Pedrosa: The Nowhere Man?
by staff
Monday, December 16, 2013

'Take your time, don't hurry.' Dani Pedrosa: will 2014 define him as the season he cut the apron strings and won his first MotoGP title, or is it time to declare him a nowhere man?
image by dean f adams
Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez share a common trait besides their Spanish passport. All three entered MotoGP with plenty of promise and fanfare, straddling factory seats as rookies on arguably the best bike on the grid.

But there's one fact colder than dry ice that separates Pedrosa from his compatriots: He never sealed the deal.

Lorenzo won his first premier-class world title in 2010, in his third season. Marquez produced a first MotoGP season for the ages in 2013, winning a rookie-record six races and becoming the first rookie premier-class World Champion since Kenny Roberts in 1978.

Pedrosa never has won a MotoGP World Championship. He has placed second or third in the standings in six of his eight seasons, including finishing runner-up in 2007, 2010 and 2012.

And as certain as tires being made of rubber, Repsol and his backers, and some media members, will trot out platitudes and copy next spring saying "this could be Dani's year" or similar banalities.

Nice sentiment for a guy who has appeared star-crossed at times. But it's very, very unlikely Dani Pedrosa will win the MotoGP World Championship next season - or any season. His window of opportunity has closed, for many reasons.

For starters, Pedrosa no longer is the golden child of the team. Marquez is, quite incredibly, his third teammate to win the World Championship, but this title was different, more ominous for Pedrosa.

Hayden won the crown in 2006 almost in an atmosphere of a team in inner-strife. No Hayden fans and few MotoGP fans can forget how impetuous rookie Pedrosa took out Hayden in the penultimate race at Estoril, giving Valentino Rossi the points lead entering the season finale at Valencia before Hayden rallied for the crown.

Repsol Honda officials publicly said Pedrosa would be spanked as a bad boy. But everyone - Hayden included - knew Pedrosa already was the kingpin of this Spanish team with a Spanish primary sponsor that had carried Pedrosa through the 125cc and 250cc ranks. Pedrosa's manager, Alberto Puig defended Pedrosa's track-clearing move, and continued to criticize Hayden for the remainder of his Honda career.

Casey Stoner beat Pedrosa to the title in 2011, the Australian's first year with the team. That sudden impact by Stoner would have destabilized almost any teammate, but there never was a sense the prickly Stoner dominated Repsol Honda's inner workings enough to make Pedrosa surplus parts. Plus Stoner announced his retirement just seven months after winning the championship, so any riptide of power within the Repsol Honda garage toward Stoner eased.

Every star appeared aligned in the MotoGP galaxy for Pedrosa to win a title in 2013. He finished the 2012 season by winning six of the last eight races. He was the leader of one of the top two teams in the sport. His ubiquitous and imperious manager, Alberto Puig, still carried enough Machiavellian weight with HRC, Dorna and Repsol to apparently twist and cajole favor toward Pedrosa.

Then Hurricane Marc hit. Pedrosa ended up just another rival drifting in the storm surge when the season ended in Valencia, winning just once in the final 14 races of the season.

Sure, there were more of the star-crossed moments in 2013 that have characterized Pedrosa's career. The crash at Sachsenring in which he suffered a broken collarbone, right when it appeared he could capitalize on Lorenzo's collarbone injury and take control of the title fight. The crash at Aragon after light contact from Marquez severed his traction control cable.

But great riders make their luck. Or they simply exorcise the specter of bad luck by obliterating their rivals. Pedrosa never has done that. He has won 25 premier-class races, more than any rider in history without a MotoGP World Championship. But he never has taken a title chase by the shirt collar, slammed it against a wall and enforced his will.

And his chances to flex all of the muscle available in his 5-foot-2, 112-pound frame are vanishing. There's no reason to believe Marquez will suffer a sophomore slump in 2014. Pedrosa is out of contract after next year, and there's a growing swell of belief that HRC may think Pedrosa is getting moldy as a Honda works rider and instead promote a younger, promising rider, such as Stefan Bradl, to the Repsol Honda seat.

That would leave Pedrosa possibly as an option for Suzuki's factory return to MotoGP in 2015. But no one believes that bike will contend for a title in its first year. Pedrosa's only hope may be that Lorenzo replaces him at Honda and Rossi retires, leaving two seats open at Yamaha. Then Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis might pair a young charger such as Pol Espargaro or Brad Smith with a veteran hand like Pedrosa on an M1.

Otherwise, it's looking more and more like Dani Pedrosa is this decade's Max Biaggi, minus the Roman Candle histrionics. The Heir Apparent who ended up as the Nowhere Man.


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