MotoGP motorcycling’s rock-and-roll almost-man Dani Pedrosa has climbed above the Nicky Hayden to become the sport’s youngest series leader after a resurgent finish to his campaign.
Dani, the 28-year-old Spanish rider, has pipped the current points leader Hayden by more than five points with three races remaining.
His two wins in Australia and Japan, coupled with Hayden’s and fellow Honda veteran Marc Marquez’s crashes, allowed Pedrosa to surge to the top of the standings after 14 races.
And although Hayden and Marquez remain firmly in contention, and third-placed Jorge Lorenzo needs to finish in the top six at the season’s penultimate event in Valencia on Sunday to guarantee his place in the next season’s series, it’s now Pedrosa who has all the momentum on his side.
Eight years on from his first GP in Australia, Pedrosa is not only the two-time defending champion in the class, but this is a victory for determination and spirit.
He has spent his entire career nursing the lingering effects of a crash in Malaysia in 2009 that derailed his promising start to his career.
It took a total of 3,507 days before Pedrosa won his maiden title, a remarkable statistic even if he was not involved in any of the many fatal crashes the Honda squad has suffered over the years.
Dani Pedrosa started in Sunday’s final race of the season in Spain on pole.
It’s fitting that he won it with such great energy and passion. Once again, Pedrosa has stunned his team, Honda, and others in the world of motorcycling by fighting his way to the top again.
His nemesis Hayden, who is riding the final season of his career, is sure to study the late withdrawal of the three-time champion with concerns about his overall progress.
And, as he has often done, Hayden believes he will finish his career on a high.
“There are just three races to go now so I am optimistic,” Hayden told BBC Sport.
“It was nice to overtake Marquez at the end of Malaysia and with a strong finish on Sunday here I believe I can finish the season on a high.
“Unfortunately I’ll miss a lot of championships, but I hope we can finish with a podium.”
In the middle of this rollercoaster championship, Motosport Magazine have created a golden retrospective of series history, back to 1977 when Hayden became the youngest MotoGP champion, just before meeting and marrying the woman who would be his wife.
However, as well as deifying Hayden, we also honour a MotoGP rider who has been one of the sport’s most bitter rivals – the Honda man Marc Marquez, for several seasons now.
Marquez can clearly still improve. His previous-best finish in a non-knockout MotoGP race was fifth, at the same rally in Losail, Qatar, in July 2014 when Valentino Rossi was the surprise winner.
After bagging the 2013 world title with the same win and finishing third last year, he has also claimed victory in Spain in 2016, and the last-ditch, dramatic win at the season-opener in Qatar to put himself in pole position.
Over the last three years, Marquez is almost scoring nine times his points count at a grand prix and has a head-to-head advantage of 834 points over his nearest rival, Marquez.