MotoGP: Lorenzo, Assen and the haunted Turn 12

Jorge Lorenzo and Assen have a love/hate relationship, and one portion of the circuit has been his undoing

motogp, 2017 motogp, jorge lorenzo, assen, ducati, yamaha, 2013 broken collarbone, casey stoner, andrea dovizioso, dutch grand prix
Jorge Lorenzo has had a love/hate relationship with the Assen circuit in the Netherlands...but lately it's been hate.Photo courtesy of Michelin

If you review Jorge Lorenzo’s career at Assen over the last 6 years, the conclusion is that the Dutch layout "hates" the Spanish rider. But there was a time when the Cathedral, which is how the Dutch GP is known, was his ally.

For example, in 2004 he had one of the most spectacular victories in 125cc history. Half a lap from the end of the race, Lorenzo rode off track and relegated himself to fourth position. The race appeared lost for him, but through an incredible reaction and will to win, he managed to catch back up to and pass the riders in front of him before the finish. Those riders included the likes of Casey Stoner and Andrea Dovizioso.

In Assen that year, Lorenzo achieved what was only his second victory in the championship despite a manifest mechanical disadvantage. His romance with Assen continued into the following years, with pole position and a podium his first season in 250cc. A result that came only two weeks after suffering from a broken collarbone; An injury, incidentally, that he would suffer from again in Assen.

Lorenzo added two wins there the next two seasons, starting both from the front of the grid and dominating the races from the first lap to the last. His passing through the intermediate category left Assen with record numbers: in 3 years he had 3 poles and 3 podiums, two of them wins...It wasn’t long before Lorenzo saw the same results after his jump to MotoGP.

motogp, 2017 motogp, jorge lorenzo, assen, ducati, yamaha, 2013 broken collarbone, casey stoner, andrea dovizioso, dutch grand prix
Lorenzo continued his winning ways at Assen by dominating the 2010 race from start to finish, leaving Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner in his wake.Photo courtesy of Yamaha Racing

A poor start in 2009 made him work hard during his race, though he finished second after beating riders like Dani Pedrosa and Stoner...Lorenzo’s moment was about to arrive. In 2010 he was playing to win and Lorenzo did not disappoint at Assen. He was the fastest in each and every practice, the fastest at the start, and the first to reach the finish line after fighting with Pedrosa and Stoner. It was one of those weekends that every rider wants: to win at the Cathedral, in the premier class, and with kind the dominance he showed that day.

But he fell after sitting on top of the world. The breakup of the relationship with Assen would begin in 2011. That year, the late Marco Simoncelli crashed in front of Lorenzo, causing him to fall; then, the following season, an overanxious Alvaro Bautista overshot the first corner and took Lorenzo out of the race. That was two years in a row that Lorenzo’s Dutch Grand Prix finished only a few meters from the start.

When Lorenzo arrived at Assen in 2013, he did it with the determination to break that bad stretch of luck...but the opposite happened. Having scored the fastest time in the first practice session, in the second wet session he suffered a major setback. Entering turn 12, where riders reach over 220 km/h, Lorenzo’s tires touched the white line. With no rear grip, his motorcycle immediately snapped sideways and threw him into the air, and he broke his collarbone upon impact with the ground.

motogp, 2017 motogp, jorge lorenzo, assen, ducati, yamaha, 2013 broken collarbone, casey stoner, andrea dovizioso, dutch grand prix
In 2013, Lorenzo showed some true grit by coming straight back from Saturday surgery on his fractured collarbone to race on Sunday, eventually finishing a very creditable fifth place.Photo courtesy of Yamaha Racing

That same day Lorenzo was transferred to Barcelona to be operated on. Then, less than 48 hours after the accident, it was announced on the day of the race that he was returning to Assen to take part in the GP. With a newly plated collarbone, Lorenzo starred in one of those historic motorcycling moments. The quick time he set in FP1 allowed him to pass directly to Q2, so without having participated in any other practice sessions, he started the race from 12th position. In a race that showed immense heart, Lorenzo finished in an incredible fifth place. It was surely heroic, but the weekend would eventually take its toll after some time.

The huge shadow of the 2013 fall was present throughout the entire 2014 season. Many of the race weekends were run on half wet/half dry asphalt, and that was the worst possible scenario for Lorenzo. The experience from the previous year paralyzed him, and saw Lorenzo finish in 13th position in 2014, more than a minute behind the winner. Lorenzo admitted after the race that in every lap, he could not get that fateful fall out of his head; at no time was he able to compete against the other riders.

In 2015 Jorge was reunited with the podium at Assen, although throughout the weekend he never managed to match the pace of the fastest riders. The loathesome part of turn 12 was still haunting him...All his chances for the victory were neutralized at the same point on each lap. In 2016 the "nightmare" continued in rainy conditions. Without confidence, with the fall of 2013 still banging around in his brain, Lorenzo would again finish far behind the leader.

After seven years, Assen seemed to have turned its back on Lorenzo. Next weekend Lorenzo will arrive in Holland still adapting to a difficult Ducati, a combination that on paper does not seem an easy task. We are curious to see what will happen.