Having exploded onto the MotoGP scene in his rookie season last year, Jorge Lorenzo added some substance to his occasionally erratic style in 2009 by providing Valentino Rossi his most convincing inter-team rivalry yet.
Hitting the headlines for winning only his third race in the top flight, as well as committing some rather spectacular accidents, a calmer Lorenzo entered the 2009 season determined to avoid the 'second-year blues' that often afflict promising debutants.
He certainly didn't waste time dispelling that myth, the Spaniard winning two of the first four races, even if a retirement on home soil at Jerez prevented him from pulling out an early advantage.
With Casey Stoner falling by the wayside by virtue of his impending sabbatical, the title challenge would boil down to a two-horse race. Still tight as the season approached the latter stages, two consecutive retirements at Donington Park and at Brno – where he had been leading – would provide the decisive blow to his assault.
While two more wins at Indianapolis and Estoril would follow, Lorenzo could not lift himself off the back foot and Rossi emerged as the winner by 45 points.
Testament to Lorenzo's potential missed opportunity, he was still a comfortable second position in the standings, yet only one other rider would suffer more retirements all season.
Retirements aside, there was a marked improvement in Lorenzo's performances in 2009 because, at times, even Rossi and Stonere were unable to touch him.
Provided he can add consistency to his game, it isn't surprising that Lorenzo is already being touted as the man to step into Rossi's shoes.
As tempted as he may have been by a switch to Honda, there is a sense Lorenzo has more to come and beating Rossi in the same team would certainly go down as an immense MotoGP coup…
Fiat Yamaha Team
1st (Motegi, Le Mans, Indianapolis, Misano)
Top 10 MotoGP Rider of the Year 2008:
Top 10 MotoGP Rider of the Year 2009:
- Colin Edwards
- Casey Stoner
- Dani Pedrosa
- Marco Melandri
- Andrea Dovizioso
- Toni Elias
- Loris Capirossi
- Nicky Hayden