Dani Pedrosa, Honda, 4th, 206 points – Score: 8
If you wanted the very definition of a roller coaster career, look no further than Dani Pedrosa. Three world championships in the junior classes, and one of the most successful riders in the premier class.
He has never won a championship, but he has come within a whisker in 2012, winning more races than the eventual champion Jorge Lorenzo. Injury has dogged him, breaking most of the bones in his body, and fracturing his collarbone so often there is hardly a piece left intact.
His collarbone nearly ended his MotoGP career once, the plate fitted after his practice crash in Motegi in 2010 causing Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, causing numbness and weakness in his left arm, making it almost impossible to last a race.
He suffered through 2011, until the removal of the plate on his collarbone fixed the problem. He was back with a vengeance in 2012, winning seven races and getting close to beating Jorge Lorenzo. That experience stood him in good stead in 2015.
Pedrosa had suffered with arm pump all through 2013, then had surgery to try to fix the problem in 2014.
That had not succeeded – perhaps because of the strain of racing a Honda RC213V that was getting ever more difficult to ride – and Pedrosa had tried a range of non-invasive therapies over the winter, which he was confident would fix the problem.
At Qatar, that proved not to be the case. Pedrosa finished the first race of the year in severe pain, and unable to be truly competitive. For the second time in his life, he faced the end of his MotoGP career.
Perhaps his previous experience stood him in good stead. Pedrosa took the incredibly brave decision to fly back to Spain and seek immediate treatment, abandoning any idea of racing until he was fit again.
His courage – or perhaps we should say, his wisdom – continued during his recovery, Pedrosa resisting the temptation to come back early, choosing to miss his home race at Jerez in favor of an extra two weeks of rest.
His return was far from encouraging: a front-end crash forced him to remount and come back to sixteenth place. He fared a little better after that, finishing fourth at Mugello, then getting on the podium at his home race in Barcelona.
His form sagged after another podium at the Sachsenring, but his fitness was improving, and Pedrosa was getting stronger as the year approached its climax.
Key to it all was a gain in confidence, his right arm feeling better and better after every race. The surgery had been drastic: normally, to fix arm pump, the surgeons open up the sheath that surrounds the muscles to make room for them to expand.
Pedrosa had this sheath, the fascia, removed altogether, and it took a long time for the swelling after races to subside. As Pedrosa grew to understand his recovery, and his condition, he could focus more on racing, and less on worrying about the condition of his forearm.
By the time he arrived at Aragon, his confidence was really starting to return.
Pedrosa’s domination of Valentino Rossi in a straight dogfight was both surprising and impressive. In previous years, Pedrosa had never offered much resistance, but at Aragon, Pedrosa gave as good as he got. It was only for second place, but it was surely a sign of things to come.
Victory at Motegi was resounding, and after a blip at Phillip Island, he repeated his Motegi performance with a display of superiority that was simply astounding. It was a shame that his win was overshadowed by the Clash of the Titans behind him. He deserved the acclaim, instead his victory was almost totally ignored.
Dani Pedrosa is unjustly disparaged by fans for his failure to win a MotoGP championship in his ten years aboard the Repsol Honda. Ask his fellow riders, and it is Pedrosa who amazes them most of all.
Newcomer Maverick Viñales singled out Pedrosa as the most impressive rider to watch, and the one he felt he could learn most from. Cal Crutchlow has repeatedly said he believes that Pedrosa would have multiple titles if he had been on a bike that was not so physically demanding to ride.
When we look back at this New Golden Age of racing, Dani Pedrosa is the rider who is most likely to be overlooked. That is unfair, and unjust, for Pedrosa has shown wisdom, talent, fortitude and moral courage throughout his career.
Dani Pedrosa is the toughest nut in Grand Prix motorcycle racing, and 2015 was yet another example of a truly exceptional racer.
Photos: © 2015 Tony Goldsmith / www.tonygoldsmith.net – All Rights Reserved
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.