Jorge Lorenzo Announces Retirement From MotoGP

Five-time world champion says season finale will be his last motorcycle race.

Jorge Lorenzo (seen here riding in April at Circuit of The Americas)
On the eve of the season-ending MotoGP race at Valencia, Jorge Lorenzo (seen here in April at Circuit of The Americas) held a press conference to announce his retirement. The five-time world champion recalled his career highlights with the lucidity and smoothness that characterized his riding style.Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

“Is this really worth it?” Eighteen years of world championship-level racing—152 podium finishes, 68 Grand Prix victories, and five world titles, three in MotoGP—were frozen in a handful of seconds. As he was tumbling through the gravel at Assen this past June, Jorge Lorenzo was wondering if he could justify further injury after all he had already achieved.

When he returned home with two fractured vertebrae, Lorenzo didn’t want to make a rash decision, but one thing was certain: If he were to continue to push his body beyond its limit, he needed to be incredibly fit and highly motivated. In addition, the Assen crash was similar to the fall that paralyzed three-time 500cc world champion Wayne Rainey from the chest down in 1993—a scary warning.

“I made my first steps on a bike when I was three years old"

In Malaysia two weeks ago, Lorenzo finally made the decision that he communicated to Alberto Puig, the former 500cc GP winner who had signed the 32-year-old Spaniard 12 months ago to a two-year contract with the Repsol Honda team.

“There are four highlights in the life of a rider,” Lorenzo began on Thursday in front of a packed media center at the Ricardo Tormo circuit, “the debut in the world championship, the first GP win, the first title, and the day of retirement. This day has arrived for me, and Valencia will be my last GP as a professional rider.”

Jorge Lorenzo Monster Energy drink
Lorenzo won both of his 250cc world titles on Aprilias. He moved to MotoGP in 2008 and was immediately competitive, earning four pole positions and six podiums, including a victory in Portugal. He won the premier-class title in 2010, ’12, and ’15—all on factory Yamahas.Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

With this sentence, Lorenzo said goodbye to MotoGP. Sitting in the first rows were fellow riders and the team principals with whom he has worked, invited one by one by Lorenzo himself. His mechanics were also there, starting from the Yamaha factory crew with which he spent what he described as the nine best years of his career.

“I made my first steps on a bike when I was three years old,” he said. “Twenty years of motorsport at the highest level requires full commitment and dedication. I lived at such intensity, and I have always been a hard worker and a perfectionist.

“I lived nine wonderful years in Yamaha, and then I needed a change, a boost of motivation to continue to be at the top of my skills. I signed with Ducati, and it was tougher than I imagined but that victory in Mugello in front of the Ducati fans repaid all the sacrifices. Being an HRC factory rider is a dream of all riders, and I’m sorry that I disappointed Honda. Unfortunately, injuries and a long adaptation to the bike didn’t allow me to get the results we wanted.”

Lorenzo won three races during his two seasons at Ducati.
Lorenzo won three races during his two seasons at Ducati. If he becomes bored with long vacations on sandy beaches, a role as a Yamaha test rider could be a win-win solution for both parties. “I’m sure that Lorenzo is still competitive if he jumps on an M1,” former Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi said.Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

Lorenzo said the 2010 season, his first MotoGP title with Yamaha, gave him “freedom” as a rider. He was seeking the motivation to always be at the highest level, and he found it. “Winning my first MotoGP title was the highlight of my career,” he said, “then Brazil 2003 [first 125cc race win with Derbi], Valencia 2006 [250cc title with Aprilia], and Valencia 2015 [third MotoGP title]. Assen 2013 was also incredible, as I proved how the mind can push the body to the limit.”

Behind the smile and occasional tear, ghosts of an undefined future were softened by what appeared to be an emancipation from a nightmare season. “This morning, I was more nervous than I have ever been before a race,” he said. “I’m sad, but I also feel liberated. Now you will see the other side of Jorge, the one who is more relaxed. In these years, I always had the pressure to prove something. Of course, I will miss something: As riders, we live to feel the adrenaline of the race and the feeling of being complete that the victory gives you.”

Lorenzo was in a very deep hole. At Phillip Island three weeks ago, he finished 16th, more than a minute behind race-winning teammate Marc Márquez. The following Sunday at Sepang, he was 14th, 34 seconds down. This situation couldn’t continue. Was the RC213V the only reason for such poor results? With Márquez on top of the world, having clinched a sixth premier-class world title with the same machine, no one doubted the Honda is a winner. The hunger, motivation, and dedication to riding beyond the edge of traction were missing. Fighting to be in the top 10 was an insult to Lorenzo’s palmarès and also to Honda.

Jorge Lorenzo
Lorenzo was contracted to ride for Repsol Honda through the 2020 season. “I admire the man and the rider,” team manager Alberto Puig (left) said. “Jorge is a gentleman and a grateful person. I’m sorry that the rider/machine combination didn’t work.” Lorenzo’s best finish on the Honda this year is 11th at Le Mans.Honda

At Valencia, Lorenzo was impressed by the warm applause he received from fellow riders, team principals, and the MotoGP community. It was recognition he had always sought during his career. “So many hugs and kisses,” he said.

“We will miss a great champion”

One by one, Lorenzo said goodbye to former Ducati colleagues, teammate Andrea Dovizioso, test rider Michele Pirro, and Gigi Dall’Igna who wanted Lorenzo so badly on the factory Desmosedici. He likewise acknowledged former Yamaha chief mechanic Ramon Forcada, Wilco Zeelenberg, team manager at his time in Yamaha, and, finally, Puig and Kuwata-san, the HRC boss. Seeing a senior Japanese engineer with shiny eyes is not common, but Lorenzo’s retirement left even top management feeling emotional.

“We will miss a great champion,” Valentino Rossi said. “Since [Lorenzo’s] arrival in MotoGP and as my teammate, I was impressed by his speed and determination.” Dovizioso added, “Jorge Lorenzo raised my level.” Current teammate Márquez: “He has worked until the last race with the same dedication as on the first race. This tells a lot about him.”

Lorenzo left the smallest of openings for a possible return to racing. At 95 percent, he said, this is a definite goodbye. “I have many passions, and it’s time for me to relax, enjoy some long vacations on sunny beaches, and then I will start to plan my future.”

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