MotoGP: Ducati mind games forge unusual bond

    Danilo Petrucci takes a celebration selfie on the Mugello Podium.

    Luca Semprini, Ducati Corse press officer pictured in this article, passed away suddenly at the Czech MotoGP this week. He was just 35 years old. CNN Sport extends sincere condolences to Luca's family, friends and colleagues.

    (CNN)Back in June, on a sweltering Sunday at Italy's majestic Mugello circuit, Danilo Petrucci fired his Ducati across the line for his maiden MotoGP victory.

    There can scarcely have been a more popular winner in recent MotoGP history and Petrucci had to battle his way through backslapping fans and rivals alike to reach a final, rapturous reception from his team in Parc Fermé.
    The 28-year-old recalled the experience recently to CNN. "It was so incredible," he smiled. "You have to go through all of the pit lane because Parc Fermé is at the end, and there was all the paddock waiting for me, just touching me. I felt really emotional."

      No greater prize

      For any MotoGP rider, let alone an Italian, there is simply no greater prize than a win on a Ducati at Mugello. This is the two-wheeled equivalent of a Ferrari victory at Monaco. As Fratelli d'Italia belted out over the podium ceremony, Petrucci dissolved into tears of joy and disbelief.
      An exhausted, overjoyed Danilo Petrucci is embraced by his Ducati team in Parc Fermé.
      But his triumph also has a fascinating backstory. At the post-race press conference, his voice choking with emotion, Petrucci dedicated the win to his teammate and fellow Italian, Andrea Dovizioso.
      "He adopted me this winter, like a child," Petrucci smiled as the post-race press conference roared with laughter. "Like a brother -- a very, very big child; but this was unbelievable, a true teammate."
      Petrucci told CNN that he had reached a low point after the third race of the season, in Austin, and was beginning to think his future lay elsewhere. The self-deprecating Umbrian, in his first ever season for a factory team, knew things had to change.

      Key weakness

      "I'm in difficulties when I have to be an actor," he explained. "When things go wrong, you can read it on my face, and also when things go in a good way. But I always put myself in a team in the last position."
      It was this tendency to put himself last that, he realized, was a key weakness. It was Dovizioso who helped him understand why.
      "I was thinking, I have to be clear about the reality. I'm not 20 years old, I can't say: 'Okay, I haven't won with Ducati, so maybe I'll have another chance with Yamaha or Honda.' My career from now, compared to many others here, is quite short," he said.
      "Andrea talked to me. He said: 'You are very funny, you always say the truth; but sometimes saying the truth is not useful for you. You are not young anymore. If you continue thinking like this -- that you are not capable of doing something, watching others like a target -- you will not stay with Ducati next year.'"
      Dovizioso told CNN that he recognized something in his teammate. "He doesn't have the same experience as most of the riders in MotoGP, he came from a different championship, family, city -- it's a different way to arrive in MotoGP," he explained.
      "He was really fast, with a good speed, but he couldn't keep the same speed for a whole season and in a lot of situations he didn't approach things in the right way."

      Small things

      The 33-year-old has been the closest challenger to Honda's prodigious Marc Marquez for the past three seasons and puts his success down to a change in focus, partly from working with renowned psychologist Amedeo