Danilo Petrucci confirmed to swap MotoGP for 2022 Dakar Rally bid with KTM

Danilo Petrucci confirms he will be heading for the 2022 Dakar Rally with KTM, becoming the first rider to make the leap directly from MotoGP.

Danilo Petrucci - KTM

Danilo Petrucci has confirmed he will make the sizeable step from MotoGP towards rally raiding with the target of entering the 2022 Dakar Rally with KTM.

The Italian, a two-time MotoGP race winner, will compete in his final premier class event in Valencia this weekend having been frozen out of the Tech 3 Racing line-up for 2022 after only a single season.

Despite the ill-mannered way he was dropped by KTM in favour of Raul Fernandez - Petrucci finding out he’d been axed when it flashed up on the world feed mid-way through a practice session - the Italian has maintained a close relationship with the Austrian brand, which duly repaid him with an offer of trying something very different.

Though an increasing number of high-profile racers are increasingly turning to competing in the gruelling Dakar Rally - which began in the 1970s as a Paris to Dakar rally raid but now traverses the vast Saudi Arabian dunes - Petrucci is the first to do so directly from MotoGP.

Having turned down an approach from Ducati to race superbikes in MotoAmerica, Petrucci had originally planned to spend a year training for a 2023 Dakar Rally entry, but this has been brought forward now to the 2022 edition which gets underway on 1st January 2022.

“For me it is really a dream come true to race the Dakar. It’s an event I’ve always wanted to do since I was a child when I was watching video tapes of the Dakar Rally from the 80s and 90s. Now, thanks to KTM, this dream is coming true. 

“First, I would like to thank KTM for this great opportunity; I think I will be the only rider that in just over one month has competed in MotoGP and then the Dakar Rally – so it is with great pride that I go there. 

“My main target is just to finish the race and enjoy it. The first approach was to have some road book training with Jordi, he competed in the race many times and finished on the podium, so he has been great in helping me learn this special art. 

“I had my first taste of riding the KTM 450 RALLY recently at an initial test in the Dubai dunes, where I was with KTM’s Dakar champions and I was able to learn so much from them – it was great to see them riding, and they were super nice and helpful to me. I hope the training for the next month will be enough; for sure it will be a tough race, but I am excited.”

While KTM has a burgeoning reputation in MotoGP, it has an iconic one in rally raid having won the Dakar Rally - across its African and South American guises - for 18 consecutive editions. This year's event will take place over 14 days and cover more than 8,000km.

“Danilo’s talent and his character means he is one of the few elite level guys that we believe can make this radical move from the asphalt to the dunes. It’s a great story for a great guy. We want to thank him for his professionalism and all his efforts as part of the Tech3 team in our MotoGP project and now it’s time for another ‘world’

One of MotoGP’s most experienced riders having debuted back in 2012, Petrucci spent much of his MotoGP tenure at Ducati, landing an emotional first race win in the 2019 Italian MotoGP at Mugello. He went on to add to that in 2020 with a victory in the wet French MotoGP.