What went wrong for Jorge Lorenzo in 2016? A lot of things. The Spaniard was quickest during the Sepang test, a full second faster than his teammate. He started the season strongly, with a win at Qatar, then a strong run of form from Austin to Mugello, finishing either first or second every race except in Argentina, where he crashed. That crash perhaps foreshadowed what was to come: unable to match the pace of the leaders, he pushed hard to manage the gap. He went slightly off line and hit a damp patch on the track, and lost the front.
The cause of that problem – Michelin's tires in poor grip conditions – would be a recurring pattern. At Barcelona, after the track layout was changed to make it safer in response to the tragic death of Luis Salom, Lorenzo was once again struggling, and was wiped out by an impatient Andrea Iannone. At Assen, the Sachsenring, Brno and Silverstone, Lorenzo had an awful time in the wet. At Phillip Island, it was the same, this time cold temperatures in the race causing problems after so much of practice was washed out by the rain.
Why was Lorenzo struggling? Was it really just a question of the Spaniard being afraid of the rain? Or is there something more to it than that? And how will Lorenzo cope with this on the Ducati next year?
The interface between bike and track
The answer to all of these questions revolve around tires, and grip. Jorge Lorenzo's riding style requires several key things: a bike that is stable in corners, a front tire with good, predictable grip, and a rear tire with a lot of edge grip. Because his riding style relies so heavily on corner speed, his bike is set up long and more softly sprung than other riders, making it more difficult to generate heat into the tires.
The extreme lean angles Lorenzo achieves cause problems in both the wet and the dry. When Cal Crutchlow was still riding a Yamaha M1 with the Tech 3 team, and could see Lorenzo's data for comparison, he told us repeatedly "the only time I get the same lean angle as Jorge is just before I crash."
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