Dani Pedrosa was once thought to be the only rider able to dethrone Valentino Rossi, but he never won a premier class title.
In 2001, Spanish rider Dani Pedrosa first debuted in World Championship motorcycle racing, in the 125cc class. Since he wasn’t actually 16 until the September, he earned special consent from Dorna to make the move up from the Movistar Activa Cup.
Two years later, he became 125cc champion before claiming the intermediate class 250cc title in both 2004 and 2005. With Valentino Rossi dominating the world of motosport and having left Honda due to feeling undervalued, the factory team looked for a new leader to reclaim victory.
Dani Pedrosa was given the opportunity to lead the way for Repsol Honda, as well as prove critics wrong. Many believed that Pedrosa’s small stature wouldn’t be strong enough to handle a big bike, but the number 26 rider demonstrated this couldn’t be further from the truth.
In a successful opening round at Jerez, Pedrosa finished second, and then during his fourth ever MotoGP appearance, he enjoyed a maiden victory. But ironically it was his American teammate Nicky Hayden who clinched the championship title just as Pedrosa began his premier-class adventure.
Regardless, Pedrosa finished in fifth place in the overall standings (beating former 250cc rival, Casey Stoner) which led to his new accolade: Rookie of the Year. The Spaniard became the spearhead of a new generation of riders who challenged Rossi and proved the highest level of racing.
“I overcame many situations in MotoGP that I didn’t expect I could, and I was finally riding very well in the rain, which was one thing I’ve never been good at. Moments that stand out are my World Championships and some good racing in MotoGP, especially in 2012 when I felt the best… As well, coming back from injuries and finishing on the podium or winning the race.”
Joining the ranks of the MotoGP ‘aliens’ who put an end to Rossi’s dominance were Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and later Marc Marquez, all following Pedrosa. The term was given since all seemed a class apart from their rivals, but while the rest won titles, Pedrosa’s big moment never arrived.
Between 2007 and 2015, Pedrosa finished second, third and fourth in the overall standings three times each. His statistics are the best evidence that he’s earned his status as a ‘MotoGP Legend’, sitting eighth in the all-time winners’ list (tied with four-time champion Eddie Lawson).
Becoming the 28th member of MotoGP’s elite club, Pedrosa’s 31 race victories tally the highest for a rider without a MotoGP title, ahead of MotoGP greats such as Kevin Schwantz (25), Wayne Rainey (22) and Kenny Roberts Sr (22).
“When I started racing I had this feeling like ‘yeah I want to be a rider and I want to go to the maximum’ and I never thought I’d be in the championship that long or be that good. But I have the feeling now that in my life I achieved more than my dream.”