Will Jorge Lorenzo Find Success With Honda In MotoGP?

World champ says process of adapting to the RC213V will be tough and long.

Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo has enjoyed immense success in racing, winning two 250cc world titles and three more in the premier MotoGP class, the latter all with Yamaha. The Spaniard won three races in 2018 with Ducati, but he has yet to finish within the top 10 on a Honda.Courtesy of Honda

Rumors surfaced two weeks ago of a possible split between Honda and Jorge Lorenzo at the end of the current MotoGP season. On Monday, less than 24 hours after the checkered flag flew on the Italian Grand Prix, the 32-year-old Spaniard jetted to Japan seeking solutions to his on-track problems. Lorenzo's 13th finishing position at Mugello—a track at which he has won six times in the premier class, including last year on a Ducati—highlighted the crisis.

The Japanese giant has the budget, know-how, and resources to follow different development directions to support its riders’ requests. “I’m a sensitive rider,” Lorenzo said in Italy. “If Honda listens to me, we can make the RC213V easier to ride for everyone.”

Marc Márquez’s response to Lorenzo’s comment left no room for doubt: “I would love to have an easier bike, but Lorenzo never rode the 2015 and ’16 version. Those were difficult bikes.” He then added, “Honda has always followed the direction of the fastest rider.”

Márquez is fully aware how much the RCV has improved in recent years. He pushes the bike to the limit and takes the most risks, mindful of the fact that he is the only Honda rider able to save three or four crashes every race weekend. “This is a winning bike only in Marc’s hands,” Lorenzo stressed.

“In the end, there is only one winner,” Repsol Honda team manager Alberto Puig echoed. “The Honda is a winning bike and, with Marc Márquez, it is an exceptional winning machine. Jorge Lorenzo is struggling in the adaptation process, and we are supporting him as we have always done in the past to adapt to different riders, but the bike is a Honda. We are not going to change the bike and make it a Ducati or a Yamaha.”

Jorge Lorenzo
“It was tough at Ducati and now it’s probably even tougher,” Lorenzo admitted. “It’s a continuous fight with your mind to change your thoughts from negative to positive—to have faith. It’s complicated, but I’m doing it.”Courtesy of Honda

Puig drew a clear picture of the current situation in the factory Honda garage. Márquez has won five of the last six MotoGP titles and, after his second at Mugello, he is 12 points ahead of Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso in the championship. Lorenzo, meanwhile, lies in 14th position, having earned 19 points in five races versus 115 by his teammate. Worse, Cal Crutchlow and Takaaki Nakagami are also ahead of Lorenzo.

Mugello was another lost opportunity for Lorenzo. The Italian track could have been a turning point in his adaptation to the Honda, like it was one year ago on the Ducati. Yet he finished more than 20 seconds behind race winner Danilo Petrucci and second-place Márquez.

“The Honda is a special bike,” Puig noted. “I’m convinced that if Lorenzo continues to work and to adapt, he will find the way. Then it will depend a lot from his effort.”

Lorenzo admitted that he understands the situation. “It’s difficult to make big changes on a bike when you have a rider who has won five world titles,” he said. “I need to do more kilometers, but this is not enough. There are things that need to be changed.”

This is why Lorenzo flew to Honda on Monday. “We need a plan B,” he said, “and if there is a company that can support two different directions of development, it’s Honda. I know I have my peculiarities as a rider, but if I feel comfortable, I can do great things. This is what happened in Ducati last year.

“Honda has worked a lot to give me some solutions, but they haven’t worked yet. For a manufacturer, it is difficult to have two different directions of development, especially for the engine, which is frozen since the start of the season. There are other aspects we can change, including next year’s engine.”

“This Honda is more physical than the Ducati. When I arrived at Ducati, the bike had a very powerful engine, stability under braking, and I could trust the front.”

With testing limited, the adaptation process becomes longer, but this is the same for everyone. “We are limited about many things in the rules,” Lorenzo said. “We cannot touch the engine so we work in other areas, like the ergonomics, my position on the bike [one of the priorities of Lorenzo’s trip to Japan], trying to make the bike less physically demanding. In this moment, I cannot push, I have to ride in survival mode.

“When someone passes me, I don’t have the energy to attack with a clear mind. What we have done so far doesn’t help me. I’m waiting for some new parts, like a new tank. It helped us a lot last year.

“This Honda is more physical than the Ducati. When I arrived at Ducati, the bike had a very powerful engine, stability under braking, and I could trust the front. There were other aspects that were big disadvantages. Step by step, we improved the bike, and now the bike is smoother and turns better. Now it’s a different situation. Honda made a more powerful engine, but there are also other consequences.”

Is Lorenzo attempting to turn the Honda into a Ducati, which he was able to tame last year from Mugello onward, also winning in Spain and Austria, or a Yamaha? “One of the things of my riding is to go fast in the corners,” he said, “and this is one of my goals.”

Most of the work will be on Lorenzo, as the base machine cannot be altered. “It’s very tough at this moment to change this bike, especially in the entry of the corner. I need to modify a lot my way of entering the corner, which is the opposite of what I was doing at Ducati. But at least now we understand what I have to modify. I have to work on my riding style in braking and in the entry to the corners.”

Lorenzo’s greatest rival—more than past and present teammates Dovizioso and Márquez—is himself. Five championships are proof of the talent that earned him international fame. “When you have won so many world titles, so many victories in the past,” he said, “it’s very tough to be so far from the winner and down from even 10th place.”

Looking back at Mugello, Lorenzo put the first part of the season in perspective and set new targets. “We’re not doing the steps we would like, but we are making steps forward,” he said. “Now I understand more things that I need to change in my riding to get better. My goal in the future is to fight constantly for podiums and victories. I still need to finish the process of adaptation. It’s going to be tough and long.”