Daniel Pedrosa raced to a brilliant victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix to clinch the ultra-competitive 125cc world crown with two rounds still remaining. Afterwards, Dani and mentor Alberto Puig talked about his career so far, what the title means to them - and confirmed their futures lies in the 250cc class next season.

18-year-old Pedrosa's title triumph made him the youngest Spaniard ever to take a world championship, as he follows in the footsteps of former grand prix giants Angel Nieto, Jorge 'Aspar' Martinez, and Alex Criville.

Dani went into the 19-lap race knowing the title would be his if he won the race and closest rival, Stefano Perugini, finished lower than eighth place. However, Pedrosa wanted nothing less than a race victory and didn't disappoint, leading from start to finish to take his fifth win of the campaign as well as the world title.

"It was a very hard race. When I woke up his I thought the race situation would not be easy for me because it was raining," recalled the new world champ. "In the race I got a good start and pushed hard but the track was very slippery but I managed to open a gap on the others and held it. When I finally crossed the finishing line I was very tired. I started crying and I still can't believe what has happened to me, its fantastic, I have no words to describe it.

"Since I was a little boy my ambition was to be a rider, and now I have been proclaimed world champion. I guess I will need a little time to be able to explain what it's like to be a World Champion," he beamed.

"I can only thank everybody who has supported me. Telefonica MoviStar because they gave me the opportunity to be here, to Honda for all the years we have been working together. To my team for the excellent job they have done in teaching me how to work, and to my family for always supporting me.

"But especially I have to thank Alberto (Puig), because from him I have learned everything. Without all these people I would be sitting at home watching the races on my sofa in front of the television," Dani insisted.

Pedrosa, Telefonica Honda and team manager Alberto Puig, have been synonymous since 1999, when the 14-year-old was selected by Puig to contest the MoviStar Active Joven Cup series. The bold innovative series was launched especially by Puig to discover and develop young talent from raw novices to grand prix riders.

Pedrosa's career had begun to take off when he entered the 1997 Spanish Pocket Bike Championship, aged 11. He finished third in his debut season and went on to win the championship a year later. But the youngster did not have the funds necessary to continue his career and his meeting with Puig was a Godsend to the youngster.

Puig took Pedrosa under his wing providing his young charge with the means that allowed him to fulfil his true potential. Pedrosa finished eighth in the Joven Cup and followed that with fourth place in the 125cc Spanish Championship, starting four races from pole position, proving he had the speed if not consistency.

The shy 15-year old arrived on the grand prix scene in 2001 his hard charging style immediately attracting attention. It came as no surprise when he finished the season in eighth place claiming two podium places in the last four races of the season. Under the guidance of Puig, Pedrosa added consistency to his fast growing range of talents.

He confirmed his credentials in 2002 with three race victories, the first at no less a venue than motorcycle racings most difficult race track the 6.027km Assen circuit in Holland, know to all as the 'Cathedral' of motorcycle racing. Pedrosa ended the season with third place in the championship and went into 2003 as the favourite of many to lift the world crown.

The 17-year old went to the line for the first GP of the year with his apprenticeship completed. He was ready to race, determined to make the 2003 season his and repay the faith shown in him by Puig, Telefonica MoviStar and Honda.

Shy to a degree, Pedrosa's choirboy looks hide a steely determination. In his short career the Spaniard has mastered the intricacies of 125cc two-stroke machine set up, learned how to nurse home an ailing machine and developed a race craft that belies his tender age.

Pedrosa lay the foundations of his title win in the first half off the season dominating the 125cc field in superb style, scoring three victories and a second place along the way. At mid-season point he faltered slightly, but his race craft saw him through a difficult time. The blue Telefonica liveried team regrouped and struck back with a fine victory at the Czech GP, at Brno in August and the title was again Pedrosa's to lose.

Two fourth places, at Estoril and Rio were followed by a brilliant ride at Motegi when, after leading the race by almost 10 seconds, a steering damper problem forced him to nurse the Honda home to sixth place and set up the title winning ride at Sepang today.

Pedrosa has earned the respect of all who have watched his career develop and all expect him to flourish in 250cc championship he is scheduled to contest in 2004.

"You have no idea how happy I am with this championship title," said An emotional Puig. "We started this project together five years ago, with Dani, MoviStar and Honda and today we are World Champions. When I was forced to stop racing through injury I swore I would help a young rider to win a world title and we have reached our goals.

"I truly believed in Dani from the very beginning and we have watched him grow to be a champion, it's just a perfect day," Alberto added, "He's a real World Champion - he won it from the front, he's a real winner. We have to thank Honda for all the support they have given us, and of course Telefonica MoviStar. I am very proud of this team and what they have done.

"We are going to move up to the 250cc class next season and we will approach 250 racing as we did the 125 class," Puig stated. "We will need time to adjust in the first year. After that we hope to be in a really good position, able to fight for the championship."



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