Commenting on the changes made to his new Movistar branded YZR-M1, Jorge Lorenzo confirmed that Yamaha has made significant progress with its seamless gearbox for the 2014 MotoGP season, which starts in Qatar on Sunday.
“The bike with the new changes [one litre less fuel] is working really well and we solved the little problem of the engine, fixing the electronics in order to mitigate the aggressive behaviour on the starts,” he said.
“Now its response is softer than at the beginning of [testing] in Malaysia and also we can count on a 'complete' seamless gearbox, that is also good news for us. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow, following the unveiling of the new Movistar Yamaha MotoGP livery. I love the new bike and the new colours.”
Lorenzo and team-mate Valentino Rossi were seen with an extra lever on their M1s during pre-season testing
, a visible sign of Yamaha's latest seamless developments.
Yamaha are known to be working on making their downshifts (as well as upshifts) seamless for 2014, like Honda. Speculation also suggests that last year's initial Yamaha version of the quick-shift technology may only have been seamless from second gear onwards, due to the location of neutral.
Lorenzo took his fifth Qatar victory, a record matched only by Casey Stoner, in last year's event. Lorenzo has always started from the front row and never finished off the podium in Losail.
“Concerning the track needless to say this is a good layout for both my Yamaha and me,” he said. “I won here the past two races in a row and this is a circuit that suits in a good way the M1. The only thing we have to wait and see is the behaviour of the new tyres; especially on this surface; there is usually plenty of sand because it's surround by the desert.
“The championship is going to be even tighter than last season was and at the beginning just Márquez begins as the favourite contender. Afterwards I guess Dani [Pedrosa] or me are in a good position but also Valentino who is even hungrier than in 2013.
“Regarding Marc's pace we should wait before saying anything about it. He is so strong and quick. Maybe he won't start at a perfect level [after his pre-season leg fracture] but I'm pretty sure he is going to be close to 100%.”
Lorenzo struggled badly with the new Bridgestone tyres at the Sepang tests, but was back on the pace at Phillip Island. The Spaniard also expects to be at full physical fitness after multiple winter surgery on old injuries, including the double set of collarbone fractures suffered midway through 2013.
“As we were able to improve our performance at Phillip Island with the new tyres I feel quite confident for the very first race. I undertook three surgeries during the wintertime to take out some plates and metal pieces from the collarbone and the hand so I returned to full fitness quite late. In general I feel nearly at 100% and I guess in Qatar we won't have any problems to push to the maximum.”
Lorenzo lost out on a third MotoGP title by just four points to Repsol Honda's Marquez last season.