After last year's MotoGP World
Championship, there can be no question that the best road racers in the
world are Spanish. For the first time ever, riders from the same country
won all three classes in the Road Racing World Championship and that
country was Spain.
Spanish world champions are nothing new. Angel Nieto is second
all-time with 13 world championships. But those titles came in the 60's,
70's and 80's in the smaller displacement classes. It wasn't until 1999
that Alex Criville became the first Spaniard to win a title in the
premier class. And it would be more than a decade before another
Spaniard, Jorge Lorenzo, took the first MotoGP World Championship back
to Spain. The next one won't take as long.
No country supports motorcycle racing more than Spain and no rider
embodies the Spanish system more than Dani Pedrosa. The triple World
Champion from Sabadell, in the rider-rich region of Catalunya, is not
only a product of the system that has produced a host of strong riders,
but also active in making sure the system prospers.
Last year Pedrosa had his best season ever, winning four times and
finishing second twice. This season has started even better. Pedrosa was
third in Qatar, second in Jerez, and in Portugal last weekend won a
thrilling battle with fellow countryman Lorenzo to take an unexpected
13th MotoGP victory. Pedrosa entered the race unsure if his surgically
repaired left shoulder would withstand the rigors of the race. The
shoulder and collarbone were painful and uncomfortable, but not
debilitating, and Pedrosa made an impressive late race surge to lead the
Repsol Honda team to a 1-3-4 finish. Casey Stoner was third, Andrea
The Spanish government, which finances circuit development, deserves
some of the credit; the country has more world class race tracks than
any other country. Four rounds of the MotoGP World Championship run in
Spain and there are a number of very good facilities that are just below
world level. Learning their craft on safe tracks allows riders to
concentrate 100% on racing, which prepares them for the world stage.
Five of the seven races in the CEV Buckler Spanish national championship
are held on grand prix tracks.
The CEV Buckler has been run by Dorna, the MotoGP rights holder,
since 1998 as a steppingstone to MotoGP. Their aim has been to develop
young talent to move to the next level. The class structure mimics
MotoGP, with 125cc, Moto2, though not with control engines, and a big
The day before Pedrosa won at the Estoril Circuit, and between
qualifying, debriefing, and physical therapy, we sat down with Dani in
Honda's hospitality unit to find out why he and his fellow countryman
are on top of the road racing world.
The Spanish system, explain what it is that makes riders so good.
Dani Pedrosa: What makes a rider good or not I think it's three
things. First one, I would say, talent first, determination, second
spot, and then work. So some are more talented than others and they push
more from the work side. The other ones push more from determination.
It's a sport that by years doing it the same way, sometimes you can
reach the top level, because some years you have a lot of level in the
class, some years there is no level. And suddenly one day, one guy shows
up in the first position, second-first, second-first. So basically I
would say we have very good structure in Spain with the tracks, with the
Spanish championship, they take a lot of care to bring riders. Many
also foreigners they go to race there. We have good weather. This is
also important. But the Spanish federation, the Catalan federation, they
take a lot of care of these young kids which maybe now they are eight,
nine, ten-years-old and maybe in ten years we see them racing here. I
think this is the key, basically. Spain
believes on motorcycling.
Was it like that when you were coming up or has it gotten more in the
last four or five years?
DP: I think already when I start they start with this kind of
philosophy to follow the youth area and trying to help people somehow. I
was involved in this.
The system produced three world champions last year, all of whom have
watched your career. Why do you think that is?
DP: My opinion, you want to know my opinion, is quite strange. I
believe the other riders see that if I was able then they can also,
because I was small. That's enough just to see me doing it, I think they
thought, and I did in 125 with Honda. So it means that with the Aprilia
was much easier, but that's my impression. That's how I see it. I think
when they see such a small guy can do it and coming from the same area
as us, we can do also. And then the next one did and the next one
thought if they both did it, I can do it. And then three and then four. I
think that's how it happened.
The interesting thing about the Spanish championship is that it's
similar to MotoGP. They seem to have set it up to make it easier for
riders to come to the world championship.
DP: Of course. Not every rider has the same situation, but in my
case it was as you said. I was all set to just focus on racing and
improve my riding and achieving my goals. Some others, they have a
little more trouble because they need more sponsors or something. But
maybe other countries believe that their kids are more for another
sport, like football or swimming or whatever. But in Spain or Catalunya
they follow a lot the motorcycle culture.
When you were coming through, who were your racing heroes?
DP: Basically, I follow the areas in the beginning of the 90's,
all that area was, all of them. They were, I don't know how they did
those things, but they were amazing on the 500's.
Do you wish you could've ridden a 500?
DP: I was able one time almost when I was a 125 rider to make this
kind of journalist test, but finally they canceled. I was going to test
250 and then 500.
Why Catalunya more than other parts of Spain?
DP: It's kind of strange, because also if you check the
(Valentino) Rossi area where he's around, many riders are from that
area. In Barcelona, when you go in the taxi and you stop at the light
and you see in the front all bikes, it's like a race. Many, many
scooters and bikes. I don't know, Catalunya is a country strong not only
in road, but also trial and enduro. Motocross not so strong, but enduro
also. In Catalunya there is a lot of philosophy for motorcycles.
The next rider to come through the system is Marc Marquez. Have you
worked with him?
DP: Yes, sometimes we have spoken in the past and really had some
exchange, but he's quite clever and quite talented and especially he's
very brave. And maybe he doesn't need really advice, he just needs
experience more than other things.
Interview courtesy of Honda Racing