This certainly was not the start of the season that Jorge Lorenzo and Ducati dreamed of. Things not only did not come to fruition, but there is the impression that there are times when things are moving backwards more than forwards. There is a lot of pressure. After the fiasco over the weekend at the GP of the Americas in Austin, harsh statements served by the normally placid Andrea Dovizioso regarding the lack of organization in the Ducati box demonstrated that things are on edge in the Ducati garage. Ironically, inside of this storm, the one person that seems to have his head about him the most is the customarily "more demanding" Jorge Lorenzo.
Sport Rider: You've always been a very strong cerebral rider. How do you manage an emotional situation as difficult as the one you are going through? Do you talk to someone, look for some help?
Jorge Lorenzo: No, the truth is I put it all on myself. I have no psychologist, no one. I have enough experience to know that this is the sport, I mean, sometimes there are moments that things don’t come together for different reasons. In this case this reason is quite clear: a bike change that is more difficult than I expected.
SR: Sorry to insist, but it shouldn’t be so easy not to have someone to share hard times with. Usually we all have someone to support us, be it a professional or someone else close to us. Especially for being an elite athlete, I’m surprised that this person doesn’t exist in your life.
JL: No, I'm used to absorbing my problems and forgetting them when I need to forget them, thinking about something else when it’s time to not think about them, and analyzing them when it’s time to analyze. It’s a matter of putting the pieces of the puzzle in place until they all fit together and from there things start to work. I’m clear that there is nothing that will come to me all of a sudden, but it will come from improving one tenth at a time, from half a tenth to one tenth. Until finally you are getting closer and closer to where you want to be.
SR: Two years ago, in 2015, you also had a very difficult start to the championship. Then you went to Jerez and won, and after the race you commented that the difference between the previous races had been that you had decided to "ride by instinct." Can the two situations be compared? Can you see the solutions to the current problems the same way, by letting go and not giving so much thought to things?
JL: My instinct makes me ride like [I’m on] the Yamaha. With the Yamaha, if you're pushing too hard, you go slow. We’ve seen it in many cases, like with (Ben) Spies who did well early on but then had a difficult time, or with (Pol) Espargaró, who is a very aggressive rider which hinders him from going fast. The riders who have gone faster with the Yamaha have been finesse riders...(Colin) Edwards, Valentino or myself. With the Yamaha, what you have to do is slow down a bit in the beginning, because the bike doesn’t allow you to brake neither very aggressively nor very late, and get off the brakes early and open the gas early. With the Ducati, it’s exactly the opposite: I have to be very aware that I have to brake later, more forcefully, to generate more weight transfer. On the other hand, I have to use the rear brake, which with the Yamaha I never used; Braking the motorcycle by sliding the rear wheel. That’s the opposite of the Yamaha. Also, to spin this bike a little more, you have to open the gas aggressively and make it slide a bit in the middle of the corner. With the Yamaha, that did not work...it's a different world. It's like playing in a very offensive football league and suddenly you have to go to play in Italy, where you play basically on the defensive.
SR: Braking, cornering and acceleration; in the three phases of a corner, you’ve always stood out in the last two, and those have been the strength of your riding. With the Ducati, on the other hand, it seems like you have to sacrifice cornering and improve braking; Is that true? That you sacrifice the corner to improve under braking?
JL: It depends. If you look at (Alvaro) Bautista, he also is strong in cornering, and if you look at Dovizioso, he only has braking and no cornering. It's more a matter of being a bit more aggressive with the brakes and on the gas, and using mostly the rear brake. Basically being more fluid entering the corner, entering the corner faster instead inside the corner. In the end, a rider who corners well will always have a few more kilometers [of speed]. Maybe I won’t get to the level of cornering that I had with the Yamaha, now my cornering is about 5 kph slower, but I’ll make it up in other areas, like acceleration. I have to make the most of our engine power and our good management anti-wheelie management; On the other hand, the good stability under braking allows me to brake later...I have to compensate for what I lose in the middle of the corner by braking later and accelerating better.
SR: Reviewing the riders who have come to Ducati in recent years from Yamaha—Rossi, Dovizioso, and Cal Crutchlow—the results reflect that they all had adaptation problems. Are you concerned about the comparisons with them?
JL: Comparing Rossi's results to mine is very misleading, because in 2010 there were four strong bikes. The others were light years away and if you finished 45 seconds back you were fifth or sixth; And now if you end up at that [same] distance, you are 15th. There are so many competitive bikes, so much equality. It’s also true that the Ducati today is more complete than the Rossi Ducati, but on the contrary, I repeat, there are many more official and good bikes than before.
SR: All the Ducati riders agree that the Desmosedici is a very physical bike. Can you explain what this means exactly? Why does a Ducati tire wear more than other bikes? Where is it more demanding?
JL: The bike right now just does not stop when you pull the brakes. That's why Ducati riders use the rear brake much, so that this inertia that the bike has does not tire your arms so much, because it requires a lot of arm strength. Then the engine is very nervous, especially at high speed. In fact, you also have to use a little rear brake to calm the bike down in some corners. In those two phases, under braking and under acceleration at high speed, the bike is more physical. Instead, on the straights is a bike much more stable, it moves less, there you can relax a little ... But yes, in general, it tires you out more, and riding it makes your pulse beat faster.
SR: Did you have to change your usual method of physical preparation for this bike?
JL: Yes, I have more muscle now, I'm stronger.
SR: Mentally it must be difficult to accept that a riding style that has allowed you to win 5 titles, especially the three in MotoGP, is no longer working. It must not be easy to accept that.
JL: I view the situation as a very challenging goal, a challenge that only (Casey) Stoner conquered. It’s also true that at the time the bike was very complicated, but in 2007 the power advantage with respect to the Yamaha and the Honda was minimal. He also had the Bridgestone tires, which compared to the Michelin, made a huge difference, especially the front. In 2008 he won some races, in 2009 also a few, and some in 2010, but it wasn’t the same as in 2007. Only Stoner has been able to consistently win races and win the title once [with Ducati]. Yes, it is true that at this moment Bautista has adapted very well to the bike, Dovizioso is going faster than me, and also (Danilo) Petrucci, (Scott) Redding and the rest, but I think when I find the click, I think my level may be something higher than these riders. It actually should be the case now, because after all Ducati signed me for that! But I firmly believe that when I get to understand how to go fast with this bike, as I have managed to understand all the bikes I have ridden in my career, I can take one step more than what the others are producing.
SR: From what you’ve explained, the way to do it is clear, but now you have to move from theory to practice.
JL: Applying it is the most complicated! (Laughs) Anyone talking can be very brave, but then you have to [put the plan into action].
SR: How is your relationship with (crew chief) Cristian Gabarrini? That’s another new factor in your work.
JL: Excellent, very good, he is the calmest person who transmits the most confidence that I have experienced up to this point. He is very good professional and a very good person.
SR: Is the method of working in with Italian team very different compared to in a Japanese garage? Do you see a big difference in the character and mentality when it comes to working?
JL: At Ducati, you have less time to try something. They don’t need to do so many tests with so many kilometers. That's good for speed, but it can be bad because that piece can fail more easily.
SR: Another thing you have to get used to.
JL: Yes, but the presence of (Gigi) Dall'Igna makes everything much more organized.
SR: Having Dovizioso be ahead in Qatar and Argentina is a good sign, right? It means that the bike has potential.
JL: Yes, for Dovi, who almost won in Qatar, as well as Bautista, who finished 6 seconds behind Viñales in Argentina. Six seconds in 25 laps, that means two or three tenths per lap. It's not much; The bike is not more than two tenths slower than the Yamaha.
SR: I asked Márquez what Viñales was doing with the Yamaha that you were not doing and he told me that Viñales was braking late but didn’t lose your cornering speed. Have you noticed if this is so?
JL: With the Bridgestones, the truth is that I reached a very high level, but with the Michelin it was very inconsistent. It depended on the tires they gave me and the track conditions; I didn’t get to be as regular as with the Bridgestone. Viñales instead is consistent at all the circuits and it’s because he knows how to use the rear brake. I didn’t use it with the Yamaha, it wasn’t as necessary as it is with the Ducati, for example, but Viñales does, and that helps him not to weight the front so much. Braking only with the front is very effective, and in water, for example, this is very good because you brake with both wheels. I wish I had understood this trick and applied it on the Yamaha, because I could have slowed down later and I wouldn’t have always had that handicap under braking. Surely last year I lost because of that. For Maverick, at the moment it’s necessary to start well, and it costs him to catch the pace in the first few laps. But I think he's a great rider, mainly because of his rear brake technique, and is more complete than I was last year.
SR: You know Valentino better than anyone else, how do you explain that in the race he is capable of going seven tenths faster than in practice, as happened for example in Argentina?
JL: (Smiles) I don’t know, it's a big question that only he knows the answer to.