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  • MotoringPulse

Jorge Lorenzo: Celebrating a MotoGP Great

Updated: Dec 2, 2019

One of the best things about following the careers of motorcycle racers is that we get to see them grow in talent and capacity. And though they all are unbelievably skillful, only a handful achieve what we perceive as greatness. It is like following their lives' journeys and you get attached to them in some way or the other, but mostly because of what they do on motorcycles and how they do it.

Few riders have matured through their MotoGP journeys as much as Jorge Lorenzo has. He is unshakable when he gets into his zone. Virtually unmatched on his day. One of the fiercest and smoothest riders ever, Jorge Lorenzo, announced his retirement from professional motorcycle racing on the eve of the 2019 Valencia GP.

And there’s no doubt we are going to miss him.

Jorge Lorenzo came to the premiere class in 2008 as a 2-time 250cc world champion. He joined factory Yamaha squad as a force to be reckoned with and straightaway announced his intentions by setting the pole record in his very first race at Qatar. That pole record stood for 10 years! And while his first premiere class title came two years later, he won three of them each in 2010, 2012, and 2015.

There are perceptions about racers from watching them on screen. How they behave in victories, how they deal with defeats, how they are with their fellow racers, and how they cope up when their careers struggle.

From a lollypop supping boy, who was often considered arrogant, Jorge Lorenzo grew into a mature, seemingly friendlier, and empathetic individual. Not to mention, one of the sports greatest.

In 2015, Lorenzo visited India on a press tour and I was among the few lucky automotive journalists who got the chance to interact with him. That was a remarkable year for Lorenzo in which the title fight between him and Valentino Rossi went down to the season’s last race in Valencia. And he won the title in the best way possible, by winning the race.

During my extremely short interaction with him, I remember how he looked genuinely pleased when I congratulated him on his fifth world title. I will admit I didn’t really admire him till then, but standing face to face with a great MotoGP racer, and talking to him, it just changed my perception of him. I was awestruck by his presence and in all honesty, I couldn’t believe that I’m actually conversing with one of the best GP racers.

His compact physicality further heightened my appreciation for his talent and achievements. I was finally able to actually relate him and the likes to their alien status. It was a typical case of “you can’t truly know something until you see or experience it yourself”. And while my interaction with him was hardly anything long, it was enough for me to develop huge amounts of respect for him. I would say it was just a natural flow of things given my love for motorcycles and more or less everything that surrounds them.

Jorge Lorenzo has retired from MotoGP as a 5-time world champion, a number that any racer would be proud of. This becomes even more impressive when you consider how he got there - 11 consecutive winning seasons, 68 career wins, 69 pole positions, 152 podiums, 297 GP races, and a total of 3936 points.

At the age of 32 years, Lorenzo’s success in MotoGP is the stuff of dreams for many professional racers. He made his 200th premiere class start at this year’s Japan GP at the Twin Ring Motegi racetrack. He is also the youngest rider to do so at 32 years and 169 days old, taking this title away from Dani Pedrosa who made his 200th GP start at the age of 32 years and 170 days old in the previous year.

There comes a time when a racer looks for a new challenge, new motivation, something to keep going. That point came in Lorenzo’s career towards the end of 2016, which brought the end of his time at Yamaha. And the new challenge was riding a Ducati for the next two years - 2017 and 2018. A motorcycle which has a reputation of shaking the confidence of the best of the best. But that reputation has lightened a bit recently.

While there were high expectations from Lorenzo, naturally, it wasn’t surprising that he had a really tough first year at Ducati. Lorenzo loves taking sweeping corners and he relies a lot on the edge grip of his tyres. The Yamaha YZR-M1 was developed into a perfect weapon for him over the previous years while Ducati demands to be ridden differently.

Looking at him struggle on the Ducati, questions were raised on his ability to adapt to his new motorcycle. His motivation was doubted and his explanations were occasionally looked at as excuses. But 2018 brought a major turnaround for him and anyone who questioned him. While the beginning was familiarly hard, the race at Mugello changed everything. He won the race in his typical fashion - leading from lap one - reminding everyone of his old self and that he’s hard to beat when he’s feeling right with the bike.

Success at Ducati came late but it was perhaps more fruitful for a variety of reasons. He rejuvenated his confidence and proved so many people wrong. The victories were sweeter. Lorenzo went on to win two more races in 2018. Still, things between him and Ducati had already changed by then. Lorenzo signed for HRC for 2019. And while he struggled on the RCV in much the same way, people were convinced that he will bounce back. But life had different plans for him this time.

He suffered two major crashes this year that really shook him. The incidents shook his confidence and made him question if it’s worth continuing racing. And when a racer comes to this point, that he starts wondering about his presence in the sport, he has probably arrived at the crossroads of his career.

In his own words, Lorenzo said that after the crashes, the racing became a mountain too high for him to climb. And he started feeling that while he’s young and healthy, why not enjoy life in a different way. And now that the 2019 season has ended, Jorge Lorenzo has set off on a new journey in his life, filled with more time for himself, his friends and family.

I’m sure that like me, many believe that his departure from MotoGP is sooner than expected. And while it’s a matter of ‘what if’, who knows how 2019 would have turned out if Lorenzo had stayed at Ducati. That part will now forever remain a figment of our imagination.

I truly wish a wonderful life ahead to Jorge Lorenzo. He has made his mark in motorcycle racing that shall never fade away.



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