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Why So Fickle? Lorenzo Goes From Almost Unemployable to Marquez-Challenger in Less Than Five Months

It struck me this morning that MotoGP, and perhaps sports in general, can epitomize the “What have you done for me lately?” attitude much more than most business environments. It has been said before, but Jorge Lorenzo’s past year has been quite remarkable.

Prior to his win at Mugello on June 3, 2018, after he had already been told that Ducati would not re-sign him for the 2019 series, Lorenzo was contemplating retirement … with the only prospect for continuing in MotoGP coming from a newly-formed satellite Yamaha team. His rumored, massive compensation package at Ducati about to become a pleasant memory.

On June 3, of course, Lorenzo won at Mugello in dominant fashion … and followed this with another dominant win at the very next race at Catalunya. He looked like the Lorenzo of old, a five-time World champion. Before injuries (and rain) interfered with the remainder of his season, Lorenzo took a third win in Austria and pole position at Silverstone (the day before the race was cancelled due to rain).

In more than one race last year, Lorenzo clearly had the measure of champion Marc Marquez (Honda). This was perhaps clearest at Catalunya, where Marquez simply could not maintain a withering pace set by Lorenzo and faded.

Now, of course, the conversation turns to whether Lorenzo can beat Marquez as his Repsol Honda teammate this year. A remarkable turn, no doubt, and one that must be particularly satisfying for Lorenzo.

Compounding the challenge faced by Marquez from his new teammate (who has already shown good speed on his new bike), Marquez is recovering from a very complicated surgery on his shoulder and acknowledges he will not be at 100% as testing resumes at Sepang on February 1.

34 Comments

  1. Big Al says:

    I am keeping my eye on Rossi.
    He is right in the middle of his element, crappy new engine that he gets to have reworked and superstar rivals competing on an opposing team.

    If he can keep his hands to himself and focus on adapting to his new engine then he has a definate shot.

    • PatrickD says:

      That’s Rossi territory these days 9years). Wait for the downfall of others to sneak a win. The GOAT status is well and truly lost.

      • Fred_M says:

        So once someone isn’t the current frontrunner, all of their prior achievements count for nothing? Giacomo Agostini, Mike Hailwood, Kenny Roberts, and Ángel Nieto are just sh*t to you because they can’t get out there today and compete for wins with Marquez, Lorenzo, and Dovizioso?

        Rossi isn’t in the running for GOAT, despite being the only rider to have won the World Championship in four different classes: 125cc, 250cc, 500cc, and MotoGP. His nine Grand Prix World Championships, with seven in the premier class, don’t count for anything because, at age 39, he’s no longer at the top of his game?

        Wow…

        • mickey says:

          My opinion following road racing since the late 60’s is I can’t choose a GOAT between Rossi and Agostini. Rossi 9 world titles in a multiple of classes, Agostini 15 world titles in 2 classes, I think 7 years in a row in the 350 and open often racing both classes on the same day. Nieto had 13 titles but only in the small bore classes which they don’t tun anymore. Of course being from different generations with different motorcycles you really can’t compare them head to head.

          Rossi is amazing in his desire and skill level at his age, but he will not get a 10th title imo, because the competition is younger, hungrier and talent laden as well, particularly Marquez, but also Dovi and Lorenzo and Vinales and Zarco (although now that Zarco is on a KTM I doubt he will be challenging for much anytime soon). Rossi’s certainly not washed up, but he’s not at the top of his game anymore, and that’s understandable. His best chance for a 10th was in 2015 and that was a straw grasp that didn’t work out. The only way for Rossi to do it now, would be due to the misfortune of others, but that doesn’t diminish what he HAS accomplished in a tremendous career. (and technically IMO he should have ten already, since again IMO, he really should have won in 2006). There that should get some guys fired up.

  2. mickey says:

    This may blow up in Honda’s face. There may be peace in the Honda box now, but not if MM & JLo happen to rub paint once or twice. JLo doesn’t like that, and is usually very verbal about it. Of course MM will just blow his comments off, but it could make for some real tension in the box and at press conferences. Will certainly be interesting to watch.

    Can’t wait for the start of the season.

  3. PatrickD says:

    JL took some time to shake off the (unfair, IMHO) poor public image that he has had.
    Of course, he dared to beat Rossi on the same bike, and anyone who follows MotoGP for the past 2 decades knows that you cannot beat VR in the Public Relations arena. You have to be quite introverted to deflect the onslaught of public and press opinion. That’s the difference between, on one hand, the likes of Gibernau & Biaggi, who went to ground by character assassination, and JL & Marquez, who just circle the wagons and get on with the winning.
    JL has mentioned some things already that mirror Casey stoner’s transition from Ducati to Repsol. Like changes being made quickly and keeping the rider happy. Ducati seems to be hampered with slow responses still, even though they have a genius with bike development.
    Repsol are no mugs. Whilst we all marvel at the Crash-on-Saturday, Win-on-Sunday approach of Marquez every weekend, we’ve seen that he can hurt, and this shoulder issue shows that he isn’t steel forged after all.
    Repsol have got 2 riders who can take a title. The only other title winner on the grid hasn’t won one in a decade.

  4. arrowrod says:

    If Lorenzo gets Pedrosa’s bike, he will finish in the middle. If he finishes in the mid ranks, he will quit pushing.
    I think it is a mistake to pay top dollar to old has-beens. Honda has the money to throw away, though. My opinion: Promote Moto2 talent.

    • PatrickD says:

      “In the middle”
      Don’t drink-and-type. If you don’t think that JL will be a part of several 1-2 finishes with his teammate in 2019, your bias (for whatever reason) is badly clouding your judgement.

    • Ricky Crue says:

      You seriously have to be drunk, or stupid, or both 🙂 JL has ALREADY shown great speed on the Honda, and unless you are new to the sport there is no denying JL’s tenacity and racecraft. What he did on the Ducati once they got him comfortable shows he’s still hungry to win, and battle to do so. IMHO he may not have the do or die win at all cost attitude that Marquez has, but I don’t see that as a deficit. You can’t win championships crashing, or missing races due to injury. I will be really shocked if he performs poorly on the Honda.

    • Peter H says:

      The fifth winning rider in the history of Motogp, early 30s, incredibly disciplined – not so washed up. The narrative last year was – he’s complaining about ducati because he can’t ride it and has given up – ducati finally listens to his “complaints” and he wins decisively in head to head with MM. Took AD 7 years to do that.

      Lorenzo does not stop pushing, he is a driven man, he has a lot of pride and a surprising amount of self awareness, he is a great rider, and Honda does not throw away money.

      Honda has already given him changes he’s requested, so he’s not getting Pedrosa’s bike. Should be an interesting season.

  5. Jeremy in TX says:

    There are only three guys on the grid who have won premier class championships, and only two of them have done so in the better part of a decade. Lorenzo is one of them.

    There is indeed some fickle behavior on the part of the teams. For one of the greats to almost have no options available to him besides a satellite Yamaha from a team that wasn’t even confirmed yet at the time, seems ludicrous.

    But then maybe his asking price was pretty ludicrous even in the absence of good job prospects? Otherwise, we should have expected Suzuki to be falling all over themselves to sign him.

    Honda now arguably employs the two best riders in GP. The other lead teams should probably feel pretty shaken up about that.

    • TimC says:

      As far as teams go, it must be considered how few top-tier rides/teams there even are (at the moment, 2 though some will argue 3). Until this totally unexpected Honda development (they seemed to be content with a good thing going, clear #1 etc), there wasn’t really an option/slot, regardless of who might be interested.

  6. viktor92 says:

    I’m not a fan of Lorenzo, but I like him better after the bath of humility he had in Ducati, and this year I fervently hope that he defeats Marquez in every possible race

  7. John says:

    I’m all for Lorenzo on the Resol team with Marquez, hopefully it will make MotoGP more interesting. I like Marquez, but I like racing more and I was hoping the entire season would be more like 2017 and the first race of 2018 where Dovi and Marquez battled until the last corner of the last lap. I just don’t enjoy racing that isn’t close, or is dominated by one rider or team. I want every race to be like Phillip Island in 2017.

  8. HS1 says:

    It seems that the most interesting correlation here is the 180 degree change in performance that came right after he learned that his big paydays were on the brink of disappearing.

  9. downgoesfraser says:

    Athletes at his level all have foibles, get over it. Jorge is a pit bull.

  10. joe b says:

    The side story to all of this is how Rossi must feel?

    • Pacer says:

      What does Rossi have to do with this?

    • Fred_M says:

      Rossi was the oldest rider in the MotoGP paddock last year. He’s got nine Grand Prix World Championships to his name, seven of which were in the premier class. He’s the the only ridero have won the World Championship in four different classes: 125cc, 250cc, 500cc, and MotoGP.

      I hope that Rossi feels satisfaction and pride to still be racing in MotoGP in 2019 at age 39 after a record like that.

  11. charlie says:

    Dirck, Glad you opened this back up. I’m not a Lorenzo fan. The man can race as smooth as silk and has a proven record as a winner. But I think a lot of people tend to forget how much he whines and snivels and acts like a spoiled little brat.
    In an earlier post someone said, on a good day he can beat Marquez. Let’s look at what is a good day according to Jorge. No helmet malfunction (I wonder who was supposed to check his helmet for him), bike has to have a custom gas tank made to fit him (the one that works for everyone else just won’t work), no other riders can take his line on the track or he’ll have a mishap (even if they’re in front of him and faster), riders on the same team are not allowed to pass him or he’ll crash them to prevent it, he doesn’t have to compete on damp pavement or any other less than perfect conditions that the other riders are willing to put up with, and he will normally win if he doesn’t have to pass anyone to get to the front. If he goes a couple of years performing poorly we can still say he’s great and give him millions of dollars. If he should happen to win a race, expect him to stand on the ill fitting gas tank and be treated like it’s the second coming.

    Maybe I’m just not accustomed to being exposed to such greatness, but I have a lot of respect for the good racers who demonstrate talent along with humility and responsibility. Dovizioso is a good example.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Some of what you say is true, but the guy is still fast…and he has 5 world championships. This year will be very interesting.

    • bmbktmracer says:

      I think your analysis is entirely unfair since you don’t personally know the guy nor any of the background behind the scenes. I have the utmost respect for every one of the guys who have the talent and discipline to succeed at the highest levels of motorcycle racing.

    • Tim says:

      I’ve never much liked his personality either, but the guy can really race. This is his first opportunity on the most dominant bike out there. He will give Marquez all he wants next year, and I suspect Honda would love to see him beat Marquez for the championship. They’ve always been a company who seems to not like their riders out-shining their bikes. A Lorenzo championship would reaffirm (for Honda) it’s as much about the bike as the rider.

      • Curtis says:

        Agreed. Honda love to emphasize the bike over the rider. For me, seeing how Lorenzo adapts to the Honda is the big story this year. Clearly no one rides like Marquez, and although Lorenzo is probably more adaptable than we think, it will be pure entertainment seeing Lorenzo ride the Honda different than Marquez, and with what results? Let’s see!

        • Kermit says:

          Let’s ask Rossi about the which is better, the bike or rider.

          • Tim says:

            Honda made a mistake letting Rossi get away after winning them three straight championships. Rossi did win on a lesser bike. The Yamaha was lesser in terms of power at least, but reportedly better handling. This is why I still consider Rossi the GOAT, because he proved he could win on a slower bike. Marquez might be able to do the same, but by staying with Honda, he’s not had to prove it.

            Here’s an interesting short article:

            https://www.quora.com/Did-Valentino-Rossi-leave-Honda-or-Honda-threw-him-out

          • Dave says:

            As Curtis points out above, Honda has a record of letting the premiere riders go (Rossi, McGrath, etc.). They want the brand to be the star of the show above the rider and to their credit, they’ve usually been able to replace the “star” with someone less charismatic yet still competitive.

            Marquez is becoming an iconic star. I wonder how Honda will handle him into the future?

    • Twindog says:

      JL is fast, but his past big-headed, whining, complaining, tantrums take him off the like list for me. A little humility goes a long way – especially when you are paid to be and supposed to be the best ambassador for your sport you can be.
      If my kid acted like JL did I’d give him a smack. But, in all fairness, people do change. Hoping for the best.

  12. dt-175 says:

    marquez at < 100% means he rides for points. ten 2nds beats 5 wins/3dnf/2dns…

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