It is a tribute to the skill of MotoGP mechanics how easily we can forget that motorbike racing truly is a team sport. Though the rider is the most visible member of the team, the one who captures the hearts of fans and the one whose talents are most likely to inspire us, without top level support from a team, the rider is helpless. On the rare occasion that the team fails their rider, only then are we likely to recognize how good a job they do the rest of the time.

Dani Pedrosa’s nightmare in Misano was a painful example of this. On pole position, 13 points behind Jorge Lorenzo, having finished every race so far this season, and with his best chance ever finally to win a premiere class title, Pedrosa was forced to start from the back of the grid after his team couldn’t free the front tire warmer and had to move his bike from the grid to pit lane. From outside HRC, we don’t know exactly what happened.

The theories currently moving through the paddock are that a brake problem locked the front wheel, the tire warmer locked against the mud guard, or that the tire warmer stuck to the carbon brakes because it touched them and melted. The only things we know for sure are that there were 21 bikes in the same situation, including three other Hondas, and that something happened to Dani’s bike that his team was not able to sort out in time to allow him to start from pole.

We may never know exactly why they couldn’t get the tire warmer off. TV coverage shows them frantically pulling and trying to free it, and being unable to do so before the officials cleared the grid. Once the bike was off the stand in pit lane, the warmer came loose and the mechanics returned the bike to its former spot, but the damage was done, the rule infringed, and Dani had to start from the back.

He may still have reached the front of the pack, but moving past the slower bikes put him in Hector Barbera’s line of fire, the Pramac Ducati rider missing a braking point and taking Pedrosa out on the first lap. If he’d started from pole as he should’ve, Dani would likely have been in first place at this point, given his rocket starts, and the championship might easily look much different than it does now.

Of course the chain of events started with Karel Abraham’s clutch problem forcing the yellow lights and restart. Dani’s team had done everything perfectly until then, as they usually do, as all of the teams usually do. But even these professionals operating at the highest form of motorbike racing are human, and for humans, things don’t always go to plan. Mechanics install and remove tire warmers many, many times each race weekend. So why couldn’t they get this one off at such a crucial time?

All they could do after the initial problem was move on with their usual efficiency, and having to start their rider from pit lane, one mechanic appears to have had the presence of mind to switch Dani’s pit lane limiter on. This was an example of their usual proficiency in remembering something crucial under pressure. Had this not been done, and Dani had to join the pack from pit lane, he’d likely have sped off in frustration and incurred a pit lane speed violation.

But once the bike was moved back onto the grid, that switch was not turned off, leaving Dani doing the pit lane speed limit on the re-grid lap. An already frazzled rider gestured his frustration and confusion to his mechanics as the other riders sped past on the second warm up lap.

He finally sorted out what had happened and got back up to speed, but there’s no telling what shape his head was in after so many things going apart from the plan. He may have been about to give us a fantastic display of strength in adversity by charging to the front, or perhaps just to salvage some valuable points after problems not his own fault. But Barbera cheated us of finding out which.

Each rider in the grid had to manage the distraction of Abraham’s clutch problem, and every other team managed to re-grid their rider for the restart. That a top team like Repsol Honda can suffer this type of problem just shows that no rider is immune to the possibility of things outside his control affecting his chances for a championship. Since no lives were lost, it’s perhaps not right to refer to a tire warmer being involved in such a disastrous weekend for a title contender as ‘tragic.’ But we may look back on Misano as being the fatal blow to Dani’s best shot at being world champion in the premiere class.

Some might use this as an opportunity to heap blame on HRC, but I expect Dani’s team are doing all that’s required along those lines as they hold themselves accountable for Sunday. I think it’s better to see this as a perspective from which to recognize how good these people are almost without exception. For it is this exception that reminds us of how in human endeavors, things can and will go wrong.

The fact that we so rarely see something like this in MotoGP shows us, with the reminder supplied by Dani’s Misano Nightmare, that most situations like this are avoided in the first place by the teams’ methodical preparation. From pit lane I see them disassembling and reassembling down the the smallest parts, observing ritualistic warm-up procedures to check for fluid leaks and other problems before those problems can affect the weekend’s result.

Day in and day out they follow the same procedures with the same attention to detail that have delivered each of them to the highest level of competition. Dani’s guys are as good as any team in the paddock, and if this kind of thing can happen to Dani, it can happen to any rider, to any team. Each rider who wins a title owes a great deal to the individuals who put him on the grid and in position to succeed.

This is what I think of when I see a rider come across the line as victor, cheered on by his team as they hang out over the wall. They have the right to celebrate their own contributions to that victory, which would not have been possible without them.

Scott Jones is a professional photographer who covers MotoGP and WSBK for racing industry clients as well as racing websites and publications in the U.S. and Europe. His online archive is available at Photo.GP, and you can find him on his blogTwitter, & Facebook.

All images posted, shared, or sent for editorial use or review are registered for full copyright protection at the Library of Congress.

Photo: © 2012 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

  • Nice article, Scott.

  • Singletrack

    Remind me again, why is radio communication between rider and pit not allowed in MotoGP?
    Seems like that might have helped him sort out the pit limiter switch faster.

    They’ve got everything else money can buy, but can’t use something every other motorsport uses.

  • @Singletrack: that is a really good question

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  • Pedrosa just isn’t going to win a title in the big class….. Blame Karel, blame Barbera, blame whoever u want but seems pretty simple to me the mechanics just got it wrong …. win as a team, lose as a team…

  • Westward

    So maybe the best thing to happen to Spies is moving to Pramac, that is, unless his crew is going with him. Cause he has had consistent mechanical malfunctions over the last couple of years.

  • @Westward:

    I thought about that a fair bit since this last race wrapped up. Prior to Vale’s excellent result, I kind of looked at the Ducati as the kiss of death for a rider in MotoGP. Who knows? Maybe they’ve really started to figure out how to make the bike go like hell without a Stoner on it to manhandle it despite of it being a pig. I really like Spies demeanor, so we can just hope that the relationship with Pramac goes well. And I really, really hope that Iannone adopts to the big bike, too; he’s been greatly entertaining in the Moto2 class.

  • Dave

    Great article. As a Hayden fan who’s carried a Pedrosa grudge since 2006 I can safely the hatchet is buried. What happened to Dani really really sucked.

    …and what a time for MotoGP to find integrity. They couldn’t just let Pedrosa stay on pole position even if a rule was sort of broken on a technicality? For the sake of racing, for the sake of sport just bend the damn rules and say “ok, whatever, that was weird, just start from pole position anyway. Let’s go racing.”

    Good job MotoGP I got to watch Lorenzo race against…nobody.

  • Keet

    even better than what happened to Pedrosa is the way Barbara handled it… the same way Pedrosa and Co. handled it when he took out Hayden! Karma, love it!!

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  • beaujvp

    I cannot agree more. Take that Pedrosa and take that Alberto Puig. You know that your boy will NEVER win a title in the premier class.

  • Mr. Jones. Yours is the most measured and insightful motorcycle commentary on the internet.

  • Mrs Spies

    The fact that some of you think Dani had this coming is a little weak.

    Dani has kept his nose clean for many years, and has borne the brunt of collisions and title-destroying injuries through no fault of his own, yet still some of you want to go nya nya nya…. that’s a little bit pathetic.

  • Well said, Mrs Spies. Well said.

  • Curve Killa

    Winning the championship is 50% rider, 45% team, and 5% luck. Pedrosa used up his 5%.