In 2011, Jorge Lorenzo was good but Casey Stoner was better. This season the roles are reversed. Stoner is struggling while the Majorcan who now makes his home in Barcelona is having a dream season. Through the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, Lorenzo had been either first or second in every race except one; in the early summer Dutch TT he was taken out by fellow Spaniard Alvaro Bautista in the first corner. That gave Stoner an opening to claw back points, but he threw away those points with a crash two corners from the end of the following weekend’s German Grand Prix.
Lorenzo’s crew chief Ramon...
Lorenzo’s crew chief Ramon Forcada (right) says that his rider has a new maturity that has him focused and ready the minute he arrives at the track
Ramon Forcada is Lorenzo’s longtime crew chief. What Forcada has seen from his charge is a new maturity. From the minute he gets to the track he’s focused and ready. Unlike his teammate, Ben Spies, Lorenzo voraciously devours and analyzes data. Also unlike Spies, he’s ready to go from the start, though he still can’t match the fast-starting Pedrosa.
“Well, I always try to improve every time,” Lorenzo said in the Yamaha office at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he’d go on to finish a distant second to Pedrosa a few days later after his choice of the soft rear Bridgestone proved unwise. “Was not good as a rider. Before I didn’t make any good starts, so probably in the last two years I was improving. All the starts this year I made almost every race a good start. Also riding on the wet was not one of my best skills in the past, but I improve a lot.” Then he added, “I don’t think it’s so much difference between this year compared to last year. I think the main difference is the bike. It’s much more competitive. So like this I can be more relaxed, I can be more constant, I can finish more races, because I don’t need to push more than 100 percent every race to stay with the Hondas.”
Where the Yamaha YZR-M1 is better “in some type of corners, my bike is more stable. For example, in the two corners before the last one at Jerez, the fast rights, was more stable, I think. The medium speed corners or even a little faster corners, my bike is more stable. Also in the entry of the corners, probably it’s a little easier to enter.”
That final comment is a crucial. Stoner and Pedrosa believe the newest generation Bridgestone fronts are causing chatter. Pinning down and removing chatter is difficult, especially since this year’s rear tires warm up faster, but also degrade more quickly.
“Maybe the tires from this year are much better for warm-up, the first two laps. This avoids a lot of crashes of riders,” Lorenzo said. “This year almost not any crashes about cold tires. But for the opposite the rear tire is dropping a lot at the end of the race. So in some races we have more problems than the Honda with the rear tire, but maybe for the opposite the front tire, the 33, is more adapted to our bike. So for one side the rear tire is some races for us. For the Honda maybe the 33 was a problem. So you can never have the perfect bike, the perfect tires. Is difficult to find it.”
On the other side of the ledger, “the Honda, maybe it turns a little bit more and in some stop-and-go tracks have a little advantage. This year, to be honest, we are very equal. Maybe Honda is improving. Every three or four races they have more pieces. Yamaha is a little bit more slow. And probably the Honda of now is a little better than the Honda in the first part of the championship. But anyway, I’m very happy this year because at least I’m able to fight.”
Fighting is what got Lorenzo into trouble earlier in his career. The firebrand that got himself in trouble during his 250 days is much more calm, more Zen-like. He keeps his emotions under control and is unfailingly polite. When he’s critical of another rider or racetrack, he speaks in measured tones. Coming through the ranks his nickname was “Por Fuera,” a Spanish phrase meaning “on the outside,” which is how he often passed others and not always cleanly. Now he’s in better control of everything, including his emotions. A seminal event in 2005 at Motegi changed his career.
Lorenzo was battling with Alex de Angelis when de Angelis ran wide on the final lap. Fourth at the time, Lorenzo tried passing both de Angelis and Dani Pedrosa, but ran into de Angelis. Lorenzo didn’t finish the race, de Angelis was seventh, and Hiroshi Aoyama scored his historic first win at his home track. Lorenzo was penalized one race for the incident, which he thought was harsh at the time, but on reflection now believes was fair.
Up to the Red Bull Indianapolis...
Up to the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, Lorenzo had not finished lower than second in 11 races, except for being taken out in the first corner of the Dutch TT at Assen by fellow Spaniard Alvaro Bautista.
Unlike his teammate Ben Spies,...
Unlike his teammate Ben Spies, Lorenzo voraciously devours and analyzes data with the team, including the post race debriefs, which has endeared him to the factory Japanese engineers who are just as hungry to win.
Lorenzo feels that the 1000cc...
Lorenzo feels that the 1000cc M1 is much more competitive with the Hondas than the previous 800cc version. “I can be more relaxed, I can be more constant, I can finish more races, because I don’t need to push more than 100 percent every race to stay with the Hondas.”
“I think it was correct,” he said. “I made a big mistake in this corner trying to overtake Dani (Pedrosa) and also Alex (de Angelis) going so far from them. Of course I was only 17 and in this period I thought it was not fair the penalty, but now with 25-years-old I think this penalty change my mind completely and made me be a much more conscious rider, a much more safe rider. Without this penalty probably I would not change so much my mind and my behavior.”
The incident was revisited when Bautista took out Lorenzo in Assen. Lorenzo believes the FIM Sporting Regulation 1.21.2 which says, “Riders must ride in a responsible manner which does not cause danger to other competitors or participants, either on the track or in the pit-lane,” should have specific penalties for specific infractions.
“Yeah, I think this will be fair,” he said. “For example in basketball, any touch (while the opposing player is shooting) is a foul. In soccer, if you don’t touch the ball and you touch the other people it’s a yellow card or red card. The motorcycle world is much more dangerous and …there is not any penalty described. We must have this, no? In the Formula 1 every little touch is one penalty for the next race or you have to pay a lot of thousands of euros. In the motorcycle, no? And who is more dangerous, the Formula 1 or the motorcycle? Who is more dangerous, soccer or basketball or the motorcycle? The answer is clear.” Talk like this rankles some of those who came before him, who believe that too many MotoGP riders are too soft and not up to the cut-and-thrust of their era.
“I think the motorcycle is already very dangerous without touching, without contact, for not having any penalty when there is some contact, no?” Lorenzo said. “We can’t avoid the slide and the crashes when you are alone, but we can avoid to make the riders be more conscious of the risk.” He added. “You must be conscious about the risk.”
Lorenzo also feels the speed of the 1000s is an unnecessary risk. The highest top speed so far this season was at Mugello where Rossi hit 215.564 mph on his Desmosedici GP12.
“I think so, I think so,” Lorenzo answered when asked if he thought the 1000s were too fast. “It’s very difficult that some incidents happen on the straight. Normally it happens in the corner. In the corners, I must say, the electronics is some reason is not good, maybe for the show is not good, but for safety of the riders in the last years have helped a lot, no? Because now it’s very difficult to see a rider crashing opening the throttle.” Lorenzo made his comments before Stoner, Spies, and Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden all had horrifying high-sides in qualifying at the Indy GP. “Save a lot of crashes. But for me it’s too fast on the straight…350 kilometers per hour is too fast and I think Dorna is thinking about changing this, so I would be happy if this happens.”
Wayne Rainey and his fellow three-time 500cc World Champion Kenny Roberts believe the electronics could be removed. When told that the riders insisted they were necessary, Roberts answered with a blunt, “Bullshit.” Lorenzo’s only experience riding without electronics was at Laguna Seca last year. While practicing a start, Lorenzo didn’t follow the sequence necessary to trigger the launch control. He went barreling into Turn 5 and was high-sided.