The first time Dani Pedrosa got on a motorbike was at the age of four and by the age of six he had begun racing on minibikes. Other bikes followed, circuits and races with friends, always for fun and not even imagining what the future held.
It was in 1996 when the ten-year-old Dani entered the Spanish Minibike Championship. Dani began to race on kart circuits all over Spain, always joined by his parents and with the bike in the car trunk. That same year, Dani finished his first race in sixth position, due to a problem with the exhaust pipe of his bike. With the second race came his first podium finish. He liked the experience and decided to enter the same Championship the next year, after finishing second overall in his first season.
But he had bad luck and a few days before the 1997 season Dani got chicken pox. The result was that he wasn’t even able to put on the helmet. It was the beginning of the season and given the problem, he finished that season eight points behind the leader, in the third overall position.
Although Dani managed to take the title in 1998 he still enjoyed racing as a mere hobby. The Aprilia 50 Cup and the Open RACC were popular promotion cups in those days and he considered the possibility to enter one of them. But due to the lack of means and support and despite his good results, Dani decided to leave motorbikes aside and to change over to mountain bikes. When he was just about to get the licence to start racing on bicycles, the family heard from a friend that the Movistar Activa Cup, a promotion cup with competition bikes, was being organised.
The change from minibikes to racing bikes was huge and Dani was still young, but in early 1999 they decided to send an entry form to take part in the trials that would be held at the Jarama circuit in Madrid. The weekend before the trials Dani learned to ride a bike with a gearbox on an industrial area nearby his home with a borrowed bike. It was his first time on a circuit and he was not only nervous; the bike was so high that his feet didn’t reach the floor. Despite everything, the 13-year-old passed the trials and took part in the Movistar Activa Cup that year finishing in a meritorious eighth position. Of the twenty-five riders taking part in the Cup that year, only three were able to become part of Alberto Puig’s team, who, given Dani’s huge potential, included him among the chosen, with Joan Olive and Raul Jara.
In 2000, Dani took part in the Spanish Championship with the Movistar Junior Team. He finished four of the six races, took four poles, finishing fourth overall, behind Joan Olivé, Raúl Jara and Toni Elias. It was then when Alberto Puig told him that he was going to take part in the 125cc Motorcycle World Championship. Pedrosa, who was already 14 couldn’t believe it; his dream was coming true. In the first race held in Suzuka, he was among the last riders on the grid and he had never seen so many riders racing together and especially in such a competitive class. He still remembers feeling scared in the first corner, something that never happened again.
Even though 2001 was a learning year for Dani, he managed to take two podiums finishes, a third place in Valencia and another in Motegi. He took the start among the leading riders in several races, and despite having little experience; he rode side by side with well-known riders such as Toni Elias, Manuel Poggiali and Youichi Ui. He finished eighth overall in the Championship. His final third position in the 2002 World Championship, where he had been a title candidate together with Manuel Poggiali and Arnaud Vincent, was the evidence of his tremendous potential. This fact was confirmed by the nine podium finishes and six pole positions he took that year, as well as by his three victories in Assen, Motegi and Valencia. Although he had to settle for the third place, he was considered the most spectacular and combative rider of the class.
Coming of age
Dani faced his third season in the 125cc World Championship with serenity, determination and with the aim of clinching the title. During the season, he showed the maturity of a veteran rider – not an 18-year-old – and he got the reputation of one of the most talented young riders in the sport. He became 125cc World Champion in Malaysia, with two GPS left until the end of the season, after a total of five victories and six podium finishes. Only one week later, misfortune hit the young rider who suffered a huge accident during the practice session of the Australian GP, where he broke both ankles.
In 2004, after a hard recovery period and under the protection of Alberto Puig, his mentor and right-hand man, the young rider decided to make the jump to the 250cc class. From the beginning, he considered the season as a season of learning and adapting to the class and not with the aim of fighting for the title. But he surprised everybody right from the first tests of the season. Hard work and dedication, both from the rider himself and the whole team, soon bore fruit. He took victory in the first race in South Africa after a spectacular fight with De Puniet. He took the championship lead after the Brazilian Grand Prix and he stayed there until the end of the season. He became 250cc World Champion in Australia, in his rookie season in the class, at the age of 19, the youngest in history, fifteen years after Sito Pons. In addition to the seven victories, it was his incredible consistency throughout the year that gave him the title. The only races he didn’t finish on the podium were Jerez, after crashing under heavy rain and in Estoril and Phillip Island where he finished fourth.
With more experience and maturity, Dani faced his second season in the 250cc as the big favourite. The considerable competition he had to face, the adverse weather conditions at the beginning of the season and the shoulder injury he suffered during the practice sessions of the Japanese Grand Prix, turned 2005 into a difficult year for the Repsol rider. Eventually, a 51 point lead was enough for him to win his third title at the Australian GP in Phillip Island, two races before the end of the 2005 season.
With three World Championships under his belt, the time to make the definitive jump into the MotoGP World Championship arrived in 2006. Once again, with the on-going help of Alberto Puig, the change of category was planned with the care necessary for a challenge of this magnitude, concentrating on learning and adapting to the significant differences between a MotoGP bike with over 240bhp and 150 kilograms, and a 250cc bike with around 90bhp and 100 kilograms. The tough physical training carried out over the winter and constant progress in pre-season training sessions were the prelude to his extraordinary debut in the category, where he was proclaimed rookie of the year, after two wins, six podium finishes and 5th place in the overall championship standings.
In the first Grand Prix of the year, held in Jerez, the first glimpse of Dani’s talent beagn to dazzle everyone, both in his own team and others. In his first race in the category, at just twenty years old, he finished in an incredible second place, just a few tenths of a second behind the winner, veteran Loris Capirossi. After that first race, he continued to shine in the following races, with a larger or smaller dose of good luck, such as in Turkey when he fell in the final lap while battling with Melandri and Stoner to take the victory, he only took two weeks to achieve his first win in the top category. This was at the Chinese Grand Prix, where he achieved an historic win, accompanied on the podium by his team mate Nicky Hayden, once again confirming the huge potential of the Repsol Honda Team, who became the constructors’ champions of the MotoGP class at the end of the season.
From race to race, Dani continued to leave signs of his promising future in the category including passionate duels with Valentino Rossi and Marco Melandri in Germany and the Czech Republic. This season did not lack a certain dose of drama, such as in the penultimate test of the championship, when Nicky Hayden put a large part of his championship title hopes at risk. The scenario was the Estoril circuit, the fifth lap of the Grand Prix; Dani Pedrosa made a mistake that left both riders on the ground, delaying the excitement of the championship to the final race in Valencia. In the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Cheste, excellent team work from the riders allowed Nicky Hayden to be crowned the MotoGP World Champion, the Repsol Honda team to take the constructors’ title and Dani Pedrosa to be proclaimed rookie of the year. The perfect end to an incredible year.
Runner-up in the World Championship
In 2007, Dani set out as one of the favourites to take the top category title, a year that started with a change in the MotoGP regulations, which obliged constructors to limit their engines to 800cc, and tyre suppliers to provide a set number of tyres for each race. From the start, three riders stood out as title hopefuls: the Repsol rider, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner. The young Australian was not on many lists of favourites before the championship started, but with an impeccable season, he proved to be the rider that had best adapted to the change in the regulations and won the World Championship in 2007.
The season started with two podium finishes in the first two races, however, things changed in the next Grand Prix in Turkey. Dani was knocked down by a rival in the first lap, and two weeks later, problems with his tyres left him far behind the leading group. Then came the French Grand Prix and the rain, the scenario in which Dani managed to shake off all of his past ghosts and put in a great performance, allowing him to finish fourth. The excitement and performance continued in races like Mugello and the Circuit de Catalunya, where once again he played a leading role in one of the most closely-fought races of the season, along with Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner.
However, the rain in England and set up problems in Holland, once again left him out of the leading positions, which he regained two weeks later at the German Grand Prix. This boosted his motivation in a season filled with complications, such as that which occurred one week later in Laguna Seca, where tyre problems left him in fifth place.
After the summer, things did not go much better, when once again he was knocked down by a rival in the first turn in the San Marino Grand Prix. In spite of this, Dani was able to reward his fans with an exciting race on the Portuguese circuit of Estoril, in which he fought up until the last metre with an untiring Valentino Rossi, his rival for second place in the Championship. The final leg of the season showed Dani’s dominance in the practice sessions, where he took pole position in the last four races. However, these good sessions were not always repeated in races, due to falls in the rain in the Japanese Grand Prix, or tyre problems in Australia and Malaysia, where in spite of this he managed to finish on the third step of the podium.
His efforts throughout the season were finally rewarded in the last race of the championship in Valencia, where he achieved an outright victory that allowed him to become the runner-up in the World Championship. Eight podium finishes, two of them on the top step, sum up his second year in the top category and which set a solid base to extend his list of achievements in 2008.
Third season in MotoGP
In the first winter training test, held at the end of January in Malaysia, it was clear that things were not going to be easy. He clocked the second best time of the day, but finished early due to an unfortunate fall in which he broke a metacarpal on his right hand and which determined his pre-season training and the beginning of the world championship, interrupting the development of the RC212V. Dani arrived at the first night race in history held in Qatar without having fully recovered and with a bike that was a long way off the ideal set up. However, after a huge effort from the team, and an outstanding performance from the Repsol rider, he took third place, which felt like a victory to him.
However, victory arrived in the second race, in Jerez, where he swept the board in a faultless weekend. For the first time in his career, Pedrosa led the MotoGP World Championship standings, after riding out a disastrous winter. The Repsol rider secured his lead of the general standings by finishing second in both Portugal and China. However, in France, in spite of dominating the practice sessions, problems with his front tyre stopped him from progressing further than fourth place. This was followed by a podium finish in Mugello and another overwhelming victory in Catalunya.
Showing great consistency, Pedrosa finished third in Donington Park and second in Assen, recovering the championship lead that Valentino Rossi had snatched away from him in Le Mans. But then came Germany. Under torrential rain, Dani flew around the Sachsenring circuit on his way to certain victory, confirming his progress under conditions that would have made him struggle in previous seasons, and which would allow him to extend his lead of the world championship. But he fell. Fracturing his hand once again, which as well as leaving him without any points in Germany, prevented him from racing a week later in Laguna Seca.
After the summer, things did not improve in the Czech Republic, where serious tyre problems prevented him from scoring more than one point. He was out of the fight for the title, and now his aim focused on becoming competitive again as soon as possible. With this spirit, he finished fourth in Misano, but after the race, it was announced that the Repsol rider would use Bridgestone tyres on his Honda for the rest of the season.
In the final part of the World Championship, the Continental Circus travelled to Indianapolis. With the tail of hurricane Ike lashing the country, Pedrosa finished eighth, two weeks before achieving his first podium finish on the new tyres. The following Sunday, an error threw him to the ground in the first lap, and he ended the season on the second step of the podium in Malaysia and Valencia. In the end, a season that had started full of doubt, showed a fantastic Dani Pedrosa dominating the World Championship up to half way through and ending his year in third place in the overall standings.
2009, third again, despite injuries
Dani had still not completely recovered from an injury to his left knee, which forced him to undergo surgery after a nasty fall in the second test of the year, missing the rest of the pre-season tests. Five weeks later, the Repsol rider confirmed in his blog that he would compete in the first Grand Prix of the season in Qatar. Physically weakened and without having completed development of his Repsol Honda RC212V, Pedrosa finished eleventh in an atypical race held on a Monday, due to the downpour that fell on Sunday when the MotoGP race was scheduled to start.
It did not take him long to get good results in the following races, with three podium finishes in a row in Japan, Spain and France. The improvement to his knee and physical form was apparent day to day, but when he was still a long way off being on top form, Dani was injured during the practice session of the fifth race of the season, in Italy. In the race, with the track half wet and half dry, after changing bike and affected by the previous day’s injury, Pedrosa fell, registering his first zero of the season. He arrived at the Catalunya Grand Prix without time to recover from his new injury, although he finished sixth, which contrasted with another fall in Holland.
After the fall he had to pick himself up again and he did so in the best way possible; with an unforgettable win at the spectacular Laguna Seca circuit, USA, where no other Spaniard had ever won before. Prior to the summer break, he reaped another podium finish in Germany, which contrasted with the problems he had in Donington Park, where he finished ninth. After the summer, he was second in the Czech Republic a week before returning to the USA, this time to Indianapolis. After dominating the practice session and with his win in Laguna Seca still fresh in the minds of the fans, Pedrosa became the favourite to win, until he fell on the third lap, finishing tenth.
In the final races of the championship, the Repsol rider again demonstrated his consistency and talent. He did not step off the podium in the last five races, achieving three third places in San Marino, Portugal and Australia, a second place in Malaysia and another win in Valencia. He finished a difficult season in the best possible way, taking third place in the final overall standings.
Back in the battle for the title
After somewhat irregular pre-season tests, the Repsol Honda Team rider arrived at the 2010 Qatar Grand Prix full of confidence, but aware of the shortcomings of his RC212V. The first round of the calendar was difficult for the Spaniard, who had to settle for seventh position. But in Jerez – his “lucky charm” track where he had already secured two wins and three second positions in the last five years – he took pole position and finished second, in one of the hardest fought races of his career.
In Le Mans, Dani took part in his 150th race in the World Championship and, a corner before the end, he fell from third to fifth position. He had to wait for success until Italy, where he took the first step of the podium and reached second place in the standings. In Silverstone, he could do no better than eighth position due to a mistake in the tyre choice. But in Assen and Montmelo he recovered again by taking two consecutive second places.
Pedrosa calmly faced the German Grand Prix and took his second win of the season. In Laguna Seca he tried to get his second win in a row, but crashed. After reaching the halfway point of the championship, he returned to the second step of the podium at the Czech Republic’s circuit.
The team’s great job and the consistent effort of the Repsol rider allowed him to achieve two consecutive victories: in Indianapolis – one of the most demanding tracks and in especially difficult conditions – and in San Marino, where he started from pole position and had the opportunity to get a “hat-trick”. The third victory in a row just wasn’t to be, as in the first ever race held at the Aragon circuit Pedrosa finished second, a clear indication that the championship battle was still alive.
In the Motegi practice sessions, the Repsol Honda rider fell to the ground again and suffered a double collarbone fracture that retired him from competition for two grands prix: Japan and Malaysia. After undergoing surgery, Pedrosa was back to the competition in Australia, but after Saturday practice, the Catalan rider realised that it was too soon. It was finally in Portugal were Dani Pedrosa reappeared and he achieved a well-deserved eighth position, despite his injury still bothering him. In the last round of the World Championship he finished seventh, which was enough to keep his place as runner-up. A superb result after missing some rounds and not being able to compete at his best.
New victories and new setbacks
The 2011 pre-season in Sepang was one of the most promising of recent years. The Repsol Honda Team dominated the timesheets in the tests scheduled before the season-opening Qatar GP and Dani established himself as a clear title contender. The Repsol rider and the RC212CV were ready to push for the highest honour in the World Championship.
However, the start of his tenth season in Grand Prix racing was not the smooth title push that he expected. It began with a creditable third at the Losail International circuit, but the result was accompanied by the reappearance of a left collarbone injury inflicted upon the Spaniard the previous season. He fought through the setback to win at the next race in Jerez, but took advantage of the gap in the calendar left by the postponed Japanese Grand Prix to undergo surgery.
His return in Portugal brought a win and took Pedrosa right back into the battle for the title. However, one race later a crash caused in a controversial overtaking move by the late Marco Simoncelli would put an end to any hope of taking the crown. The collarbone fracture suffered in the collision at Le Mans meant that a second operation of the season was required and that he would miss the following three races. It would not be until the Italian Grand Prix that Dani would make his comeback, with an eighth place finish.
Fitter one race later, the Repsol rider claimed win number two of the season the next time out in Germany. It was just reward after some difficult months and followed by another podium at Laguna Seca —a position which reiterated that he was back to his best. His most successful spell of the year arrived after a tough race at Brno: Three second places in Indianapolis, San Marino and Aragón were capped off by a magnificent victory in Japan —Spain’s 400th GP win.
With fourth place at Phillip Island, a cancelled Malaysian GP due to the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli and a fifth place at the season finale in Valencia, Dani finished the season in a bittersweet fourth place overall, with three wins and nine podiums. He failed to take points in five races through crashes and injuries.
2012 His best season so far
In 2012, Dani had his best season in the MotoGP premier class with seven victories and fifteen podiums – his most successful run in the top level – and his total victories was one more than eventual World Champion, Jorge Lorenzo. Wary of his bad experiences of injuries early on in previous years, Pedrosa rode prudently for second and third places in the opening races, before launching his title challenge in earnest. Races like Brno and a record of seven wins from eight races in the second part of the campaign.
Dani showed that he was a more well-rounded rider in 2012 than in previous years, taking a valuable wet weather victory and improving his ability to bash fairings alongside his rivals. The stats from the end of the season reflect this: He topped the podium on seven occasions (Germany, Indianapolis, Czech Republic, Aragón, Japan, Malaysia and Valencia), placed second in Qatar, Catalunya, Holland and Italy, and was third in the Spanish, Portuguese, British and US Grands Prix. He finished fourth in just one race –the French GP.
After an incredibly strong end in 2012, winning six of the final eight races, Dani was in perfect form to attack for the 2013 World Championship. Dani dominated pre-season testing in Sepang topping the time sheets on five of the six days there and was to enter the 2013 season injury free.
After struggling in Qatar, where he took fourth place in the race, Dani was soon back on top taking second place in Austin and then back-to-back wins in Jerez and Le Mans. After strong second place finishes in Mugello and Catalunya, Dani had issues in Assen and was only able to finish fourth. Then a serious crash in Sachsenring ruled him out of the race and further examination confirmed a crack in his collarbone. Dani was fighting to be fit for the following round just one week later in Laguna Seca. He knew he needed to take some points – even though the risk of crashing could be devastating for his Championship – Dani emerged fifth with eleven important points.
The Summer break came at the right time and Dani was able to rest and heal in preparation for the second half of the season. He came back from the rest period determined and took two second place finishes in Indianapolis and Brno and two third places in Silverstone and Misano. An unfortunate crash with his teammate, Marquez, in Aragon all but finished Dani’s Championship campaign however, he continued to fight to the end winning in Malaysia, second in Phillip Island, third in Japan and finishing the season with a strong fight against Lorenzo in Valencia, finishing second.
With 300 points, Dani finished just 34 points off World Champion Marc Marquez, and 30 points behind Lorenzo.
As Marc ran away with the first ten races in emphatic fashion, the rest of the riders were left searching for the secret to beat the young Spaniard. Dani was the first to achieve this with his victory in round eleven in the Czech Republic. With ten podium finishes in 2014, Dani was fighting for second place in the Championship – as Marc had made it his to lose – but bad luck once again hit Dani.
Wet weather during the Aragon race left him with zero points, then being forced to retire from the Australian race after being hit all but ended his challenge for the runner-up position. He was leading the Malaysian GP – the penultimate race of 2014 – but unfortunately crashed out, resulting in three no score finishes in four races. Dani ended the season in 4th place.