Dani made my week

Former commentator Nick Harris praises the heroics of Pedrosa in Jerez and explains how MotoGP™ riders are as tough as they come

I’m not ashamed to admit I thought there must have been a misprint when the results came through from that first MotoGP™ practice session at Jerez on Friday morning. Dani Pedrosa leading all those young pretenders on the KTM he’d work so hard to develop for the factory team and their riders. Of course, there was no misprint. Dani probably, together with Max Biaggi, the unluckiest rider not to win the MotoGP™ World Championship. Throw in Randy Mamola and the unluckiest rider not to win a premier class world title. Thirty-seven years old and still capable to lead a MotoGP™ practice session, that would do for me because I was still annoyed.


I get annoyed rather than angry these days, apart from when watching football, but a letter from a gentleman to a leading British Motorcycle publication raised the hackles. He suggested that racing had gone soft. That riders in the sixties and seventies often raced with strapped-up limbs and joints that were severely damaged or even fractured. He suggested now we seem to have MotoGP™ prima donnas.

I hope this gentleman was watching the weekend at Jerez. A 37-year-old who had fought back from so many injuries to lead the first practice. Despite those injuries, that probably cost him a MotoGP™ title, Pedrosa won three world titles and 54 Grands Prix. Did he witness the determination and bravery of Enea Bastianini trying to overcome the pain recovering from a broken shoulder blade but finally having to call it a day. The frustration of eight times World Champion Marc Marquez at being told he could not race by the doctors because of his broken hand. Marquez, who has come through three years of major surgery and pain, wanted to race but the doctors said no. The second big accident of the season for Miguel Oliveira in the race which could put him out of action once.

Dani Pedrosa, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, Gran Premio MotoGP™ Guru by Gryfyn de España

It is so easy to recall the past through rose-tinted glasses and I’m probably the worst offender, but I promise you modern day MotoGP™ riders are no prima donnas. Of course, riders from the past were tough. I witnessed first-hand some remarkable brave acts by riders coming from injury. Barry Sheene’s recovery from his Daytona crash to win two 500cc world titles. Then, I was at Silverstone for the horrendous fireball crash in 1982 but Barry returned to race again. Mick Doohan’s 1992 ride in Brazil when he could hardly walk but was determined to defend his lead in the World Championship, I will never forget. In more recent times Jorge Lorenzo flying back to Barcelona in 2013 to have a titanium plate fitted with ten screws to mend a broken collarbone sustained in a practice crash at Assen. The five times World Champion returned two days later and rode to fifth place after 26 laps of the legendary Dutch circuit.

The very nature of the sport means that motorcycle racing always was and always will be dangerous. What had to happen was to make Grand Prix racing as safe as it possibly could be. That is exactly what has happened. Safer circuits, revolutionary improved rider protection, instant medical care and medical staff that are prepared to say no if they think a rider is not fit have been crucial. Surely nobody wants to see riders get injured but accept there will be crashes. Anything that can be achieved in preventing riders avoiding serious injury has to be applauded. Everything that can be done to ensure instant medical attention after a serious accident has to be correct.

Modern day MotoGP™ riders, prima donnas?  I don’t think so and Dani, thanks for making me smile.

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