The Samurai, The Spartan, and The pleasure of proving a point:
Lessons on the long game from the Spanish GP
It is becoming a rule of MotoGP journalism that every time someone writes off Dani Pedrosa, he makes them look very, very stupid. And that happened again in Jerez, where the Spaniard was sublime all weekend from a wet FP1 to a scorching chequered flag. Same thing happened in Misano last year: you doubt, he wins.
Sixteen years he’s been doing that, now. At least one win a year for sixteen of them, and now 30 premier class victories – re-equaling Marc Marquez after the number 93 won in Texas - and 146 podiums. Which is the third most in history, equal with Jorge Lorenzo.
At Jerez, Pedrosa topped every practice session except FP4 and still wasn’t included in one broadcaster’s Twitter poll as to who would win.
So why is everyone always surprised? He’s a truly great talent. In some ways you’d think it would bother the man, but it doesn’t: “Whether I’m an outsider or a favourite doesn’t matter, because you’re focused on your goal. It doesn’t happen because people say something or don’t – it’s because you make it happen. And today is an amazing feeling because of that.”
- MotoGP - Circuito de Jerez - Spain - 2017 -
Pedrosa has been around long enough to know that life is a long run kind of game, and that long game was a recurring theme for the podium finishers in Jerez. Marquez again showed he had one eye on the big trophy as he stayed within his limits to take second, and the man in third took great pleasure in telling the doubters to “eat their words” – or a translated approximation of the phrase – after taking his first podium for Ducati in only his fourth race with the marque. Not since 2011 has a red machine been on the podium at the track, and it’s a notoriously difficult venue for them - a message that seems to have been waylaid on its way to Jorge Lorenzo.
Aside from the satisfaction of two world champions in the press conference, however, the message at the heart of the race is fairly simple: you can’t boil down an 18-act play to a five-word headline, no matter how hard you try. You can’t win a Championship in preseason testing and the first two races of the year, and you can’t suddenly wake up without the talent that has won you multiple world titles – be it three like Pedrosa, or five like Lorenzo and Marquez. A great reason why proving the vultures wrong tastes so good for the Spanish armada on the podium, and in some ways an equally great comfort for those who suffered more under the Spanish sun, because some really did.
- "Suffering under the Spanish sun" - Tito Rabat #53 - Estrella Galicia 0,0 MarcVDS - MotoGP - Jerez 2017 -
Viñales in sixth was one, unable to really get involved in the fight on home turf. But although it wasn’t the great return to glory the early 2017 pacesetter had hoped for, he also played the long game to take points and cut the gap to the point’s leader. And that leader, Valentino Rossi, is most definitely the man who suffered the most on race day - so much so that he crossed the line in tenth.
Nine world titles crossing the line in tenth?! What happened, when Jerez was supposed to be where the pendulum started to swing back in his favour? Where was the Sunday miracle? The short answer is that he had a tough time on the tyres. Winner last year and King of Europe he may be, but not this season. This season he was the final Yamaha across the line and that reads like a disaster, but that’s not what it is.
The reality is that the Michelins are not an easy mistress, the field is tight and the grid is full of incredible talent. So don’t write off Pedrosa, don’t write off Lorenzo, and don’t write off Rossi – for the same reasons, but on different days. There are 14 races to go in 2017, because MotoGP is a long game.
The only thing that’s not in doubt as we look ahead to Le Mans is the talent both on the grid and on the top step of the podium in Jerez.
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