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Pedrosa: 'Little Samurai', super Samurai

It’s been a bumpy road for the number 26 of late – but it’s also been one of the most spectacular recoveries in recent history

Dani Pedrosa: three-time World Champion, Repsol Honda rider, the man with the second most premier class podiums in history. The only rider to have won at least one race in 16 consecutive seasons, a three-time runner up in the MotoGP™ World Championship; most recently in 2012 when he took the most victories. The most recent rookie intermediate class Champion – achieved coming back from two broken ankles – and the sufferer of one of the worst injury records on the grid, which is where the story meets 2018.

Dani Pedrosa: A winner in motorcycle racing for over 16 years

After qualifying second in Argentina, Pedrosa crashed out early in an incident involving him and Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), breaking his wrist. Having shown top pace during preseason and during that weekend, it was a blow that looked able to significantly upset the course of the season. And yet, after two spectacular rides through the pain barrier, Pedrosa has remained a consistent frontrunner.

At the Americas GP, the number 26 arrived unsure if he would even be able to ride and FP1 was a tough one as he ended the session in P21 and 3.5 seconds off the top. But FP2 saw Pedrosa taking tenth overall and gaining a provisional Q2 place, important should the weather have changed on Saturday morning. It didn’t, but the Spaniard improved his laptime once more to earn a definite place in Q2 – and then qualified on the third row.

The Little Samurai who could - Dani Pedrosa is back!

Somehow, the man who had feared on Friday that he wouldn’t be able to race crossed the line in seventh on Sunday, putting in a spectacular ride to withstand 20 laps of one of the most physically and technically challenging tracks on the calendar. A small feat it wasn’t – joining fellow recent rides of legend in the history books, such as Jorge Lorenzo’s fifth at Assen in 2013 with a collarbone broken the same weekend.

So after Pedrosa's COTA heroics it was then time for Jerez, one of the best tracks for the number 26 and a venue at which he’s won three times in the premier class – including in 2017, when he made another little piece of history to take victory in the 3000th Grand Prix race. After some more days to recover, the situation had improved but Pedrosa was far from 100% and ended FP1 down the timesheets. In FP2, however, he was only 0.028 off the fastest lap set by Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol); a situation that would be repeated in qualifying.

Crutchlow took pole and Pedrosa took second despite his injury, with teammate Marc Marquez directly behind him on the grid in fifth. And after a good start into second behind Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team), Pedrosa’s pace was good at the front – with the ‘Little Samurai’ locked in the battle for second until THAT crash.

Heading for the inside after Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) attacked teammate Jorge Lorenzo and both headed away from the apex, it was then two bikes heading for the same space and a domino effect that took all three out. Judged a racing incident by Race Direction, both Pedrosa and Lorenzo said similarly that the three men involved weren’t known for their on-track aggression – “we are three riders who don’t have that ‘profile’ of riding” – and no one was injured, leaving the lack of points, undeserved for all three, as the biggest consequence of the incident. Pedrosa says it left him “sad and disappointed”, and not only for himself but also for them – “especially Dovi, given the Championship.”

Pedrosa "We had a good test and the new items were good"

Now it’s time for Le Mans, where Pedrosa won in 2013 to become the Championship leader. Another few days of recovery preface the event, too, with strength the biggest problem for the Spaniard at Jerez and that aided by time. After putting in nigh-on 70 laps at the Jerez test following the GP, that’s been further put to the test now – and Pedrosa will surely arrive even more ready to get back in the fight at the front.