Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Lorenzo: from one-trick pony to corner chameleon

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.


Lorenzo: from one-trick pony to corner chameleon

How Jorge Lorenzo changed his race strategy and riding technique by 180 degrees, learning to steer the Ducati “like a boat”

Let’s pretend that Jorge Lorenzo didn’t get flicked to the moon at Aragón. Instead let’s pretend that he ran wide at the first corner, lost a few places, then fought back to fight for the win with Marc Márquez and Andrea Dovizioso. On the last lap he out-brakes Dovizioso into the first corner, drafts past Márquez on the back straight and uses the Ducati’s stellar drive out of the final corner to cross the finish line three-hundredths of a second in front.

Okay, so Lorenzo didn’t win at Aragón, but this a good time nonetheless to examine how the three-time MotoGP king has transformed himself since he walked out of the Yamaha garage and into the Ducati garage in November 2016.

Some years ago, when only Casey Stoner could win on the Ducati, the Australian never liked to reveal the secrets of his technique, merely telling us that “you must subsume yourself to the bike”. In other words, the rider must omit his ego – instead of telling the motorcycle what he wants it to do, he must listen to the machine and do what it wants him to do. In fact, it’s not quite that simple – he must also listen to the machine and hear what it needs to make it perform better.

Back in his Yamaha/Bridgestone days, Lorenzo looked like a one-trick pony, winning races with the devastating corner-speed technique he had learned riding 250s. Not only that, he usually needed a clear track ahead, because anyone in front slowed him through the turns and nullified his greatest weapon.

This was his approach during each of his championship-winning years, especially 2015, when he won the crown by winning seven races, in which he led all 178 laps. And during those races he led all but nine of 2477 corners – the only corners he didn’t lead were turn one at Le Mans and the first eight at Mugello.

The fact that his victory rate plummeted by almost half in 2016, when Dorna’s unified software and Michelin tyres arrived, suggested that even the Yamaha alone wasn’t enough to help him dominate.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

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Total votes: 14
Total votes: 11

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Michelin front didn't initially give enough feedback or edge grip, catching a lot of riders out in 2016. Jorge won 4 races and some convincingly. He also got caught out a few times. Valencia 2016 he new lap record pole, fastest lap and win by 8 seconds over Rossi who was second. Seems the Yamaha Michelin combo was alright then.

Total votes: 5

Casey did tell his method of madnees. It was like you said "you must subsume yourself to the bike". He was the only one capable of doing that with that bike at the time. How many times have we seen him coming out of a turn with the bike bucking him to the point you thought he would be high sided? He simply held the throttle open and held on for dear life. Others were unwilling do do that and that is why no one else could win with that version of the Ducati. We can only imagine how well he would do with the newer version. He was asking for redesign help but Ducati at that time held the purse strings tightly. Rossi said just before going to Ducati that he and Jerry would have the Ducati figured out in "88" seconds, suggesting that Casey didn't know how to set up a bike. Turns out, as confirmed by others, that Casey's feedback is as good as anyone's, including Rossi. Valetino is the kind of rider that needs a good set-up. His style is very smooth and any bike that cannot be made to handle just so will be problematic. That is why, in my opinion, that he couldn't win on the Ducati. Give him what he needs, especially in his prime, and everybody may as well park their bike, excepting Stoner of course.

Total votes: 25

Absolutely no disrespect to the supremely talented Stoner but people forget that Capirossi was leading the 2006 championship on the D16 prior to his team mate sending him to hospital at Catalunya, so Stoner inherited a very good, very conventional motorcycle running on tailor-made Bridgestone tyres.  This was the season Bayliss jumped a GP6 at seasons end and beat everyone....can you imagine Jonny Rea doing the same now?   THAT is how good the bike was.

Stoner was then in the unique position of taking the baby steps along with the bike as Preziosi's engineering nous ran riot and Ducati commenced to drop the "organisation" ball and replaced it with one labelled "arrogance".

So the carbon swingarm was introduced, the conventional steel trellis frame was ditched in favour of the monococque airbox/"frameless" design, the tyres were no longer custom made to suit the red rocket etc etc.

Stoner basically experienced evolution while all who followed have experienced a revolution.

Comparing the turn of the decade Ducati machine and organisation to the more recent iteration is comparing apples with oranges, you might as well compare Honda to Yamaha for the relevance they have to each other. 

 

Total votes: 5

grown as well. He has nothing to prove and yet he dedicates himself as if each ride he could be sacked and out of a seat. Money is fine but staying motivated, disciplined and termined is not something you can buy at a storem but it does come at a cost.

 

Kudos.

Total votes: 15

...but it seems he tries just as hard to be unlikable when he opens his mouth in interviews or with his cringeworthy parc ferme celebrations. Granted you don't have to like someone to admit they are incredibly talented and that's certainly the case with Lorenzo - amazing talent, zero likability. Was warming up to him till he started moaning about how Marc caused him to crash. Yeah Marc turned the throttle for him which caused him to highside and end his race and break his foot. 

Total votes: 13