Motorcycling: Pedrosa has lived with the hype, but can he take the heat as the new Rossi?

Dani Pedrosa is living in a world of tension, emotion and wild expectations that would drive most people to lock the door and put their head under a cushion.

Billed as having the potential to be better than five-times world champion Valentino Rossi, the 20-year-old Spaniard gets his first chance to prove it tomorrow and in front of his own countrymen at Jerez to boot

You could excuse the boy - he has the looks and stature of a teenager - for backing out of the frenzy surrounding his debut with the élite in motorcycling and retiring to a bar in his home town of Sabadell, near Barcelona, to watch the race on television over a beer.

But Pedrosa and his mentor, the dour former racer Alberto Puig, remain calm. "Dani doesn't care much about these things," says Puig, who has already nurtured Pedrosa to world championships in the 125 and 250cc classes.

In one respect, Pedrosa and Puig, 39, are identical to the legendary Rossi, 27, and his crew chief Jerry Burgess, a 52-year-old Australian: they crush the opposition. But in personalities the two partnerships are from different planets.

The extrovert Rossi is famous for clowning around; Burgess likes to saunter to the Camel Yamaha hospitality lounge after qualifying sessions to relax with a drink. The pair are the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid of the MotoGP world, kicking over tables, shooting out the lights and leaving the opposition in tatters as they ride into the sunset after another victory.

Pedrosa is a veteran of around 80 grands prix, but is an introvert and still looks nervous at functions. Puig - pronounced "Pwitch" - is a deep, intense, hard man: he shattered his left leg and his racing career in a 160mph crash at Le Mans in 1995. He then dedicated himself to developing world champions for motorcycle-mad Spain, and has succeeded brilliantly with Pedrosa.

"Alberto was the man who believed in my ability and taught me to be where I am now," Pedrosa says. "He never gives up even if the situation is very bad."

Pedrosa is conscious of the growing belief that he is the new Rossi. "I hear this 100 times a day," he says. "But I'm not the one to do it right now. I really don't care what they say. In the end, you do things for yourself."

Where does Puig expect Pedrosa to finish in his rookie season? "I will not answer that," he says. "The only thing we plan is to understand the machine and the tyres. When we get this right he will be first."

Pedrosa and Puig's attitude is understandable: winning the MotoGP championship is so hard that only 22 riders have managed it in the series' 54-year history. "All champions have certain characteristics, and at the top of them is ruthlessness," an insider in Pedrosa's Repsol Honda team said. "And Dani's definitely got that."

Pedrosa started racing on minibikes, and in 1998, at the age of 12, won the Spanish championship. But his carpenter father was not earning enough to fund more racing, and his son's career almost foundered.

The family replied to an advertisement seeking contenders for Puig's new 125cc youth series. Dani impressed and became one of Puig's elegidos - chosen ones.

In 2001 he entered his first grand prix, at 15 years of age. Thirteen days after his 18th birthday in 2003, he won his first world title in the 125cc class. He then progressed to the 170mph 250cc bikes, and swept that category in 2005.

So what did Puig see in the boy whose feet could not even touch the ground when he first tried a 125cc bike?

"He was a special kid: his natural talent is very high," Puig says. "He was not fast at that time, but he had nice lines on the bike and he always listened carefully."

Honda had been having problems getting their 215mph RCV211V to handle properly. The 330lb bike weighs three times more than Pedrosa's spindly 8st. But Puig will not use that to justify any lack of results. "Excuses are for mediocrities and losers," he said.

MotoGP's organisers must be marvelling at their luck. If Rossi, who was fastest in practice yesterday, quits at the end of the season for a new challenge on four wheels, they have Pedrosa to replace him. First, though, the boy must become a man, starting tomorrow.

MotoGP race days

Tomorrow Jerez (Sp)

8 April Losail (Qatar) (Sat race)

30 April Istanbul (Tur)

14 May Shanghai (China)

21 May Le Mans (Fr)

4 June Mugello (It)

18 June Barcelona (Sp)

24 June Assen, Neth

(Sat race)

2 July Donington (GB)

16 July Sachsenring (Ger)

23 July Laguna Seca (USA)

20 Aug Brno (Cz Rep)

10 Sept Sepang (Malay)

17 Sept Phillip Island (Aus)

24 Sept Motegi (Jap)

15 Oct Estoril (Por)

29 Oct Valencia (Sp)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'