MotoGP: Lorenzo Searching For Answers

The summer break is occurring just in time for Jorge Lorenzo, as he finds himself in a downward spiral that must be stopped

Jorge Lorenzo 2016
Jorge Lorenzo is hoping to stop his downward spiral over the MotoGP Summer break.Photo Courtesy of MotoGP

After scoring zero points in Catalunya, Jorge Lorenzo went to the next MotoGP race at Assen determined to make amends, only to struggle in the wet conditions and ultimately finish 10th in the restarted second race. He arrived at the German Sachsenring circuit in a depressed state. Another fiasco would be a further setback, but to regain momentum in the championship at his worst track on the calendar seemed an insurmountable task...and that prediction was met.

When Lorenzo went down in the very fast turn 11 just eight minutes into the first practice session on Friday, his GP weekend was cursed. From that moment on, the three-time MotoGP world champion never returned to his rhythm at the Sachsenring. In all the sessions during that weekend (except Q1, which he usually never has to participate in) Lorenzo was never among the top 10, something completely out of the ordinary for the Spaniard. "I have to do something," he admitted on Sunday afternoon after finishing the race in 15th position. "I do not know what, but I have to do something."

The "something" to which he referred was basically regain the ability to feel secure on his M1 on wet asphalt in order to compete. "I need to do something. I do not know what it will be, but it's better than doing nothing and training in the gym just waiting for the problem to be solved by itself. At this point I think I have to retrain myself in the wet. I don’t know yet if wetting the track down and training with small bikes...I don’t know if this will help, but it's the only solution I see now to get the feeling back.”

Comparing Lorenzo’s situation now to that of last year at the same point in the season, we can see that there is no difference in his position in the general classification. Then at the midway point last season he was also provisionally second, albeit behind Valentino Rossi and not Marc Márquez. But the numbers are very different: in 2015 he had a total of 166 points and the difference from the leader was 13 points; this season the numbers are 122 and 48 points behind the leading rider.

"Yes, at the beginning of the season I said that thought I would be more confident with Michelin, they are harder and faster than the Bridgestone. But everything is complicated, especially under special conditions, rain, cold..."

Jorge Lorenzo 2016
Part of that downward spiral was back-to-back wet races - Assen and Sachsenring. Lorenzo has lost his comfort zone in those conditions on the Michelins.Photo Courtesy of Yamaha

Is the 2016 championship already decided? "No, I think the championship is not over. With nine races and fewer than 50 points (behind), a lot can happen. Now, there are the new electronics and new tires that cause more mistakes than usual. We must continue to have faith, but above all think we can improve and work on the problems we have to be competitive again. I did not expect to find so many difficulties with Michelin, but in these abnormal circumstances I'm having them. I'm having a lot of problems, especially finding the front feeling that lets me to confidently stop and ride through corners with confidence. I’m losing a lot of time."

The unusual circumstances for Lorenzo are those that require making decisions on the fly. And while he is unstoppable when everything is in place, the four-time world champion is thrown off balance when he encounters situations such as those that occurred in Assen or Germany. Lorenzo’s riding style requires maximum confidence in his tires, especially the front. And that trust he needs on wet and cold asphalt he does not have with Michelin. It’s ironic that he was one of the biggest supporters of the French manufacturer’s return to the World Championship.

"Yes, at the beginning of the season I said that thought I would be more confident with Michelin, they are harder and faster than the Bridgestone. But everything is complicated, especially under special conditions, rain, cold...The Sachsenring weekend was disastrous for various reasons. You have to work, to remain positive and try to be a more complete rider and faster in all conditions."

"I'm finding I have confidence issues with the front, when I try to go faster I get surprises that prevent me from going faster. I have to understand if it is a problem of my riding style, which is quite different from the rest, or if it is something else."

The German and Dutch GPs were a nightmare for Lorenzo. In Assen, he gathered a total of 6 points for his 10th place; at the Sachsenring he scored one point for 15th place. The image of Marc Márquez dominating while the current World Champion was crawling around the track with rain tires was devastating. "Well, Marquez passed me on slicks while I was on wets," he defends, then adding quietly: "It is the same Marquez who I beat in Mugello. The circumstances throughout the championship can change. The truth, as I said before, is that I didn’t expect to find myself in such a bad situation with Michelin and cold rain. I'm finding I have confidence issues with the front, when I try to go faster I get surprises that prevent me from going faster. I have to understand if it is a problem of my riding style, which is quite different from the rest, or if it is something else. If so, a specific type of training can help a little, although the bike you use in training is far from a MotoGP bike. But you can learn to feel quickly. Sometimes in life you encounter problems that are unexpected. You can let it go and do nothing and wait for better circumstances, or face them and try to do something."

Although MotoGP’s summer break has begun, for the reigning World Champion there will be no vacation, but instead a search for the solution to his problems. It’s not the first time the Spanish rider has been confronted with an extreme situation to overcome, and so far he has always come back stronger than ever. Down but far from out, don’t expect Lorenzo to throw in the towel for this season anytime soon.