Dani Pedrosa was delighted to turn his weekend in Austria around, from appearing lost on Saturday morning to securing his seventh podium in nine races, maintaining his world championship hopes in the process.

The Spaniard was unable to find a suitable feeling with Michelin’s tyres, allocated for the weekend, at points throughout free practice, leaving him 15th in FP3, which forced him into the 15-minute Q1 shootout.

Yet, despite an underwhelming eighth place in qualifying, Pedrosa bridged the gap to the leaders with ease, and soon found himself third, reeling in the battling Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Marquez.

Sensing an opportunity to fight for even more than a podium finish, the 31-year old found his hard rear tyre to be spinning excessively, leaving the front two to scrap spectacularly among themselves for the win.

Still, third place and 16 points was a good return at a race track where Honda and the RC213V were expected to struggle significantly.

“I’m happy because it was a difficult weekend and we struggled a lot in the practice,” said Pedrosa. “I never had the correct feeling on the track with the tyres. It was really key to start well and to have a better pace today. We go for the hard rear and actually in the race I think it was quite an interesting race for me because I did a quite good strategy at the beginning.

“I wasn’t that fast, but I wasn’t making mistakes so I could get the correct line on track and make a few passes. Little by little [I was] picking up the pace and getting better feeling. I was struggling all weekend with the front locking in the braking and a lot of rear spin.

“I tried to manage in the race because I had not so much feeling in the tyres. When I got to third I was already happy but then these two started to disturb each other. I was getting closer and closer but I was spinning so much that then when they get back to the rhythm I had no more drive to stay in touch, unfortunately. But [I’m] very happy overall to turn around the weekend and be today in the podium.”

As Pedrosa moved toward the front, he had to overcome the fast-starting Jorge Lorenzo. Scrapping with his countryman and old foe for several laps, the Repsol Honda man moved by on the front straight, a most unusual sight, considering the Ducati’s usual top speed advantage.

Although Lorenzo was struggling with top speed, courtesy of engaging a fuel map that conserved fuel, but also lost top speed, Pedrosa stated his pleasure at the recent gains Honda engineers have found in acceleration.

“Obviously in Honda we’ve been working a lot in the acceleration,” Pedrosa said. “We have last year proved that braking was not an issue compared to the rest, but we did have this disadvantage going out of the turns.

“We are working towards improving that area. We are getting better and better but still we have a few problems. I don’t think we are still the best. When I was today behind the Yamahas – I don't know if it was because of the grip or for what reason, but they were faster going out of the turns.

“But little improvements we make better for the acceleration. In the past, we were very strong accelerating but then we lost this advantage. Now we are trying to improve that side until the end of the season.”

While maintaining his recent record of strong finishes – disturbed only by lacklustre showings at Mugello and Assen – Pedrosa fell further behind in the title fight. The 31-year old now sits 35 points behind leader Marquez.

However, when asked if this remains a five-rider title fight, both Dovizioso and Marquez were unequivocal. “For me it’s five,” came the Italian’s response. “One hundred percent.” Marquez agreed: “Yes, five [riders].”


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