Danilo Petrucci wants Dakar return… but is KTM affair coming to bitter end?

Danilo Petrucci airs his frustrations with his unreliable KTM machinery as he nears the end of the 2022 Dakar Rally... and his time with the Austrian firm

Danilo Petrucci - KTM Factory Racing - 2022 Dakar Rally-3.jpg

Danilo Petrucci hasn’t strayed far from the headlines during the opening days of 2022 following his star turn on the 2022 Dakar Rally.

The ex-MotoGP rider - who entered the gruelling endurance rally raid just weeks after the final round of the 2021 MotoGP World Championship season - made history last week by becoming the first rider from the premier class to win a stage of the Dakar.

This is despite minimal preparation time, a fracture to his ankle sustained in training and the stress of a COVID false-positive test in the days running up to it.

While Petrucci’s hopes of a good overall result were scuppered on SS2 when he retired with an electric issue on his Tech 3 KTM 450 Rally - forcing him to send up the flare to be retrieved from the desert - he has continued to post strong stage times outside of the main order.

However, his efforts have become interspersed by persistent technical issues on his KTM, a drain he couldn’t help but articulate on social media as he pointed the finger at the Austrian manufacturer for failing to provide him with a dependable machine in ‘dangerous’ situations.

“The problem is still the same, I burn more fuses than fuel and you have to understand why,” he said.

“Even today I was fighting for the top positions. I'm pretty angry that the bike died in a pretty dangerous place, that mustn't happen. Tomorrow we are starting from a good position (18th), I am in the midst of good people and I may be lucky enough to see.

He was also angry at the conduct of other competitors - in vehicles ranging from cars, buggies, quads and trucks - though he doesn’t name who he is referring to.

“When people don't do what they should be doing, it's really nasty . For the first time today, I was afraid here on the Dakar because of the motorcycle. 

“We are risking our lives, we need everyone to make the effort . My motorcycle is the only one that stops. With all my mechanics with whom I worked, when there is a problem and you don't understand why you change things, you don't blame the others.

“I risked injuring myself very seriously and I got angry. I was in a place where I had to give the accelerator to pass over a rock and the bike went silent. I stuck in a rock and luckily I took it aside. I don't care to talk about it, it went well. 

“I was still on the podium today, who cares… I know whose fault is but I do not say it, I told it to who is responsible.”

Danilo Petrucci to sever ties with KTM after Dakar Rally?

Petrucci’s frustrations with his KTM during the Dakar Rally are coming towards what is probably his final outing in the team’s colours.

It would bring a short but fraught single year with the Austrian firm to a firm close, with Petrucci expected to return to the Ducati family to ride its Panigale V4 R in the MotoAmerica series for the remainder of the year.

Indeed, the media attention surrounding Petrucci has given him a significant amount of airtime to delve deeper into just how unhappy he was during his final season in MotoGP with Tech 3 KTM. 

The Italian joined the team - double race winners in 2020 - with the hope of continuing that form having been controversially dropped in favour of Jack Miller before the delayed 2020 campaign could get underway..

However, KTM suffered a slump in form at the start of the 2021 season and while the factory outfit recovered thanks to a performance upgrade attributed to revised ETS Racing fuels, Tech 3’s use of Elf fuel meant the same step forward didn’t come for the French outfit. 

With Petrucci struggling to make much of an impression during the first half of the year, it was announced during the Austrian MotoGP that Raul Fernandez will fill the remaining 2022 Tech 3 seat. Worse still, he found out with the rest of the world via a TV ticker news feed during FP3 at the Red Bull Ring.

The shoddy manner in which KTM handled the news led to its offer of entering the Dakar Rally, but as the rhetoric and frustration grows ever bitter, it appears this will be a quick ‘auf wiedersehen’ for both parties come Sunday.