The brilliant tactical victory by Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa in last weekend's Portuguese Grand Prix in Estoril was further evidence of the dominance of Spanish riders.
After last year's MotoGP World Championship, there can be no question that the best road racers in the world are Spanish. For the first time ever, riders from the same country won all three classes in the Road Racing World Championship and that country was Spain.
Spanish world champions are nothing new. Angel Nieto is second all-time with 13 world championships. But those titles came in the 60's, 70's and 80's in the smaller displacement classes. It wasn't until 1999 that Alex Criville became the first Spaniard to win a title in the premier class.
And it would be more than a decade before another Spaniard, Jorge Lorenzo, took the first MotoGP World Championship back to Spain. The next one won't take as long.
No country supports motorcycle racing more than Spain and no rider embodies the Spanish system more than Dani Pedrosa. The triple World Champion from Sabadell, in the rider-rich region of Catalunya, is not only a product of the system that has produced a host of strong riders, but also active in making sure the system prospers.
Last year Pedrosa had his best season ever, winning four times and finishing second twice. This season has started even better. Pedrosa was third in Qatar, second in Jerez, and in Portugal last weekend won a thrilling battle with fellow countryman Lorenzo to take an unexpected 13th MotoGP victory.
Pedrosa entered the race unsure if his surgically repaired left shoulder would withstand the rigors of the race. The shoulder and collarbone were painful and uncomfortable, but not debilitating, and Pedrosa made an impressive late race surge to lead the Repsol Honda team to a 1-3-4 finish. Casey Stoner was third, Andrea Dovizioso fourth.
The Spanish government, which finances circuit development, deserves some of the credit; the country has more world class race tracks than any other country. Four rounds of the MotoGP World Championship run in Spain and there are a number of very good facilities that are just below world level. Learning their craft on safe tracks allows riders to concentrate 100% on racing, which prepares them for the world stage. Five of the seven races in the CEV Buckler Spanish national championship are held on grand prix tracks.
The CEV Buckler has been run by Dorna, the MotoGP rights holder, since 1998 as a steppingstone to MotoGP. Their aim has been to develop young talent to move to the next level. The class structure mimics MotoGP, with 125cc, Moto2, though not with control engines, and a big bore class.
The day before Pedrosa won at the Estoril Circuit, and between qualifying, debriefing, and physical therapy, we sat down with Dani in Honda's hospitality unit to find out why he and his fellow countryman are on top of the road racing world.