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Dani Pedrosa nudges the door open to a KTM wildcard return?

Dani Pedrosa says he wouldn't completely rule out a wildcard return to the MotoGP World Championship to assist the KTM project

Dani Pedrosa - KTM Factory

Dani Pedrosa has admitted he would be willing to discuss a return to racing in the MotoGP World Championship but only if it would bring a marked benefit to KTM.

The Spaniard is the most successful rider never to win a MotoGP World Championship after notching up 31 victories in 236 starts during a career that spanned 13 seasons between 2006 to 2018, all with Repsol Honda.

Replaced in the title-winning team by Jorge Lorenzo in 2019, Pedrosa turned down an opportunity to join Petronas SRT Yamaha – prompting it to sign Fabio Quartararo instead – in favour of a development role with the burgeoning KTM Factory team instead.

Already credited with bringing improvements to the Austrian team, this year’s RC16 was to be the first KTM model to be designed with his significant input.

However, though the likes of Suzuki, Ducati and Aprilia often enter their development riders for occasional wildcard outings, to date he has resisted calls to return in a racing capacity. He also turned down the offer a full-time return when Johann Zarco unexpectedly quit the team.

Even so, in an interview with DAZN, though Pedrosa is still against the idea of him starting another MotoGP race, he says he would discuss it if it was beneficial to the project.

“Not at the moment no,” he responded to a question as to whether he would race again. “We need to work on the bike. When next year’s bike arrives we’ll see. At the moment we’re trying parts, it’s not the time to try it in a race.

“As it stands, right now, I’ll tell you no. Not because there are no races, but because it doesn’t make sense to the project. If they do consider that it would be the right time and would benefit the project, we’d talk about it.”

Explaining why he doesn’t see the benefit of development riders competing, he says there isn’t much you can glean from new parts during the limited practice sessions you get compared with private testing. 

“I’ve seen in Grands Prix that Bradl did a wildcard for Honda, with the hard tyre or a special new part. But because those who are really making the difference are running other parts, the best you can do at that moment is use it to set a reference. And if you put on the hard tyre and go a second slower, you’ll see you go slower. Apart from that, I don’t think it serves for much more.

“When you go a second slower, the bike goes totally differently and what you say when you get to the box is completely different. The tests are really good because you have all day and you can draw a conclusion at the end. That gives you the guide to keep improving. A Grand Prix is so specific and it’s crucial to be in the same form as the rest, including the tyre that everyone is running, the gears… If not, you don’t get a lot of information.”

Could we ever see Dani Pedrosa start a MotoGP race again?

Never say never, but not unless he really needs to seems to be Pedrosa’s view. A rider that has always been focused on the technical element of competing, the Spaniard was always famously reluctant to do everything else that came with it, such as media engagements.

KTM might consider that a shame because his very competitive lap times – sometimes quicker than Pol Espargaro – during pre-season testing suggests the pint-size Pedrosa has lost none of his speed with a year out from competing.

His words do provide an interesting insight into what a team may expect from its test rider though. Jorge Lorenzo says he chose a race comeback at the Circuit de Catalunya because he believes he can be competitive there even without race fitness.

However, a test rider’s role to test parts over a race weekend means Yamaha would probably have different ideas for what the Spaniard needs to do rather than chase fast times and a good result.