Red Bull KTM Factory Racing test rider and MotoGP leg-end Dani Pedrosa is coming back for more, three years after his last MotoGP appearance. The Grand Prix of Styria will be where the tiny Spaniard makes his MotoGP comeback aboard the KTM RC16; and it’s only fair really, since he’s put so much into developing it.
And you can expect him to be fairly handy on it, too. Because whilst some remember Dani Pedrosa as being the MotoGP bridesmaid, never the bride (he was always there, but never won a premier class championship), don’t forget the fact that he stood on the top-class podium 112 times, over thirteen years, with 31 wins to his name. In fact, he finished in the top five of the MotoGP championship eleven times. An impressive record in anyone’s book.
So why Austria? Why Styria (or the Red Bull Ring, as most people call it)? Well Austria is the home of Red Bull and KTM, so you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ve got bags of data about the place, and little Dani will have done a million or more laps there. They know exactly the kind of lap times Dani will need to be setting to warrant a wildcard grid-slot. Chances are, he’s been smashing them out the park. Or the ring.
Of his first race in nearly 1,000 days, DP26 said this
“It’s been super-interesting to be part of this project from the beginning with KTM in MotoGP. A being able to share my experience with them. Step-by-step we did the best we could and now it’s interesting again to go into a race. It gives you a different perspective compared to a normal test. It has been a long time since my last race and. Of course, the mentality for a GP is very different to a test.
“My focus for the GP is to try to test the things we have on the bike in a race situation. I wish to understand the requests riders might have for different sessions and technical features. Watching from home I can sense the improvements in the bikes and the racing but in order to understand more about MotoGP now, the new technologies and how to race and use strategies against the others we’ll make this wildcard. It’s difficult to talk about my expectations after being so long away from competition. It might all click into a racing mentality or it might not but we’ll try to enjoy the weekend as much as we can.”
There’s been some seriously impressive wildcard rides over the years. Remember when Troy Baylis won the final round of the MotoGP championship at Valencia in 2006? He hadn’t even been testing GP bikes! So it can be done.
I’ll be honest, I can’t see Pedrosa taking a win. Not when you consider how competitive the entire field is, these days. But I bet he doesn’t embarrass himself. I reckon he’s still got it, don’t you?