The race to rescue iconic Italian motorcycle great Danilo Petrucci

Written by By Yasmin Prodhan, CNN There have been plenty of charismatic challengers to the traditional Italian way of doing things. But none has managed to dominate the thrilling motor racing action on the…

The race to rescue iconic Italian motorcycle great Danilo Petrucci

Written by By Yasmin Prodhan, CNN

There have been plenty of charismatic challengers to the traditional Italian way of doing things. But none has managed to dominate the thrilling motor racing action on the streets of Abruzzo, Italy, quite like Danilo Petrucci.

The only man to have completed three legs of the Triple Crown of motorcycling — that’s the now-defunct triple championships of MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3.

Born in 1967, Petrucci was the third consecutive Italian rider to take the triple crown from 1989 to 1990. The next year, he had another tilt and finished second in the series. From 1992 to 1998, he raced for Liberty, winning the world championship in 1995.

Despite his heroic status in Italian motorsport, Petrucci continued to be well-supported as the Italian Motorcycle Federation repeatedly refused him a drivers’ license. As a motorcycle stunt motorcyclist, he would regularly hit speeds up to 160 km/h (100 mph) in enclosed spaces.

He finished as runner-up in the 1995 and ’96 championships, before returning to the road, performing a series of one-off road stunt motorcycle races. Most memorably, he completed “500kph (310 mph) on the land of Z.O.R.” in 1999, reaching what has since been re-rebranded as the world record.

Since retiring, he has struggled to regain the driving license he lost in 1998. But he has remained a divisive figure in the sport.

In 2000, he became controversial when, at the age of 47, he entered the Moto GP Championship to replace the injured Andrea Dovizioso of Italy. In 2006, he left the sport again to become a senior stunt motorcycle instructor.

Petrucci is now the star of a new documentary, “Danilo Petrucci: La Pelle Mille,” which premieres at the New York City Film Festival this month.

MotoGP is also pushing the envelope to reach more global viewers, by holding the first-ever race in a night race on public roads. Sunday’s race at the Rossobondo Motor Park, a red light town on the outskirts of Milan, will be the first of two races in November for the 2019 season.

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