After solid and sometimes impressive re-introduction to the paddock that brought him to initial global prominence, Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Ducati) scored a top five and then a top six finish in the long races at Mandalika, bracketing a less happy tenth in the Superpole contest.
On Sunday he was pleased with his work, particularly in being not only sixth, but top Independent Rider.
“I’m really happy, because I didn’t expect to be so fast,” Petrucci said on Sunday from Indonesia. “Race two of race two - because today we had four starts - was OK. I didn’t change the tyre because I was feeling confident. I’m really happy for the team.
“Finally we are back in the parc ferme (as top Independent). For sure I’m satisfied but not really happy because our target is to stand on the podium.
“I think we have the potential. We still have to understand. Today sincerely I began to understand the tyre, so I’m happy about the performance of the tyre. At the end, we managed to be strong all the race.”
What Petrucci was suddenly and firmly less happy about was how the Superpole races play out in WorldSBK.
“The only thing is the Superpole Race is like just going bumper cars,” he reflected. “For me, I don’t understand the behaviour of Alex Lowes and also the Race Direction, because when you hit some riders you ruin the race, first time for Baz and also me. Then they give a red flag. But if they didn’t give a red flag, Baz was on the ground and I was in the middle of the gravel. Then in the restart, he (Lowes) completely hit Baz and he broke his leg and no penalisation. In Phillip Island, he crashed with Toprak. No penalisation. I don’t understand, sincerely. I touched Vierge, and lost one position.”
Petrucci was referring to what happened in Australia when he and Xavi Vierge tanged, and he was given a drop one position penalty. Petrux saw the first Superpole incident, between him, Lowes and Baz, this way. “I was in front and from the images, also the Race Direction said he made a mistake and lost the bike, and hit me in the back. He destroyed my exhaust. I was in front. But it’s not acceptable that you justify a mistake. It’s a rider mistake. It’s okay that it’s the first lap, but you ruined the race of two other riders.”
Asked if he’d spoken with Lowes, he said, “No, I spoke with Race Direction because I think the judgements are not fair for me. It’s not consistent. For sure, a rider can do a mistake, but if in life you do a mistake normally you pay a penalty. It’s not that they give you even the prize because you finished third. Sincerely when I asked them, ‘it’s normal that when you hit a rider and you break a leg?’ No, because Baz put out the leg… Every rider does like this. But I never seen something like that. Sincerely. This is just my opinion.
“As Miller said one time to Lorenzo, it’s like the asshole - everyone’s got one. So, it’s something that for me is not correct. Also other riders, it’s like bumper cars. They just try to stay in front of you. You go both out of the track. Two riders pass you, but just because you want to stay in front. It’s completely a mess, the Superpole race. I don’t think it’s the safest option to race in eight laps with these bikes. I don’t know.”
When asked if this track, with its very narrow racing line and slippery areas everywhere off line, was also part of the problem, Petrucci agreed fully.
“For sure. Also in Superpole Race, [Dominique] Aegerter tried to pass me at the last corner and he caught me and he pushed me out of the way. If it was another track, maybe I can stay in the line. You have just the one meter and half of racing line. You don’t have two lines. For me, let’s say… I’m quite scared about the Superpole race because every time I finish my winglets [lost his winglets due to contact].
“In Phillip Island at the end of lap one, no winglets anymore. Today, one extra ‘slot’ like this. Race two the same. It’s nice for the people, but then the only riders penalised has been me against Vierge in Phillip Island. They didn’t even call me. I removed the helmet when I walked out from the garage. I see Number 9 dropped one position. At least try to call the rider and he can try to explain.”
For some this is part and parcel of Superbike racing and has been for decades, and Petrucci understands that element of his new class, but he also stated, “Yeah, it’s okay but I think it’s not really fair when you ruin a race of a rider in front if you do a mistake.
“I have been penalised in MotoGP many times. You can do a mistake. I remember in Austria I pushed at the last corner and I pushed [Eugene] Laverty in 2016. He crashed and I finished eighth. The next race, three positions on the grid. I did a mistake. I tried. I ruined completely the race for another rider, and they gave me a penalisation.
“Then especially I don’t think it’s quite fair that for your fault you caused a red flag and you are able to restart again…. You have five minutes for coming back to the pits but they completely destroyed their bikes. But because it was the first lap… you can’t justify because it was the first lap, because you make a disaster.”
Lowes was allowed to get back on track on a spare bike, because the eight lap second Superpole race was deemed a completely new race. “Yeah, it’s a complete new race,” said Petrucci, “but it’s not fair that I tried to go into two riders, we crashed, and then okay, was a joke. Try again. We are not playing. We crash, and we get hurt. Ask to Baz if he’s happy today.”
Some people shared Petrucci’s view of the incident in which Lowes and Baz collided in ‘Superpole Race Two’ but after the crash Baz took to social media to tell people to lay off his friend Lowes, and that it was a racing accident.
Baz and Lowes were last seen sitting together in the Lombok departure lounge on Monday after the race, chatting happily along with Troy Bayliss and a whole airport full of teams heading home. Baz suffered a broken right ankle and lower leg, in what was a horrible looking hit from Lowes on his dangling leg in the braking zone of turn ten.