Dani Pedrosa: "I didn't even know if the track was going right or left..."

25th September 2019
Laura Thomson

Few motorcyclists could turn up to a circuit they’ve never seen before, climb aboard a bike they’ve never ridden before and still set a respectable lap time. Make that a 62-year-old bike with back-to-front gearing and many would fall by the first corner.

But MotoGP maestro Dani Pedrosa isn’t like most riders. For a start, he’s a lot smaller – at 5ft 7in I tower over him when we meet after the second half of the two-part Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy at the 2019 Revival. He’s in a hurry to go and watch the 1959 TT celebration – after all, this is a man for whom racing comes first, everything else second.


But Pedrosa is as well-mannered as the media makes out, and sits down opposite us with a warm smile. It’s his first time at the Revival, he admits, and he has certainly fallen for its charm.

“I’m really surprised – it’s just like going back in time really,” he exclaims in heavily-accented English. “I got advice beforehand, but actually you don’t get really what is until you’re here and you experience it.

“I’m really happy to be part of this edition because it’s something beautiful,” he continued, “not only the racing and the amazing cars and bikes and people, but also the atmosphere - it’s just great! And the weather was perfect, so I couldn’t have any better debut of this experience."


And for the 33-year-old Spaniard, the weekend was full of firsts. Not only was it his first time on the 1962 Norton Manx 30M (and second ever time on a classic bike), he admitted that he’d never even seen the 2.4-mile Goodwood Motor Circuit before his frantic Friday.

“I just got on the plane and once I got here I was just running through the paddock, got my leathers on, got on the bike – I didn’t even know if the track was going right or left and I was just trying to get qualified! It was amazing after, with more time to meet people and start knowing how it works. But for sure, it was a little bit hectic in the beginning.”


Pedrosa had flown straight from his day job as a test and development rider for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing. After 18 seasons in World Championship level racing, 13 of which were in MotoGP, last year he hung up his competitive leathers following a season plagued by injury. But MotoGP was never far from his mind, and this June he joined the Austrian race team in developing the 2020 RC16.

With an impressive 31 wins and 121 podium points, Pedrosa is the most successful MotoGP rider never to have won a title. Despite a high number of injuries throughout his career, he has proven consistently fast, finishing in the top ten for twelve consecutive seasons and bagging second place in 2007, 2010 and 2012.


But classic racing presented an entirely new challenge to him. More accustomed to 250hp, electronically fine-tuned MotoGP missiles, Pedrosa’s first experience on a classic machine came a couple of months ago in testing for the Revival. At a local track in Spain, he climbed aboard an incredibly rare 1967 Hannah-Paton 500, thought to be the only complete original in existence. Unfortunately, its uniqueness meant that when it suffered engine issues, Pedrosa’s Revival co-rider and the bike’s owner, Joaquín Folch-Rusinol Jnr, was unable to find spare parts in time. Faced with failure in the Trophy, the pair decided to swap on to another of Folch-Rusinol Jnr’s bikes, and so it was that Dani Pedrosa arrived at a circuit he’d never seen before, on a bike he’d never ridden.


What was such a dramatic debut like, we asked?

“It was special feeling because you know, being used to the modern bikes and jumping around 60 years back, it was a big jump, but I would say the most difficult was the gearbox, because it’s on the right foot. So, really, my brain was working all the time, to just not mess up the action.

“On a bike, Goodwood is quite a difficult track because you have blind corners and many apexes, so you really have to know the track well to know where to put the front wheel and when you roll or when you shut the throttle. And then you have one left corner so the left side of the tyre is really on the limits, and every time you go through that corner you’re like ‘eeer, let’s see if I get through’.

“But the experience was so good. And the track is so fast, so every time I was on the track I was able to be a bit faster and improve my lap times.”


And how did the 57-year-old Grand Prix machine compare to his usual ride?

“Well, the tyres and wheel are way softer so handling is good, but actually the bike is all moving and unstable, so you don’t feel as confident on it – especially when you go over bumps, you don’t have any steering damper, so the bike is really moving. But we were really fortunate with the weather, so that gave us good feeling from the racetrack, because there is always some oil from cars, so it was important to have quite a good grip on track.”

His lack of preparation made the duo’s results all the more impressive. In qualifying on Friday, they achieved a 20th place finish, before climbing from row eight on the grid to 12th on Saturday. In Sunday’s race two, the duo once again started in row eight, but managed to climb up the ranks to fifth. Overall, Pedrosa and Revival regular Folch-Rusinol Jnr finished ninth out of the 30 machines taking part – an excellent result considering the circumstances.


However, in true championship racer fashion, Pedrosa is extremely self-critical: “The actual racing was quite good. I think yesterday I did not start very well, because I was a bit cautious at the beginning, didn’t want to fall too early. But after some laps I got some rhythm and we did recover some places, with my teammate also. Today we finished fifth and it was a little bit hectic race because safety car here, some crashes there.

“After the safety car I recovered from twelfth to fifth and it was an amazing experience just to finish on the pipe, so I am very happy.”

Pausing, he humbly added: “Our bike was really reliable, thanks to the mechanics, maybe not the fastest, but sure no misfunctions, so that was also key.”


For a first Revival, it certainly was an exciting one, and I wondered aloud whether Dani would be back next year. “Why not, I mean it’s an amazing experience!” he exclaimed. “But I don’t know if next year the weather will be so good as this year.

“Yesterday, the ball was amazing, and all details throughout the weekend were just better that I would imagine.”

And following his historic debut, could we expect to see him in other historical race series, for example the Classic TT?

"Who knows, why not!” he grinned as he leapt to his feet and made a dash for the RAC TT Celebration startline.

Photos by Pete Summers and Oli Tennant.

  • Revival

  • Revival 2019

  • 2019

  • Dani Pedrosa

  • Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy

  • Norton

  • Manx 30M

  • MotoGP

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