Tech3 KTM’s Danilo Petrucci looked to have secured his maiden Dakar podium finish after Wednesday’s gruelling 465km stage four.
An impressive start from 22nd found the ex-MotoGP rider posting the fastest time at the initial intermediate time check, running 20 seconds clear of Joan Barreda, Pablo Quintanilla and Britain’s Sam Sunderland - who retains his lead overall.
Maintaining his form as the toughest stage of the 2022 Dakar Rally continued, Petrucci held a 30 second lead after 80 kms but Barreda had upped the pressure at the 120 mark and halved the gap.
The Al Qaisumah - Riyadh quest continued with Barreda finally bettering the Italian after 158kms of action and despite a 10 minute deficit 200 clicks later as the special’s trickiest section began, Petrux held on with the podium in sight. He eventually crossed the line just under seven minutes behind the leader on a time of 4:12:59.
While the top-three finish just five days into his first ever rally-raid won’t count in the overall classification due to his stage two DNF, the Italian is certainly showcasing his might just two months after switching from road racing to the desert. A post-finish penalty, however, denied the Italian’s celebrations further, with an additional 10 minutes sitting him 15th in the day’s final standings.
“Today was awesome!" Petrucci said from the finish. "A really fast stage with some very fast pistes. I started in the back and I recovered a lot of time when I met Lorenzo Santolino and with him we helped each other with navigation and speed. 470 km in the desert at full throttle with an average speed of over 100 km/h and maximum of 170…and I finished on the podium!
“Then they penalized me because in a speed zone I went over 30 km/h, the average speed was ok but I go over the limit in that section, but you know what? I don’t f******g care because I had a lot of fun!
"I really enjoyed it. It was such a long stage but fortunately I didn’t make any mistakes and was able to find a good rhythm. I learned a lot today too, so now I’m really excited for tomorrow and the rest of the event.”