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"Fast Bikes", April 1, 2013

THE REIGN IN SPAIN

Every other rider had 99 problems in 2012 as Jorge Lorenzo bossed the season and took the title. As for 2013?

WORDS: ALASTAIR ‘A-FORCE’ FAGAN

PIC: GRAEME BROWN, RAVENSDALE PHOTOGRAPHIC & YAMAHA

Love him or loath him, Jorge Lorezno is sitting pretty at the moment. The reigning world champion says goodbye to Casey Stoner (a guaranteed winner and sure-fire bastard of a rival) and hello to Valentino Rossi, who’ll be a strong second favourite to J-Lo aboard equal machinery. His metronomic consistency and devilishly deceiving pace make him the bookies’ preference for 2013, along with Dani Pedrosa – as long as Dani doesn’t sneeze and break his collarbone. We got an exclusive chat with Jorge, and talked about the future.

It wasn’t all peaches and cream for the Palma da Majorca man. Remember his first few years in the big class? Lorenzo was constantly launching himself into Neil Armstrong territory, with monumental highsides that had the whole world wincing with his pain. But all of a sudden he matured and became 2010 MotoGP world champion. “The difference?” Jorge asked, “I didn’t want to crash anymore and get injured! Of course you cannot avoid crashes at the maximum category in MotoGP when you want to be competitive. You have to get close to limit, and you overtake the limit sometimes. I wanted to be more conscious where the limit was to try to avoid crashing and I wanted more options win the championship.”

And titles did come – two in three years, sandwiching Casey’s last (ever?) championship. Surely anyone would miss Casey a little? “The word is not ‘miss’ Casey, even if we have a very good relationship. We spoke not only about bikes, but life as well. We helped each other in the championship and helped each other grow up in the sport. He’s one of the most talented riders I’ve ever seen on a track. Seeing him ride at Phillip Island was impressive, the confidence he has on a bike, and watching him slide the bike around was good to watch on TV. I miss my family when I’m racing, not Casey. We don’t have a rider like him to watch anymore, but as a competitor, it will be easier for us, for me, for Valentino, for Dani,” said Jorge.

There’s a name missing from that ‘alien’ collective; Marc Marquez. Marquez is the latest in the countless number of Spanish GP wizards destined to triumph, but they can’t just grow on some Spanish GP rider tree. “From Angel Nieto winning the world championship, the popularity of the sport increased in Spain, since 40 years ago, so people start loving motorcycle racing.

There is lots of demand for little kids to be riding in good championships, and the federations create a lot of championships. There is a lot of help from the federations, this is the difference in Spain.”

The other major talking point this year is the return of the G.O.A.T to Yamaha – Valentino Rossi – who developed the M1 into the bike it is today. Even Jorge admits it hasn’t been revolutionised. “Vale has won more than 100 GPs, and has nine world titles. He didn’t make these by mistake. He’s really talented and really clever on track. He wasn’t fast on the Ducati, I don’t know the reasons why he couldn’t make the result, but with Yamaha he was really quick and the bike hasn’t changed too much from two years ago. He will feel comfortable from the beginning, he’s still only 33, and, for sure, he’s one of the favourites for the world championship.”

Talking of championships, Dorna (MotoGP bosses) now has control of WSB too. The rules and regs being splashed around don’t look good for WSB and the technology behind it, but may keep MotoGP in full prototype mode.

“It’s difficult to find solutions to have 100 per cent benefits,” says Jorge. “Before we have two tyres, Michelin and Bridgestone, and it was more competition. The evolution of tyres was better for the street and clients. Now with the one tyre, it stops. It’s better for racing competition and we can avoid advantages.”

As Lorenzo has proven, electronics don’t automatically mean a crash-free lifestyle. “The same will happen with electronics, for sure. It could be better without electronics, but for the evolution of safety on the street, it will stop and we will have more crashing.

“It’s always a compromise. Traction control is very important. You don’t see a crash through too much open throttle, you see a crash when riders touch or you brake too much. Maybe reduce the electronics but not completely, not with these 250bhp bikes. It will be like entering a jungle, no, more dangerous than a jungle! F1 doesn’t have TC, but it’s very difficult to get injured in a car by opening too much throttle, but open too much on a bike, you go three metres in the air.

“How can MotoGP be more funny for the spectators? To have more bikes, to have more prototypes, bikes that give the possibility to win – similar to official team bikes, like Tech3 or Gresini. They need to be more economical, more practical, so instead of three or four riders fighting to win, to have ten like Moto2.

“In F1, in 2004 the technology was impressive, but they made it a little bit more simple, with equal power. MotoGP must be the class to develop technology.”

Remember Valencia last year? J-Lo managed one of his trademark gargantuan highsides in tricky conditions, after getting caught up with James Ellison and his CRT bike. Despite the beef at the time, Jorge insists he’d rather have them on the grid. “I think it’s better to have 12 prototypes and 12 CRT bikes than to have just 12 prototypes. For sure, it’s not the best option but it’s not a situation that is possible. We need to make the bikes more economical, so instead of five million Euros, the bikes need to be 1 million.”

It seems ludicrous that we’re even contemplating the idea, but at just 25 years old, let’s hope Jorge doesn’t ‘do a Stoner’ and bugger off to early retirement. He’s a multiple world champion, the fastest guy on two wheels globally with nothing much to prove, so where does he go from here?

“My motivation is still there. I have signed for two more years with Yamaha, so I will stay until 2014 if God wants me to. I would like to keep enjoying myself and keep racing like I am now, but of course there is the risk part of our job, which I don’t like. Nobody wants to have a big crash, get injured and go to the hospital, but I always say I want to continue. In the future, in two, four, six years I don’t know.”

At this point in our chinwag, I had to ask the question – despite feeling kinda awkward. Do you see yourself ever in world superbikes? “Yeah, why not?” he replied enthusiastically. “It’s a different championship – good organisation, good riders, it’s a different mentality of the fans and championship. MotoGP is more important, and superbikes is a step down in terms of sponsorship and media, but superbikes sounds interesting and it would be good to try – you never know”.

Lorenzo is the polar opposite of Stoner in more ways than one. J-Lo’s riding style is smooth like mantequillia, whereas Casey looked like he was riding on margarine. Casey hated the media and the associated sponsor bullshit that’s required of modern day MotoGP racers. Lorenzo is the busiest rider during off-season, circumnavigating the world for various Yamaha and sponsor commitments. He also studies his facebook demographic and travels to see his more prominent followers.

As we went to press, the Sepang test had just finished. Although Jorge placed second behind Dani Pedrosa, and had Rossi right up his chuff, it was J-Lo laying down consistently fast times in his usual manner. And thanks to the arrival of Rossi, the media spotlight is shining away from the world champion (like it did after his 2010 title), which makes life that little bit easier. It’ll be difficult to bet against him making it three MotoGP titles in 2013.

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