Dani Pedrosa’s elevation to official MotoGP Legend status, on the eve of his 295th and last grand prix start, was a star-studded affair, with a galaxy of Spanish compatriots including several fellow world champions past and present paying tribute to the diminutive superstar.
It was a cheerful affair, with FIM president Vito Ippolito and Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta flanking Dani on the stage, before presenting him with the medal.
Dani, said Ippolito. “is really an example for the clean way he races”; while Ezpeleta recalled how, as part of the management team of the MoviStar Aktiva talent-spotting series that discovered up the 14-year-old, they had lowered the age limit specifically so that he could be included. “I remember he needed help to get on the bike.”
Pedrosa spoke of how grand prix racing had defined his life. “I grew up here, and learned a lot of things in my life through MotoGP,” he said.
He picked his first 125cc championship in 2003 as the stand-out moment, “when you achieve your dream. You can win a race, but to win a championship … all the emotions come; you have been dreaming of it for all your life. This is what makes you keep going through the tough times.”
He recalled his own doubts when he moved from two triumphant 250 seasons to a 990cc factory Repsol Honda in MotoGP, echoing the general feeling that he was too small for a big bike. “When I got on for the first time the bike was very big, and I knew I wasn’t able to do as well as in the lower class. But I was immediately fast. I knew there would be times I would struggle, like in the rain and at very fast tracks, but I was good overall. I was really surprised. I felt I could cross that border that I didn’t expect.”
Pedrosa admitted he had considered retirement on previous occasions, during some of his many injury spells, especially at the start of 2011, when he was still carrying an injury from the end of 2010, and had two crashes. But he added that his poor results this year had not been a trigger. “The decision came before the results,” he said. “This is a very intense sport, and you need to be at the edge to do it well. Sometimes you struggle, and you have these feelings.”
Dani was never quite able to add a premier-class title to his three in the smaller classes, although three times runner up. “Sometimes I wasn’t there, sometimes the bike wasn’t there, sometimes I was injured, sometimes other riders were faster,” he explained, in trade-mark matter-of-fact style.
With 54 wins and 153 podiums, Pedrosa’s name is up with the best. His greatest record is one win every year for the past 16. Only Giacomo Agostini comes close, with a 13-year stretch.
By Michael Scott