When Ducati emptied its coffers (thanks, Uncle Phillip Morris) to secure the services of Jorge Lorenzo, one of the greatest motorcycle roadracers of all time, the Italian factory made a statement that this time it was prepared to win a world championship, that it was ready to wipe the egg off its face after disappointing all of Italy when Valentino Rossi’s “Bologna experiment” proved an unmitigated disaster.

When Lorenzo debuted his famous “99” with devil’s horns over both digits (instead of a halo over the second “9”), all knew histrionics would ensue. From the get-go, Lorenzo struggled to find the critical front-end feel on which he relies for his characteristically silky-smooth, corner-speed riding style.

As the season advanced, Lorenzo gained confidence, particularly after the introduction of Ducati’s dramatic new aerodynamic package. By season’s end, the five-time world champion had collected a trio of podium finishes but he failed to win a race for the first time since his 125cc Grand Prix debut season in 2002.

For many fans, Lorenzo’s controversial behavior at the season-ending event at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain, epitomized his persona: After failing to yield to teammate Andrea Dovizioso in spite of pitboard and on-bike signals instructing him to do so, Lorenzo insisted he had done the right thing.

“Halfway through the race when Andrea was following me closely,” Lorenzo said, “I analyzed the situation and I thought that it was better to try and give him a tow to reach the leading group. If we had caught [Johann] Zarco and [Dani] Pedrosa, I would certainly have let him past.” Both riders eventually crashed out of the race in separate incidents.

Regardless, there’s no doubting Lorenzo’s unbelievable talent, proven record, and eagle-eyed determination. If Ducati Corse General Manager Gigi Dall’Igna can tweak the Desmosedici’s chassis to better suit Lorenzo’s riding style, the Mallorcan is more than capable of making a run for the 2018 title, laughing in the faces of everyone who ever doubted him.

Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Automotodrom Brno, Czech RepublicCourtesy of Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, MotorLand Aragon, SpainCourtesy of Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Circuit of The Americas, United States of AmericaCourtesy of Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Termas de Río Hondo, ArgentinaCourtesy of Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Le Mans, FranceCourtesy of Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, TT Assen, The NetherlandsCourtesy of Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, ItalyCourtesy of Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Circuit of Jerez, SpainCourtesy of Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Sepang International Circuit, MalaysiaCourtesy of Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Twin Ring Motegi, JapanCourtesy of Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Autodromo del Mugello, ItalyCourtesy of Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Phillip Island, AustraliaCourtesy of Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Losail International Circuit, QatarCourtesy of Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Red Bull Ring, AustriaCourtesy of Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Sachsenring, GermanyCourtesy of Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Silverstone Circuit, EnglandCourtesy of Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Circuit Ricardo Tormo, SpainCourtesy of Ducati