Jorge Lorenzo’s peerless performance over the Valencia weekend left more than a few people happy, and not just the ones wearing blue. Even though the victory broke a run for Yamaha that stretched back to Rossi’s triumph in Barcelona, and Lorenzo’s own drought since the previous race in Italy, it’s the folk in red who perhaps were rubbing their hands the most.
Talking with Davide Tardozzi on BT Sport on Friday, myself and Neil Hodgson asked Ducati’s team boss if he would actually be happy with a win for the Mallorcan. Through his barely disguised smile you could see clearly what the answer was, but then he answered anyway. ‘If we can’t win, then that would be the next best thing,’ was the gist of it.
We then went on to see the very best of Lorenzo throughout the rest of the race weekend, first there was his stunning pole position lap, six-tenths quicker than his “perfect lap” (his words) from 2015. Then a race which was quintessential Lorenzo, only three laps out of the 30 were outside the 1’31 barrier. Including the first and last laps. He established a gap with a sequence of 1’31.1 lap-times in the first seven, got it out to a 5.4 second lead by the 20th, then managed it to the line.
I daren’t count the number of times he has done that in the 44 wins he achieved for Yamaha over his nine-year and 156-race stint with the company. The fact he hasn’t managed it for 12 races however will have been of concern to Ducati, but now he arrives with the Italians with his confidence restored.
The question is whether he will get a chance to repeat similar kinds of performances on the Ducati other than at Austria. That was the only place this year where Ducati opened up an unassailable advantage at the front, when both Andreas, Iannone and Dovizioso, cleared off from Lorenzo in third in their scrap for top honours.
It was Iannone that took victory that day, and when Lorenzo was allowed to talk about the Ducati (of which he is now prevented until January 1st) he actually likened his style to the self-styled ‘Maniac’ more so than his former 250cc sparring partner – however much the erratic aggression of the Italian doesn’t seem to match the smooth controlled symphony of Jorge. Having said that, the #29 is definitely a lot less of a point and squirt merchant than Dovi, who is a well-known demon braker.
I keep reading and listening to experts telling me that it will be a difficult transition for Lorenzo on the bike, and they may well be right, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it could well bring the best out of him. The general feeling is that whilst both Iannone and Dovizioso have won races this year, the Desmosedici is a capable machine. I see no reason why Jorge wouldn’t unlock those capabilities. Yes, he has ridden the Yamaha in a particular style for nine years, and over those years honed the M1 to his liking, but he is also a five-time World Champion who has supreme natural ability.
The Ducati also still has a clear torque advantage over the rest, as we saw in Iannone’s battles with the Honda of Marquez and Yamaha of Rossi on Sunday. It was properly demonstrated by a track that encourages first and second-gear acceleration out of tight corners, but it is something that if tallied with Lorenzo’s ability to carry more corner speed than anyone could prove unconquerable.
With the boost of victory on Sunday Lorenzo will be a happier man when the cameras zoom in on his face in his first steps on board the bike during testing this week. Unfortunately, with Yamaha vetoing a second go on the Desmo later this month, then we probably won’t know which way the Lorenzo experiment is going to go until the floodlights of Qatar are switched on in March. I’m already counting down the days!
Photo by CormacGP