Editor's Note: This continues a series counting down the top 15 stories in MotoGP in 2012, as determined by the Soup staff.
Since his premier class debut in 2006, Dani Pedrosa was the Humpty Dumpty of MotoGP.
The Spaniard sat atop the wall as one of the most talented, fastest riders in MotoGP. And then Pedrosa would have a great fall during at least one race per season, suffering a serious injury. And while Dr. Xavier Mir always was able to put Dani together again, Pedrosa missed too many races or competed too often at half-strength while recovering from broken bones.
But that ended in 2012. Pedrosa stayed atop the wall, never suffering that great fall. And he produced the best season of his seven years in the premier class and the greatest season by a championship runner-up during the MotoGP era that started in 2002.
Pedrosa scored 332 points in 18 races in 2012, an average of 18.44 points per race. That beat the previous record average for a runner-up since 2002, 17.31 points per race by Sete Gibernau in 2003.
But perhaps the greatest testament to Pedrosa's potent combination of speed, tenacity and - most importantly - health was that he chased eventual World Champion Jorge Lorenzo all the way to the penultimate race in Phillip Island before Lorenzo clinched the title. Lorenzo had finished first or second in 15 of the first 16 races of the year. Mind-melting consistency. Yet it still took until race 17 for him to put away Pedrosa.
Pedrosa was the best rider of the second half of the season on his Repsol Honda. Six of his career-high seven victories in 2012 came in the final nine races. But Pedrosa only started from the pole three times in those nine starts, so he blew to smithereens the already-eroding notion that he only could win from the front.
This was the season that Dani Pedrosa put it all together. Speed, talent, racecraft, health and a bit of luck. And perhaps most importantly, he seemed to enjoy it.
Pedrosa has appeared to be one of the most dour, tortured souls in the MotoGP paddock to those outside of his Spanish inner circle. He rarely opened the window to his brain and riding soul more than a crack during press conferences and other media interviews before this season, dropping his guard only away from the crucible of competition when hanging with his manager and mentor, Alberto Puig.
But Pedrosa seemed more laid-back this year, an antidote to the prickly barbs tossed often to the media and riders from other teams by his Repsol Honda teammate, Casey Stoner. Pedrosa learned this year that a more relaxed rider on and off the bike is a better rider.
This breakthrough season came at just the right time for Pedrosa. The arrival of rookie starlet Marc Marquez at Repsol Honda will capture most of the preseason and early-season attention in 2013. Seeing the spotlight shining away from him at just the time he was ready to assume the mantle of leadership of the team might have unnerved the old Dani.
But the new Dani knows better. The success of the 2012 season placed bedrock in his riding brain from which he can draw in the future. It's up to Marquez to beat Pedrosa, and Dani doesn't appear that worried.