prepare 100% for the Dakar. The MotoGP season ended a little over a month ago and the training of the year has focused on this. Since August I was able to do something with enduro and motocross bikes.
The race will be physical and also very demanding mentally. You have to do a lot of things when you drive. I have found that it is easy to lose concentration when oxygen and sugar in the body are lost.
Q: How were your pre-Dakar training sessions? For example: what was the longest shift you have completed?
R: In Dubi we did some other ‘roadbook’, but not more than 250 kilometers, and in the Dakar there will be days of more than 400. The training was with breaks and without the pressure of the race. Physically I have focused on lower intensity loads, but longer because the race will be physical and also very demanding mentally. You have to do a lot of things when you drive. I have found that it is easy to lose concentration when the oxygen and sugar in the body are lost. You can easily get off-center when you have been there for several hours, it becomes difficult to read the ‘roadbook’ and drive at the same time. Also in the mental part it is difficult to compete in this discipline.
Q: And the navigation? It is usually the hardest thing to learn. Surely Viladoms has helped you …
R: Yes, it has given me a lot of information and has taught me to read the ‘roadbook’. The day we shot together was the most rewarding. I could stop to try to understand each box, roll opening the track and when I was not sure we stopped and I could ask him. He has given me a lot of advice.
Q: The Dakar is a dangerous race, especially if you don’t have experience. How do you deal with this?
R: The Dakar is dangerous. I have understood it since the first day I spent in the desert. Sometimes you need to slow down to understand everything well. You do not always see well the trace you are following or the obstacles, you have to keep something in your pocket in terms of safety. Regarding speed, you can’t go like in motocross, because you don’t know what will happen after a hill or after a jump. There may be a hole behind a dune, like the one that injured me. The camel grass makes the bike very unstable. There are many things to learn and you have to do it quickly.
The Dakar is dangerous. I have understood it since the first day I spent in the desert
Q: Do you have to be more courageous to go 330 in a MotoGP than 170 in the middle of the unknown in a Rally?
R: The sensations going fast with the two bikes are similar. Logically, I am more used to going to 300 on the asphalt than 170 on the sand, but I have tried to go at maximum speeds with the rally and I have been comfortable because this is usually done in flat areas, more or less safe. In the race it will be more difficult, but on the plains it is not difficult to go fast with this bike. For me the desert is something impressive, it is difficult to calculate the distances as I am not used to that scenario, in Europe we do not have those deserts.
For me the desert is something impressive, it is difficult to calculate the distances as I am not used to that scenario, in Europe we do not have those deserts
Q: Will I be able to bring something from MotoGP to the raids?
R: From MotoGP, my ability to fine-tune the bike, the physical preparation and the concentration that you have to develop will serve me well. Little more, because they are opposite worlds in terms of motorcycle competitions. They have little in common.
Q: Is your rally adventure long term? Do you set a goal?
R: The idea is to be able to do several Dakar, but first you have to complete this one to understand what it is like. I have a good feeling with this type of bike. It will certainly not be the only Dakar in which I compete.
The Dakar was always a dream for me; I wanted to show myself that I can complete it. Surely it will not be the only Dakar in which I compete
Q: What reaction did you notice in the MotoGP paddock with your change? Did someone tell you that you were crazy?
R: Yes, many have told me that I am crazy about this change. But my path to MotoGP was not the usual one either. The Dakar was always a dream for me. I wanted to prove to myself that I can complete it and I really want to face the challenge of the toughest race in the world.
Q: Do you see someone from MotoGP who can cheer up, who has a Dakar spirit?
R: Someone could also make this change. In the MotoGP ‘paddock’ there are some good ones on ‘off road’. Maybe in the future they will try, but maybe more with cars. Some are very curious to see how I do it, now they will continue the Dakar more with my presence. This is also an incentive for me, to make my career bigger with my adventure.