Dani Pedrosa returns but calls today’s MotoGP “extreme, stressful, aggressive”

Dani Pedrosa knew when he was first in the garage at a race weekend this season that the MotoGP he would return to was more “extreme”.

The new format for the 2023 season - a sprint race at every round on each Saturday before Sunday’s grand prix - has been challenging and also resulted in injuries so far.

MotoGP’s most successful ever rider without a championship is now KTM’s test rider, and will enter this weekend’s Spanish MotoGP with a wildcard knowing there are key differences to the racing he retired from in 2018.

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“From first practice, these guys are going for pole position,” Pedrosa said. 

“This is an aggressive way to approach the weekend. You spend a lot of energy, you never know what the outcome is. There could be red or yellow flags. 

“You have to go for the lap time, but you never know what could cancel your lap time.

“I was in Portimao to learn the new format. You can sense how stressful it is for the team and riders.

“It’s cool, good to see the sprint race. It’s extreme - from FP1, you have to go for a lap record! It’s only Friday so maybe you don’t have the set-up, the right tyres, you don’t know the conditions…

“But you have to go for the lap time.

“So it’s extreme to go from the team view. It’s always better to adapt. But for the spectator, we like things to happen more quickly, we need more attention.”

Dani Pedrosa: The key is to arrive with a bike that works


His role with KTM as a test rider has been tweaked by the change to this season’s format, with a requirement to match what the team needs on a weekend featuring two races.

“There is no option to work on the bike at the weekend,” Pedrosa said. “The key is to arrive with a bike that works.

“It is our job to develop a bike which, when it arrives at a track, is working.

“Sometimes you have to change because of the track, or if circumstances are extreme. But, at least, the package should work everywhere.

“We try to achieve a certain bike which, on the track, is more-or-less there.

“We have tracks where we’ve been really good and really bad - we have tried to mitigate [the gap]. We can already see that we have improved on [the tracks where KTM struggle].

“How we approach the work has changed. In the beginning the bike wasn’t as good. We worked on fundamental points. Now we work on fine-tuning, how to take more from each situation, rather than a big picture."

Can Jerez help KTM's future testing?


His wildcard entry to his home race in Jerez this weekend will also pay dividends for KTM in the long-run.

Pedrosa anticipates learning secrets from the intensity of battle that he can then translate to his testing laps.

“We had tyre limitations with testing,” he explained.

“One of the main issues I see - with racing and testing - in racing, most of the time you use only new tyres. In testing, most of time you use only used tyres.

“So then the development can be in a different direction. They go for sprinting all the time - not just in the race, but in FP1 and FP2.

“We cannot do this in testing because the track condition is different.

“So this is one way to get their feedback.

“Also, the other aspect is the aerodynamics. It’s quite a topic at this moment.

“When you ride alone, you feel many things. But you don’t feel what [the riders in a race] feel in the slipstream.”

Pedrosa retired at the end of 2018 after 12 years in MotoGP, where he finished second in the standings three times, and third a further three times.

His most recent one-off race was in Austria two years ago with KTM.

Pedrosa explained his preparation to return in Jerez: “It’s a long time since I raced in Austria. I was organising with the team - what’s the plan with tyres? Which tyres to use? How to programme sessions?

“I am trying to coordinate in the best way possible with the mechanics because it’s a new experience for them.

“We have many mechanics who did the race in Austria with me. But some did not. We are trying to get things dialled in before we start.”

He will race around Turn 6 which, of course, has been renamed Dani Pedrosa Corner in his honour after he retired.

Pedrosa was asked if his key goal was to avoid a crash at his own corner, and he joked: “Not to crash, in general!”

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