Features 2 Feb 2009

Moto Talk with Jorge Lorenzo

After a miraculous rookie season last year, Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo is about to make life much more difficult for Vale Rossi at Yamaha if things go his way in 2009.

Lorenzo has switched to number 99 for 2009

Lorenzo has switched to number 99 for 2009

Jorge, how was your winter holiday? What have you been doing in your time off?

At the end of the year I went to Mallorca. I was there for practically a week visiting my family, my sister and my mother. I had fun with friends and took some time to rest a little because it had been a really tough year, very stressful, with a lot of back-to-back races so it was good to relax and disconnect a little. Since the end of the year I’ve been in Barcelona, training a lot, training on a motorcycle and in the gym.

Did your injuries from 2008 finally completely heal? Are all parts of your body back to 100% fitness?

They’re not 100% because I’m still missing a little mobility in my ankles, especially in the left one, but little by little they are clearing up. Many months have passed since the crashes and right now the problems I had with my forearms and my ankles, thanks to the specialists who I am lucky enough to have, the situation is gradually improving and I think that I will be if not 100% then around 95 or 97% before the start of the season.

After having some time to think about it, how are your memories of 2008? You had many pole positions, podiums, your win, but also your crashes and injuries…

Yes, it has been a ‘special’ season because it was my first in this category but also because of the things that happened to me, the good and bad moments we have encountered and the experience I have picked up, which has been very fruitful and will be fruitful in the future. But yes, it has been a strange year with lots of ups and downs, a lot of crashes – too many because normally I’m not the kind of rider who crashes a lot – but also great moments like the pole positions, the podiums and especially the victory at Estoril.

If you could repeat your rookie year would you do anything differently?

No, I don’t tend to regret the past and I think I have been quite lucky in my life – apart from the injuries I have had. I have had setbacks but otherwise I’m a lucky guy, a guy who things have gone well for so far so I can’t regret things from my past.

What are your expectations and aims for 2009? Do you believe you can challenge for the title from the start?

It is difficult. It is very difficult, firstly because I don’t have the experience to fight for the title. I think that right now there are riders with more experience. Above all there is a great champion in the shape of Valentino Rossi, who I have in the box next to me, and in theory he is the favourite. Not only that, I have three riders who in principal are more of a favourite than I am so the most important thing is that we get closer to our objective every season, become faster and learn more. But I don’t think I am the favourite for the title.

Do you feel that there is much more pressure on you this year? Are you worried about people’s high expectations?

I think that people have higher expectations for the results of Pedrosa, Stoner and Valentino. Yes, it is true that I started the year really well, with a victory in the third race of my first season. I started very strongly but that doesn’t mean to say that the same will happen every time and that every season is going to start out the same for me. Things change and every year is different. For example this year we have new rules and things could be different. I am currently working very hard so that one day I can become World Champion, which is my objective. I don’t know if I will achieve it next year, within two years or within five but that is the objective.

You haven’t had the chance to try the full prototype bike yet. Will you have it in Sepang and what are you hoping for from it?

I had the opportunity to try the 2009 prototype at Jerez. The only thing that wasn’t there was the new engine, which I will have for Sepang. The truth is that in terms of handling and in terms of the chassis it seems like the bike has a bit more stability, or let’s say that there is less movement on the front end of the bike. The bike tended to wheelie less on the way out of corners although obviously I have not had chance yet to test the new engine, which they say is going to be the biggest change with respect to this season.

The wall is staying in your garage. Was this your request? Why do you want it to stay?

Well the decision to keep the wall was made by Yamaha and I don’t have much to say about it. As far as I am concerned it is fine like that, there’s no problem and we will continue to be a team with a wall!

Apart from yourself and Valentino, who do you think will be the main title challengers in 2009?

Well, in sport and in particular in motorcycling you never know what can happen and every season new riders who are keen to win arrive on the scene and surprise a lot of people. So I don’t like getting involved in discussing favourites in that way but obviously if I had to choose three ‘favourites’ I would go for the top three in the championship last year, which was Valentino, Stoner and Pedrosa.

What do you think about the MotoGP crisis and the departure of Kawasaki? Are you worried about the number of bikes on the grid? What do you think needs to be changed in order to try to increase it?

Well it is evident that this is a global economic crisis and it has also affected the world of motorcycle racing, albeit on a smaller scale to, for example, other sports. But I do think we are going through difficult times. Luckily I am personally in a good period at the moment. I just won the Rookie of the Year title so in terms of sponsorship and things I am not in a bad position. The only thing is that I am worried because motorcycle racing is a very spectacular sport and I think Dorna have done a great job, but it could still be exploited a little more and the show that motorcycle racing can offer could be broadened.

After two tests what is your opinion about the new Bridgestone tyres? Do you like them and did you find them easy to adapt to?

I like them a lot, especially Bridgestone’s front tyre, which they have achieved over several years of hard work. It is a factory with a lot of hunger and in the end they were able to dethrone a giant, which is what Michelin were, even though I don’t know what would have happened if the championship had stayed the same. What is clear is that Bridgestone is an impressive company and right now they have control in the championship. As far as rider feedback from the tyres is concerned, they are really good, especially under braking as I said, you can brake very, very late.

What’s your opinion about the new ‘monotyre’ rule? Do you think it’s going to improve the racing or not?

Well, it is definitely not the ideal solution because it is always better to have more companies involved in the championship but the fact is that it is impossible to establish a consistently level playing field over the course of the season. There was a lot of difference from race to race. Sometimes Michelin were better, sometimes Bridgestone… in the end it tended to be Bridgestone so I think the only option Dorna could see, and I am in agreement, was to cut their losses and make a championship with just one brand of tyres.

You have a new number. Please, tell us why you changed from 48 and why youhave chosen the number 99.

Let’s say that at the end of September was the end of an era for me and the start of a new one. So, what better way to start than with a new number? It is a little bit sad because 48 has really meant a lot to me. I have achieved big things and enjoyed some great moments with that number on the front of my bike but, like I say, this is the start of a new era and the number 99 will be present throughout it.

You also have new management. How is it working out with them? Are you happy and do you feel they will help you to fully concentrate on racing?

I’m really happy with the people I have around me at the moment. Obviously when a person makes a change they are always trying to make things go better than they had done previously. It doesn’t always turn out to be the case, you don’t always achieve it but in principal I made a change so that things would go better for me and so that I would be happier at the races. Well, at the races and away from them, and at the moment I am really enjoying myself. I am playing football, going to martial arts classes… I’m doing lots of things that I couldn’t do before and maybe for that reason I’m a little happier and that should be reflected on the racetrack. But we won’t find out until the first race.