Dani Pedrosa battled through the pain barrier to win the Portuguese MotoGP yesterday less than a month after shoulder surgery.
Honda’s Spanish star swept past world champion and pole-setter Jorge Lorenzo with three laps to go to claim his debut win in Estoril and his first of the season.
It was a remarkable performance considering his date with the surgeon’s knife in Barcelona on April 6 after finishing second in the Spanish Grand Prix.
Pedrosa required an operation after suffering multiple fractures to his left shoulder in a crash in testing for the Japanese Grand Prix last October.
“It was very difficult for me after the surgery — to be here is incredible,” he told the BBC after stunning Lorenzo, who was firm favorite to win for the fourth consecutive year in Estoril. “It was an amazing race. At the end I didn’t want to be second again, I tried and it happened. I’m very thankful for the doctors to get me ready — I’m in a lot of pain now.”
After the third leg of the season Lorenzo retained his lead in the world championship on 65 points, but Pedrosa is now only four points adrift on 61.
Lorenzo, who had led the race until Pedrosa overtook him as if he was standing still, paid tribute to the winner.
“I certainly didn’t let him pass,” Lorenzo smiled. “He was faster — I was pushing, it was tiring for me as he had to follow me — but he had a better race and deserved the win. At least we’ve picked up some points, that’s important for the championship.”
Pedrosa had started on the front row in third place and he tracked Lorenzo, before making his winning move.
After taking the lead he posted two fastest laps, before crossing the line more than three seconds clear of Lorenzo, with another Honda rider, Australian Casey Stoner, 7.658 seconds back in third.
There was then a 16-second gap back to Italy’s Andrea Dovizioso, who pipped multiple champion Valentino Rossi for fourth.
Marco Simoncelli, who had a verbal spat with Lorenzo over riding styles on Saturday, only made it as far as turn four on the opening lap. The Italian, sharing the front row with Lorenzo and Pedrosa, was thrown from his Yamaha, somersaulting through the air, before sliding off into the safety gravel.
Officials were quick to rush to the scene, but he walked back to the pits unaided.
Ducati’s Spanish rider Hector Barbera crashed at the next corner, with his Czech teammate Karel Abraham’s race ending on lap two.
Lorenzo’s fellow Yamaha rider Ben Spies, who crashed on the sighting lap in Estoril last year, came to grief on lap 14.
Earlier, Germany’s Stefan Bradl won the Moto2 race, the Kalex rider coming in clear of Spain’s Julian Simon, on a Suter, and Japan’s Yuki Takahashi, riding a Moriwaki.