Dani dominates for first world crown
12 October 2003
18-year-old Dani Pedrosa rode a faultless 125cc Malaysian Grand Prix, leading from start to finish and allowing the Spanish superstar to finally take his first ever world championship in style.
Qualifying saw Derbi rider Jorge Lorenzo took his first ever pole, three weeks after his first ever victory in Rio De Janeiro. The 16-year-old snatched top spot at the end of the session from countryman Pedrosa, who would take his Honda in search of the title from second place on the grid.
Mika Kallio turned out his best ever performance in third place to give KTM their first ever from row start, whilst Casey Stoner made it four factories on the front row as he sealed fourth on the Aprilia.
Steve Jenkner dropped to fifth in the late push for times, whilst Swiss youngster Thomas Luthi returned to the second row in sixth. Pablo Nieto made the most of a tag on the final lap from Andrea Dovizioso, snatching seventh place and relegating the Italian to eighth.
Stefano Perugini, who needed to finish within ten points of Pedrosa to keep his slim title chances alive, would start from the third row in ninth.
When the red lights went out it was Kallio who got the best initial jump, but it was Pedrosa who emerged on top out of the tight right/left turn one, the Spaniard leading Kallio, Lorenzo, Jenkner, Perugini, Dovizioso, Stoner, Azuma and Luthi.
By the end of the first lap, Pedrosa had already built a 1.1secs lead over the KTM and would continue to pull almost a second a lap on the chasing field – and as if that wasn't enough to please Dani's Telefonica team, Perugini cruised powerless past the pits on lap 3 with obvious mechanical problems. All Pedrosa had to do was score 11 points and he'd be world champion.
Meanwhile, Stoner was continuing to carve his way up through the pack, and dived inside Lorenzo for second into turn one, on lap 5 of 19, before setting his sights on Pedrosa's three second lead – with Lorenzo, Kallio, Azuma, Luthi, de Angelis and Dovizioso all following.
However, Stoner's charge would last just two laps before he out-braked himself into turn one, forcing him to tip-toe around the outside of the turn before rejoining in sixth. The LCR rider's error returned the second placed battle to youngsters Kallio and Lorenzo, the pair soon swapping places furiously.
By the halfway point, Pedrosa was still looking serene up front, holding a 3.5secs lead over the Lorenzo/Kallio battle, with chasing Luthi, Azuma, Stoner, de Angelis and Giansanti a further second behind. That order would be shaken up again on lap 13 when Stoner, who'd been working his way back up the order, suffered his second huge highside of the weekend as he and his Aprilia were sent tumbling though the gravel trap.
Casey's demise reduced the fight for second into a five-way affair, with Kallio leading Lorenzo, Luthi, de Angelis and Azuma now having dropped Giansanti, but they could do nothing about Pedrosa – 6.6secs ahead with 4 to go.
Onto the last lap and Pedrosa was in cruise control, but behind him the fight for second was still split by nothing, with the order into turn one for the final time Lorenzo, from Kallio, Azuma, Luthi and de Angelis.
Lorenzo did all he could to defend second, but Kallio planned his attack well and blasted past the Spaniard on the long race down into the final turn hairpin. Lorenzo tried to hold a tighter line, but Kallio cut inside on the exit – the two brushing bodywork before Kallio got the better exit and claimed a best ever second, for both himself and KTM.
But five seconds ahead of them, Pedrosa was already punching the air with delight having taken his fifth victory and with it his first world championship. The normally sedate Dani couldn't contain himself after finally achieving his dream and kept holding his head in disbelief on the slow down lap, before being mobbed by Alberto Puig and the rest of his Telefonica team.
The 18-year-old is now the second youngest ever world champion in the history of the sport – behind a certain Loris Capirossi, who hasn't gone on to do too badly for himself...
Pedrosa is all but certain to move to the 250cc class next season, on a full factory Honda, possibly with rising Japanese wild-card star Yukio Takahashi as his team-mate.
Full results to follow...
6. de Angelis