MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Will Lorenzo be 2018 MotoGP champion?
Of course he could be. Those who last year suggested Ducati had paid too much for the wrong man failed to see that 2017 was merely an overture
Last March, in the Arabian desert, I thought that Jorge Lorenzo was going to pull off the biggest surprise since Valentino Rossi won the 2004 Africa Grand Prix. Lorenzo and his new Ducati hadn’t had the best of times at the first two preseason tests, but when they tested at Losail, they were less than two-tenths off the fastest time.
The problems that had affected Lorenzo and the GP17 at Sepang and Phillip Island disappeared at Losail, which is a very particular kind of a racetrack. Lorenzo loves the layout and so does the Ducati (between them they’ve won six races there), so I believed they could win the race. But then that biblical storm hit, leaving Lorenzo way back on the grid.
The rest of his 2017 season was up and down, but the general trend was upwards. Moving from a Yamaha to a Ducati isn’t easy. The Japanese and Italians have their own ways of building race bikes, especially Ducati’s Gigi Dall’Igna, who uses a lot of Formula 1 technology: downforce aerodynamics, mass dampers and computer tyre modelling.
At Sepang Dall’Igna’s creation had a brand-new F1 gadget tucked inside its fairing bubble (just ahead of the upper triple clamp): a pressure transducer that measures pressure on the bike’s radical downforce bodywork, to get the Desmosedici further ahead in the aero race.
During the last third of 2017 Lorenzo led several races but was unable to maintain that pace to the finish, because he had to adapt his technique too much to suit the Ducati. Now Dall’Igna has adapted the bike to his technique. During his record-breaking lap at Sepang last week he looked much more at one with the bike, displaying sublimely smooth, unerringly accurate speed, in the style of John Kocinski and Max Biaggi.
Last year Lorenzo was strong into and out of corners but struggled in between. Some riders could handle that, but Lorenzo’s killer skill is mid-corner speed. The GP18 has been made to work better through corners, most likely through fine-tuned chassis stiffness and softer bottom-end power, so he can get on the gas while on the edge of the tyre.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.