An old set of leathers and a red mini bike feature below the stage on which Marquez, Lorenzo, Vinales and Pol Espargarò sit. The star of the show is Dani Pedrosa, at Valencia for his last ever race, the conclusion to an 18-year career, during which he has won three world titles (one in 125 and two in 250), 54 races, and achieved 153 podiums. On Sunday he will run his last race and will do so as a MotoGP Legend, the first rider to enter the hall of fame prior to his retirement.
“Dani is an example for all riders, particularly the youngsters, in terms of his correctness” stated FIM President Vito Ippolito. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpleta recalled meeting him at the Movistar Cup when he was little more than a child: “Puig was explaining how it would work, but Dani's eyes appeared to say: enough talking, give me the bike. He was two months off the minimum age required by the regulation, but we changed it for him”.
This marked the start of what would be a very successful career, but there was also tough times, owing to his fragile physique, any blow perhaps resulting in a KO.
“I first considered retiring in 2011 - he confesses - I'd had an injury and still wasn't fully in shape after the winter, I would crash and hurt myself and then come back and crash again. Spending 8 or 9 months in that conditions is difficult and it's only normal to question things, to find the right motivation”.
Dani has always got back up, but now he's decided to step back. Valencia will be his last race and, interestingly enough, it was team-mate Marquez who asked him how he feels.
“It's very strange, like it's not real. i'd like to stop time, but I can't of course. To be honest, I don't think I'll take it in for a while. Even being here is a strange sensation, not something you think about when racing”.
Looking back, Pedrosa has a wealth of great memories.
“MotoGP has given me so much, I grew up in this world, but I also think I've given something back. If I think back, the greatest moment was the day I won my first title, when the dream I'd had as a child came true. What will I miss? That feeling when I reach the podium or win, those moments make up for all the sacrifices. If I think about my best moment in MotoGP my first season comes to mind, even I was surprised that I was immediately that fast”.
He scored a podium finish in his very first race. Something he hasn't managed to do this year.
“My decision to retire didn't come down to my results. The strangest thing this season was thinking that it would be my last time racing at each track, that I wouldn't see those places again. Though, we should never say never in life - he smiles - No one knows what will happen in the future, I hope to remain in this world”.
Now for the final race.
“And my goal is to enjoy it, without thinking about the numbers and results”.
Then comes the next phase of his life, as KTM test rider and with more free time on his hands. Lorenzo jokingly asked him whether he'll finally put on some weight.
“I've always had the opposite problem to my rivals - trying to put on weight! - laughs Dani - Maybe with less stress, less pressure and less training, I can gain a few kilos. But my dad is similarly thin, it's a matter of genes”.