Get this: Danilo Petrucci, who’s currently on the Tech3 team in MotoGP, is supposedly heading to Dakar.
Initially, that sounds like a silly Internet rumor, as the jump from highly-controlled MotoGP to the wide-open anarchy of rally raid racing sounds like a pretty big stretch.
However, Italian mag GPOne is indeed reporting that Petrucci is considering making the jump, perhaps as early as 2022. Supposedly, the plan comes as Petrucci figures his MotoGP career is coming to an end at age 30 (his walking orders from KTM-associated Tech3 actually came while he was on-track at the Styrian GP. Ouch.). There was some suspicion he might move over to World Superbike, but Petrucci says he thinks that might be a problem.
GPone quotes Petrucci as saying “My body is no longer suitable for MotoGP and I’m afraid of having the same problems in SBK.”
Petrucci isn’t saying he’s too banged-up for MotoGP (if so, a move to Dakar would be crazy). He says he’s just too big and heavy. Fair point—high-level roadracing is increasingly become the domain of remorseless midgets with homicidal red mist in their eyes. A larger rider like Petrucci could be at a disadvantage, no matter how sharp his reflexes are. A more muscular frame could be an advantage in rally raid, on the other hand.
Petrucci says the offer to move to Dakar actually came through KTM big boss Stefan Pierer himself, something Pierer confirmed in the English-language edition of GPOne.
Petrucci was keen to jump on the offer, even racing the 2022 event, but after some cautionary advice, he’s decided to observe this year, and hopefully attempt the 2023 race.
It’s a big opportunity, and if it happens, it would be practically historic. There’s little crossover between the world of roadracing and Dakar, and for a high-level rider like Petrucci to make the jump—that’s unheard-of.