Dani Pedrosa will race at Valencia one last time as he finishes up his career in the premier MotoGP class after announcing his retirement midway through the current season. Pedrosa has been a part of the MotoGP family since 2001 when he first began the international career in the 125cc World Championship. The Spanish rider will hang up his leathers with plenty of history on and off the track. His successes included a 125cc Championship in 2003, the 250cc title in 2004 and 2005 and plenty of race wins although no World Championship in MotoGP. Some would say Pedrosa had back luck and a series of injuries that really cost him a chance at greatness in main category. However, he is one of the most successful riders of all time when you analyse his statistics. It has been a pleasure to watch Pedrosa race, test and practice over the years. Pedrosa: “Obviously it’s a very emotional moment you never expect it to arrive when you’re a kid, and now to be here is a bit strange but I’ happy because I felt a lot of support from all the fans, a lot from all the paddock. I’m really, really happy about this moment to see my rivals of a lifetime here. I feel that MotoGP gave me a lot of things in my life because basically I’ve always been here and I learned a lot in life thanks to MotoGP.” Pedrosa is a man that raced with his heart on his sleeve and baffled fans as to how he managed to stay on the machine with such a small stature. He has been privy to the technological growth of the sport and how riders can crash, stand up, recover and rise again. Pedrosa: “When I started it was a new generation winning races and Championships, not only me but everyone here on the front row. This is good for me because it’s a nice feeling that we opened a door for a new generation. Luckily I don’t know all my numbers which is a good thing!” It would be a dream come true if the baby samurai could finish on the podium just one last time.
Some of the best memories of Pedrosa from the riders themselves:
- Marquez: “When we were in Japan and we celebrate some victories or Championships and Dani was singing without t-shirt and it was like a crazy mad everything. Always I say the same, Dani of course when he is in front of the camera is really shy but he is really funny. I share many good moments with him and great time.”
- Rossi: “I have some good memories. I remember one night in one flight when Tito Rabat won the World Championship in Moto2 and we come back from Malaysia. I remember Tito came to me and Dani and said come come. We drink something, we make a small party for Tito and speak a lot with Dani.”
- Lorenzo: “I would say I have two big memories with Dani. A lot of years I know him as we start more or less in the same. At the beginning for me he was a reference. But we go through a difficult period, the first part of our relationship to say from 2002 to 2010 more or less. One of these was in Jerez 2008, after qualifying, we were in the press conference and I wanted to shake hands with him and he did not. It was an uncomfortable situation. Day after the race, he won and I finished third, it was a big moment in Spain because the King wanted us to shake hands. We shake hands but not looking in the eyes. I have good moments with him. I remember in Sete’s house three years ago, we were having a party and competition with small bikes. He was absolutely the fastest one with those bikes. He was like one or two seconds faster. I was risking with Aleix also fighting and I had a big crash. Big high side, before it, we had a nice chat together like never before. It was nice. When I crashed, he was concerned about my physical condition because I was fighting for the World Title.”
- Bautista: “I know Dani for many years. We start racing together with minibikes. In 1994 or something like that, I know him. I remember when we raced in the minibikes, we make practice and all of the boys we play football in the middle of the track in the afternoon and evening. We always tried to get him to play with us. Our hobby in the moment. Good moments.”
In terms of racing news, there are riders departing from the sport for good and others switching manufacturers. It will be an emotional weekend for Jorge Lorenzo, Johann Zarco, Bradley Smith, Andrea Iannone, Alvaro Bautista and Danilo Petrucci to name a few. In particular, Lorenzo will say goodbye to the red outfit of Ducati and is very confident that he will be able to ride with them all the way to the end before he gets a taste of the Honda straight after when testing is underway. The Spartan felt that his condition in Malaysia was poor and after ten days of recovery is much better. Lorenzo: “It will be an emotional race because it will close an important chapter in my career.” He is looking forward to getting back on the bike as the more time you spend away from the machine, the less in control you are when it matters the most. In any case, Lorenzo is right about how close the competition is. “In tenths you can go from winning to losing ten positions”. Testing and practice are key ingredients to becoming a solid rider on any specific manufacturer of bike. He is ready to take on the next chapter in the best way possible.
It was an emotional roller coast for Valentino Rossi who crashed with so few laps to go in Malaysia. The Yamaha rider had the victory on a platter and unfortunately pushed too hard causing himself to low side. It took Rossi sometime to get over the disaster finish and he really wants to go out with a bang and enter 2019 in a much better mindset. The Italian Doctor is still winless in 2018. Rossi: “Unfortunately it wasn’t a good end for me but it remains a good race and it’s important to understand if here in Valencia we’re competitive and we’ve found something, because it’s one of the toughest tracks of the year and the conditions could be difficult. The forecast is very bad but we’ll try and be ready in all conditions.” Moving forward from Thailand and Phillip Island, Rossi feels like that they improved their speed, competitiveness and pushing to the maximum at all times. However, there is plenty of work to do in the winter time. Rossi wants to improve because in this sport, if you fall behind, the chances of winning are reduced.
If you put aside the testing discussions, there is also another issue being discussed around the paddock and on social media platforms, that being combined rider weights which is the bike and rider as one. Marquez: “In MotoGP, no need. Even if you are heavy, you will have some disadvantage in speed. For example, my teammate is Dani and he is one of the lightest. In the straights like Malaysia, he gain one tenths and then I feel he has much more disadvantage than advantage. For MotoGP, there is no means for this but this is not my decision. In contrast, Lorenzo’s thoughts are as follows: “Yes as Marc say, with so many powers and you have the advantage and disadvantage. Like Dani, you will have more problems with braking, acceleration and direction. If you are heavy like Petrucci, you can go slower on the straight but have benefits in heavy rain, to warm up the tyres and this is the maximum category of our sport. It would be like putting a maximum height on the basketball like NBA or a minimum weight with horses. In the maximum category like this, in my opinion there should not be weight limits.” Lorenzo makes a clear point and succinct point regarding the topic which we agree is fair. Why change something that is not broken.
With the upcoming race, there is one final victory celebration up for grabs and Marquez will not give it away easily. Marquez is a cheeky yet charming young man. He knows how to psych out his opponents and when asked about his weaknesses, the answer was clear: “The weakness, the opponents will need to find. Of course, I will not say, this is true. The strongest one is a positive mentality. Always believe. This comes natural”. He is the all round complete package and one that will be partnered by Lorenzo next year. Both riders will be on the same bike so there are no excuses for either to throw out in to the public domain. Lorenzo has proven his ability on a Ducati from Yamaha and soon it will be Honda. The challenges are set and a Spanish duo like no other under one roof! Time to get those engines warmed up in amongst some mixed conditions.