In part three of our series looking back at 2013, we review the performance of Dani Pedrosa last season. If you missed the first two instalments, you can read part 1, Marc Marquez, and part 2, Jorge Lorenzo.
|Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda|
At the end of the 2013 season, some sections of the media took great delight in writing off Dani Pedrosa, after he failed yet again to secure a MotoGP title at his eighth time of trying. Surely Pedrosa's days at the Repsol Honda team were numbered, as he consistently fails to deliver on the promise he showed in the 125 and 250 classes?
It is easy to dismiss Pedrosa as MotoGP's 'nearly man', and consign him to the dustbin of history, but to do so is to ignore Pedrosa's actual results. Dani Pedrosa won three races in 2013, was on the podium a further ten times, moved ahead of Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey and Kenny Roberts in the all-time MotoGP rankings, and now has the same number of second- and third-place finishes as Valentino Rossi. After Assen, Pedrosa was leading the championship by 9 points.
What stopped Pedrosa was the one factor which has dogged his career throughout: ill fortune. The crash at the Sachsenring can be put down to Pedrosa's own mistake, the Spaniard getting caught out by conditions after a brief rain shower. But his chances of the championship were lost to sheer bad luck, with Marc Marquez touching the rear of his Honda at Aragon, severing a cable which has gone unprotected for several years, and disabling the traction control. How Marquez managed to thread his clutch lever into a gap a few millimeters high and a few centimeters long at over 200 km/h is a mystery, but he managed it. When Pedrosa opened the throttle, he was thrown from the bike, suffering bad bruising in the incident. It was a stroke of incredibly bad luck.
Up until that point, Pedrosa had looked like he had that weekend under control. Though he was sitting in second place behind Jorge Lorenzo, the Yamaha man was already showing signs he would not be able to hold Pedrosa off much longer. Afterward, Pedrosa told reporters he felt he could have won the race. The Marquez incident means we will not know whether he was right.
While Pedrosa was plagued by bad luck, he also did not have the season he did in 2012. That year, Pedrosa came close to beating Jorge Lorenzo in a straight fight, the two men swapping wins, and Pedrosa coming out on top with seven to Lorenzo's six. In 2013, Pedrosa had more problems winning, in part due to increased competition - unlike 2012, his two main competitors were not injured often. But Pedrosa also struggled with bike set up, finding it harder to handle greasy conditions than his teammate. At Qatar and Assen, when his team could not get the bike to generate the grip Pedrosa needed, he struggled, finishing off the podium. His teammate handled those conditions better, always finishing on the podium, when he finished. This is something Pedrosa and his crew chief Mike Leitner will need to do better in 2014.
There were several high points during Dani Pedrosa's season. The ease with which the Spaniard won at Jerez was the first, following it up with another two weeks' later at Le Mans. But Pedrosa's strongest weekend came in Malaysia. After the disaster at Aragon, where he was taken out through no fault of his own, Pedrosa hit back with a vengeance, dominating practice, then walking away with a comfortable victory, and proving his point along the way. If there were ever any doubts about Pedrosa's mental resilience, he laid them to rest at Sepang.
After a year without injury, crashing at the Sachsenring and breaking a collarbone was a serious blow for Dani Pedrosa. Still troubled by memories of the thoracic outlet syndrome he suffered after his crash at Motegi in 2010, Pedrosa held off a long time on surgery. But even that was not as bad as the incident at Aragon, where teammate Marquez clipped his rear wheel, taking out a traction control sensor in the process. Pedrosa was livid afterwards, branding Marquez' riding as dangerous and out of control. His fury lasted all the way to Malaysia, where he was seen haranguing Marquez as they waited to enter the office of Race Director Mike Webb to discuss the incident. One year, Fate will smile on Dani Pedrosa. 2013 was not that year.