Dani Pedrosa

2018 Barcelona MotoGP Thursday Round Up: How The World's Media Fooled Itself About Dani Pedrosa

From time to time, the media gets hoist by its own petard. A story comes along which everyone picks up and runs with, pushed to ever more dizzying heights of breathless commentary; what ifs, maybes, and wild speculation. Professional sports are soap opera for men, as the great darts promoter Barry Hearn once said, and the logical corollary of that is that sports media extrapolate throwaway comments and a handful of facts into vast sweeping narratives.

Thus it was that what looked like the entire MotoGP media contingent packed into Honda's hospitality unit to hear what Dani Pedrosa had to say during his media debrief. It was both genuinely impressive and actually quite frightening. Normally, somewhere between 20 and 30 journalists and photographers attend Pedrosa's media debrief in the HRC hospitality, which is held upstairs on a unit built in the space between two trucks holding offices. A large balcony spans the space between the two trucks, with stairs ascending to a space full of chairs on the roof of one of the trucks, and a table where first Marc Márquez, and then Dani Pedrosa sit and give their account of the day to the assembled media.

Instead of 30 journalists, there was what looked like between 200 and 300 people. Honda's design is meant to be spacious and airy, but that amount of people standing on the roof of what is basically a truck trailer made it look crowded, and rather fragile. Coward that I am, I chose to stay downstairs, and listen there.

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The Comprehensive Silly Season Update: Mugello Madness Sees Lorenzo Go Repsol, Petrucci To Ducati, And More

Secrets are hard to keep in the MotoGP paddock. When it comes to contracts, usually someone around a rider or team has let something slip to a friendly journalist – more often than not, the manager of another rider who was hoping to get a particular seat, but lost out. It is not often that real bombshells drop in MotoGP.

So the report by Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport that Repsol Honda were in talks to sign Jorge Lorenzo came as a huge shock. The assumptions which almost everyone in the paddock had been making – that Lorenzo would be riding a full factory Yamaha M1 in a Petronas-funded satellite team operated by the Sepang International circuit – turned out to have been nothing more than a useful smokescreen. Instead, Lorenzo has signed a two-year deal with HRC to partner Marc Márquez. The announcement was originally due at Barcelona, but the publication by La Gazzetta forced Honda to make a hasty and brief announcement..

The Petronas rumors had plenty of fire to provide the smoke. In an interview with Crash.net, Sepang International Circuit CEO Dato' Razlan Razali openly discussed the possibility of running Yamahas with Lorenzo and Franco Morbidelli. Everyone I spoke to – including other team managers, rider managers, riders, journalists – believed that Jorge Lorenzo would be riding a Yamaha in 2019.

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Dani Pedrosa Out At Repsol Honda

Dani Pedrosa is to leave Repsol Honda at the end of this season, HRC have confirmed. After 18 years together in all three Grand Prix classes, including 13 in MotoGP, Honda will not be renewing his contract for 2019 onwards.

The move had been widely expected. Rumors that Pedrosa would be leaving Honda have been circulating since Alberto Puig joined Honda as head of the Repsol Honda team. Puig is believed to have wanted to replace Pedrosa from the moment he joined the team.

Where Pedrosa goes, and who will replace him, is still something of a mystery. Pedrosa and the empty Repsol Honda seat are part of a much bigger puzzle which MotoGP Silly Season has become. Later this week, we will be rounding up the latest developments and the state of play.

Below is the press release from HRC:


HRC and Dani Pedrosa to end partnership

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP 2018: peak silly season

Where will Joan Mir, Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Iannone end up next year? MotoGP’s silly season is about to reach its climax

Many MotoGP journalists spend a lot of time chasing contract stories. I gave up years ago, even though I know that you lot love wheeler-dealing tales from the paddock.

I gave up partly, mostly because when journalists put contract questions to riders, personal managers, team managers and factory bigwigs, they are answered with forked tongues. And how could it be otherwise? There’s a lot at stake – the careers of riders, the reputations of manufacturers and many millions of Euros – so why would anyone in their right minds tell a journalist the truth?

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2018 Le Mans Sunday Round Up: Crashes Shape The Championship, Yamaha's Woes, Ducati's Decision, And Moto3 Madness

Looking back, it is always easy to identify the pivotal moments in a championship. Last year, it was the Barcelona test, when Honda brought a new chassis which gave Marc Márquez the confidence he had been lacking. In 2015, it was arguably Motegi, where Valentino Rossi stayed ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, but the effort it took in the difficult conditions left him drained at the start of a long and exhausting set of flyaways. In 2012 it was Misano, where a tire warmer got stuck to Dani Pedrosa's brake disc, forcing him to start from the back of the grid, and leaving him in a position to get tangled up with Hector Barbera, and crash out of the race.

In the midst of a racing season, however, such pivotal points are much harder to identify. Or rather, all too easy to misidentify. After Estoril 2006, everyone thought that Nicky Hayden's championship challenge was over. Valentino Rossi's heartbreaking engine blow up at Mugello looked like it would put paid to his shot at the 2016 title, but he still kept the fight alive for a long time. Anything can happen during the course of a season, so when we look back at a season we can easily overlook the drama of a single race that seemed important at the time. 2015 is a case in point: there were so many twists and turns that it is hard to pinpoint a single turning point, so fans and followers tend to pick their own.

Looking at it now, just five races into a nineteen-race season, it is easy to believe that the races at Jerez and Le Mans will be the turning points we look back at when the bikes are packed up for the final time after Valencia. The three-rider crash at Dry Sack two weeks ago, in which Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa managed to all take each other out without any obvious culprit being to blame, had a huge impact on the championship. And Sunday's drama-packed race at Le Mans will surely be spoken of in the same terms. Not just because of who didn't finish the race. But also because where some riders finished is going to have a profound impact on their futures.

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2018 Le Mans MotoGP Friday Round Up: Old Hards Vs. New Softs, Avoiding Electronics, And Dovi's New Deal

Andrea Dovizioso's manager arrived in Le Mans on Friday morning, and by Friday afternoon, the Italian had a new two-year contract with Ducati, provisional pole after FP2, and a new lap record. Not a bad start to the weekend, and a harbinger of good things to come, you might think. This is after all not particularly a Ducati track, yet here he was, on top of the timesheets.

Perhaps having his future settled helped, but Dovizioso has been an expert at excluding distractions from his race weekends. The simple fact is that the Ducati man was quick at Jerez, and is quick here, because he is in good form, and the bike is working really well. Dovizioso heads into qualifying feeling confident.

But there is a fly in the ointment, and it is Márquez-shaped, as always. Dovizioso had been pretty quick throughout the first part of FP2, just a couple of tenths behind the leader Márquez. Then in his final run, he fitted a new soft rear slick, dropped six tenths of a second off his best time and set a new lap record around Le Mans. It was an impressive showing of blistering speed.

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2018 Le Mans Thursday Round Up: Honda's Advantage, Yamaha's New Engine, And 20+ Races In 2019

For the past decade or so, Le Mans has been a Yamaha track, with Yamaha riders taking seven wins in the last ten races. The answer to whether that situation can continue or is simple: it depends. Maybe a Yamaha can win at Le Mans on Sunday. Or maybe another bike will take victory here instead.

That answer is generic almost to the point of meaninglessness, but beneath it lies a kernel of truth. The first four races in MotoGP have taught us a few lessons which point to who and what could do the winning on Sunday. The more precise answer? If a Yamaha is going to win, it is more likely to be be the Tech3 bike of Johann Zarco, rather than the factory Movistar machines of Valentino Rossi or Maverick Viñales. If a Yamaha doesn't win, then the Ducatis are in with a much better chance than you might expect, with Andrea Dovizioso and, who knows?, maybe even Jorge Lorenzo in with a shout.

But the lesson of the first four races of 2018 is that the most likely outcome on Sunday is that a Honda will win, and probably a Honda in the hands of Marc Márquez. That is clearly what most of the riders felt on Sunday. The one recurring theme that came back from riders on every competing manufacturer was that they were both impressed and feared how much the Honda has improved since last year.

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Guest Video Blog: Freddie Spencer On That Incident At Jerez

MotoMatters.com, in association with Motor Sport Magazine, is proud to feature the rider insights of 1983 and 1985 500cc world champion Freddie Spencer. After every MotoGP race, Fast Freddie will share what he saw and learned from the race.

In his latest video blog, Freddie Spencer takes a look back at the eventful Jerez round of MotoGP, and examines its repercussions on the championship. He starts off with a look back at his own first experiences of what is a fiery and passionate event, and his own first visit to the Jerez circuit. He then takes a quick digression to discuss the benefits and risks of rider training, with a view to Remy Gardner's injury picked up in an MX crash.

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