Everyone can relate to the 28-year-old Italian who scored his first GP race win this year. He is, quite simply, one of us.

When Danilo Petrucci won this year’s MotoGP™ race at Mugello – his first victory in the premier class – the mass of fans that had gathered to cheer their fallen hero, Valentino Rossi, didn’t leave the circuit. Instead, they scaled the trackside fencing to applaud the first-year Ducati factory rider at the base of the podium. Why such warm support?

Petrucci is a special character in the MotoGP™ paddock. He wears his heart on his sleeve, whereas many others are busy hiding cards up their sleeves. He is a simple, friendly person, often underestimated because he is said to be too tall, too heavy, too sincere, and too good-hearted to become a champion in such a selfish sport.

Unlike most of the grid, Petrucci didn’t follow the normal path through Moto3 and Moto2 to reach MotoGP™. He took an unusual and rocky road, which nearly defeated him on several occasions.

“I came into MotoGP™ in 2012 from nowhere,” he said, “on a CRT bike with a completely standard Aprilia RSV4 engine, which Sacchi’s team bought from a shop. I didn’t know the tracks, the tyres, or the carbon brakes. Plus, our bike was incredibly slow.”

Petrucci’s proper MotoGP™ career began in 2015 with Pramac Ducati. He scored his first podium that same year in wet conditions at Silverstone and missed victory at Assen in 2017 by 0.062 seconds behind Rossi.

This year, at Mugello, he finally won. And he did so in his own style, dedicating the success to his team-mate, Andrea Dovizioso. “Dovi has adopted me like a brother,” he said. “This winter, I moved to Forlimpopoli, Dovi’s hometown, to train together. Since then, I have been growing a lot as a rider and a person. I feel I owe Andrea a lot.”

Even Dovizioso was happy, despite Petrucci’s last-lap pass costing him precious championship points. But it is impossible not to like this robust Italian, who, when he joined the GPs wore a baseball hat that was selling nothing, instead promoting an emotion rarely felt in any MotoGP™ race: love.