Arrogant. Brat. Selfish. Entitled: These are but a few of the “publishable” tags that some racing fans have come to call the wee Spaniard named Dani Pedrosa throughout the six seasons that he has spent in the premier class of motorcycle racing, MotoGP.
There are still some fans that cannot seem to let go of Dani’s infamous “torpedo move” on then-Honda teammate Nicky Hayden, something which almost cost him the 2006 title. Or what about his less-than-pleasant remarks on the Michelin tyres that led to Honda being given “special dispensation” to switch to Bridgestone? Despite these, and many other “incidents” that non-supporters will always bring up whenever convenient, part of what makes Dani unpopular in some factions is his sheer talent and brilliance on a motorbike, whatever engine or spec it may have. This gift has enabled him to enjoy golden boy status in Honda–however, from 2006-2012, Pedrosa has failed to deliver the Championship to the Japanese manufacturer and has almost become the proverbial MotoGP Bridesmaid.
But then, a certain palpable shift occurred in the 2012 season.
Pedrosa smashed his own personal record in MotoGP by winning 7 races in one season (including a full wet race, his very first), shattering circuit records left and right, and (my personal favourite), demonstrating some masterful on-track overtaking maneuvers that emphatically invalidated the long-standing belief that he can only win because of his famous rocket starts. If not for his few race retirements, he could have seriously pushed the title fight down to the very last race. These, along with his early dominance in the Sepang tests interestingly made him the early favourite to win the 2013 MotoGP Championship, and not the defending champion, Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo.
The talent is certainly undeniable, but in the ruthless world of motorsport, is that ever enough? Psychologically, Dani seemed to have turned the corner and gained the belief that he can, and will be, the best. It is crucial that he maintains this new brand of self-confidence, as many contenders have fallen on the wayside due to cracks on their mental armor.
The road to the Championship will not be smooth, and it certainly would not be easy. His new teammate Marc Marquez is not only blindingly quick, but his youth and boyish features completely belie his ruthless, slightly-bordering-on-Machiavellian on-track antics and mentality. In fact, this very kid has been tipped to become the “Next Dani Pedrosa”. And there is of course the threat of Valentino Rossi’s return to Yamaha and the continued dominance of the defending champion, Jorge Lorenzo. Will Dani rise to the challenge or succumb to the pressure?
To say that MotoGP 2013 would have an interesting season would be a massive understatement, indeed. However, one thing is for certain, we shall not be seeing the Dani Pedrosa of the old–supporters and critics alike shall be watching a renewed racer who will push himself to the limit and accept nothing but victory.
After all, that’s the measure of a true champion.