Will MotoGP exile Danilo Petrucci make it big at last with MotoAmerica bid

Danilo Petrucci is primed and ready to get his new Superbike career underway as he takes the Italian tricolore stateside to the MotoAmerica series

Danilo Petrucci - Warhorse HSBK Ducati

It has been a few years since the ‘reborn in the USA’ MotoAmerica racing series launched to great optimism out of the ashes of the troubled AMA operation, but after initial ‘growing pains’ adjusting to a new identity, come 2022 it has never looked stronger to international eyes.

Indeed, while AMA’s heydays of the 1990s and early 2000s launched the careers of numerous fondly-remembered world championship racers, few have made the step since Ben Spies came, saw and conquered with his 2009 WorldSBK title win. 

Nevertheless,  things are looking up, spurred on by Garrett Gerloff’s impressive performances since transitioning from the 2020 WorldSBK season, while five-time MotoAmerica champion Cameron Beaubier is starting to make strides in Moto2.

However, in a sign of MotoAmerica’s climbing calibre ahead of the 2022 season, the ‘big name’ direction of travel will be coming the other way as Danilo Petrucci prepares to make his much vaunted switch to the United States directly from MotoGP.

A two-time race winner in the premier class, Petrucci’s decline and exit from the championship may have been quicker and more abrupt than his steady rise to prominence to eventually land on the factory Ducati, but while their parting was said to be somewhat bitter, the two parties are rising above their erstwhile grudge to come together for this fresh challenge. 

Big name, big expectations… big favourite?

Taking up residency on the Dark Horse HSBK Ducati Panigale V4 R vacated by WorldSBK-returning Loris Baz, Petrucci isn’t the first European to head west across the pond in search of success on US soil, a whole new army of fans and (reportedly) ‘healthy’ wage packets.

One of the few riders to have eschewed the common Moto3 > Moto2 route towards MotoGP and instead came in via the Superstock production-based series, Petrucci isn’t befitting of the smaller, lighter MotoGP rider on average, an extra bit of ballast that might actually work to his advantage on a WorldSBK machine.

Having completed a test at Portimao prior to getting his first taste of riding on the US circuit stage, Petrucci is now looking forward to getting down to business after months of rumours.

“My long journey continues here, with the Ducati War Horse HSBK team in the MotoAmerica Championship. 

“My special thanks to all Ducati Corse and also to KTM Factory Racing and Tech 3 Racing for the good moments spent together in the last year, and also a big thanks to my former teammate both in MotoGP and at the Dakar Rally for the precious advice.

Petrucci’s MotoAmerica rivals and inspirations

If Petrucci will be looking to any rider for inspiration, it is surely Toni Elias, a former MotoGP race winner and Moto2 World Champion who spent the autumn years of his career bringing a Spanish flavour to the meatier US competition.

Champion in 2017, Elias reeled off numerous victories over the MotoAmerica classes before stepping back from full-time racing in 2021. His flag is now flown by Hector Barbera, while other riders with international experience include ex-BSB rider PJ Jacobsen, Brandon Paasch and Mathew Scholtz.

However, the rider to beat coming into 2022 will be Jake Gagne, the dominant title winner of 2021, winning all but three of the year’s 20 races on the Yamaha R1. 

Indeed, MotoGP moulded or not, Petrucci has a challenge on his hands to get to grips with a new Superbike format and the bumpier, more old-fashioned venues that make up the MotoAmerica schedule.

With WorldSBK on his horizon in future, Petrucci might find it hard to hit the ground running initially… but as far as cutting teeth goes, it is clear the smiling Italian is going to be having fun no matter what.