Tuesday, September 2

HONDA TO WIN THEM ALL?

Dani Pedrosa leads Jorge Lorenzo on his way to victory at the Czech Grand Prix in August.

WITH Marc Marquez very much the dominant force in MotoGP this season, his Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa has come in for some criticism on websites, blog sites and Facebook pages around the world.

The reason for the criticism?

That Pedrosa has failed to deliver after eight years as a factory Honda MotoGP rider and should be replaced by someone the commentators find more “worthy.”

There is no doubt that Honda expected Pedrosa to take the MotoGP championship before now.  The diminutive Spaniard was fast-tracked into MotoGP from the World 250 Championship, which he had won back-to-back in 2004 and ’05, the latter on a special Honda RSW250. 

Japanese rider Hiroshi Aoyama was his team-mate in 2005 before switching to the KTM team to contest the World 250 Championship for three years.  He then returned to Honda and won the final World 250 Championship using an updated version of the bike he had raced alongside Pedrosa in 2005.

Like Pedrosa, Aoyama has remained a loyal Honda servant ever since.  Unlike Pedrosa, no one is calling for him to move over for a more “worthy” rider.

Fortunately for Pedrosa, Honda Racing Corporation takes a slightly broader view than armchair pundits and in July HRC signed Pedrosa for a further two years. 

While it is true that after winning two 125 championships and a brace of 250 titles on Honda machinery, big things were expected of Pedrosa – particularly from the vocal Spanish media – when he went to MotoGP in 2006.

That was the year Nicky Hayden finally won the MotoGP title for Honda – winning just two races in the process.  Pedrosa finished fifth in that championship and also won two races.  Hayden had joined the Honda factory MotoGP team in 2003 and had gone winless for three years.  It was only in his fourth year on the V5 Honda RC112V – the most successful bike in MotoGP racing – that Hayden finally won a race.  But Pedrosa won two in his rookie year, and scored six other podium finishes.

With the move to the 800cc formula for 2007, Honda built a V4 which was said to be tailored for Pedrosa’s small physique.  Hayden didn’t fit it properly but soldiered on, finishing eighth in the 2007 MotoGP title chase.

There is little doubt Pedrosa would have won the 2007 championship, except for one thing.  An Australian.  A man the armchair critics had dubbed a ‘crasher’ and not worthy of consideration. 
Casey Stoner.

Valentino Rossi may have started the ‘get Stoner’ campaign after the Aussie went on a winning streak on the 800cc Ducati in 2007, ascribing the Australian’s success to the Ducati’s speed, the Bridgestone tyres and so on.  But the fact is there were several other riders racing Ducatis through 2007 and none of them were scoring race wins the way Stoner was.

Loris Caprirossi, who had been on factory Ducatis since the Italian company joined MotoGP in 2003, finished seventh in the 2007 championship, Alex Barros was eighth and Shinichi Ito scored a solitary point and finished 26th.

Stoner won ten races and Dani Pedrosa on the first 800cc Honda V4 won two, but finished on the podium six more times and finished second in the championship, one point ahead of Valentino Rossi.

Beating Rossi in the title chase should have earned Pedrosa lots of brownie points with the fans.  Unfortunately for him, it didn’t.

In the years since then, Pedrosa finished each season as the top scoring Honda rider, except in 2011 when Stoner joined the Honda team and won the last championship of the 800cc era and in 2013 when Marc Marquez won the title in his rookie year.

Pedrosa is a tough little bugger, with a list of injuries that would make an All Black go weak at the knees.  But he has always come back, challenged for race wins and with his success in the Czech Republic in August, has notched up 26 MotoGP race wins.

As a result of Pedrosa holding out the Yamahas of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi at Brno, Honda has won every MotoGP race so far this season.  With six races to go, HRC will be hoping Marquez and Pedrosa can hold the Yamahas at bay for the rest of the year and score an all-Honda sweep of the championship.

Last time that happened was in 1997 when Mick Doohan won 12 races, Alex Criville won two and Tadayuki Okada won the long-forgotten the Indonesian round at Sentul, giving Honda victory in all 15 races of the season.

That was 17 years ago.

Without Dani Pedrosa, Honda’s chances of repeating that this year would have gone down the gurgler at Brno.

Dani Pedrosa celebrates after scoring his 26th career MotoGP win at Brno.
Can anyone spot the Kiwi?