MOTOGP » Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo was born on the Balearic island of Mallorca, Spain on 4th May 1987. He began riding motorbikes at home at the tender age of three and within months of taking to two wheels was competing in his first minicross races. In 1995, aged eight, he won the Balearic title and followed that up the following year by taking the Island’s minicross, trial, minimoto and junior motocross titles.
Lorenzo graduated to road racing and national competition in 1997 and it didn’t take him long to adjust, winning the Aprilia 50cc Cup in 1998. Despite officially being too young, a special dispensation in 2000 allowed him to compete in the Spanish 125cc series at the age of 13 and he made history the following year when competing in Europe and becoming the youngest ever winner of a European 125cc race.
The precocious teenager, once again showing that age was no limit to a quick rise up the ranks of motorbike racing, made his first foray onto the world stage with Derbi at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez in 2002, the third round of the season. He did not reach the legal age of 15 until Saturday and therefore missed the first day of practice but was unfazed this and impressed the paddock by qualifying for the race, cementing his position in the World Championship over the course of the season as he got to grips with the circuits.
The young Mallorcan hit the big time the following season, winning his first 125cc Grand Prix in Rio de Janeiro and then going on to win three more races the following season, finishing fourth in 2004 and taking his podium tally to nine before making the step up the quarter-litre class and switching to Honda machinery. Six podium finishes and four pole positions in his rookie 250cc season sealed fifth in the championship and, with a move to the Aprilia factory team, 2006 was widely expected to be his defining year.
Lorenzo indeed surpassed all expectations in 2006, dominating the class with eight wins and a record-equalling ten poles, clinching his first world title convincingly. 2007 saw more of the same and an incredible nine pole positions saw him win from every single one of them, claiming his second world title at the penultimate round in Sepang. He also became the most successful 250cc Spanish rider of all time in the process.
He joined Yamaha in 2008 and exploded onto the MotoGP scene with an outstanding pole position at the opening round in Qatar, before finishing second in the race. A second pole position and another podium in round two proved it was no fluke, before he went on to take an incredible third pole and a deserved maiden win at the third race in Estoril. He returned to earth with a bump in China, when a crash in practice saw him fracture both ankles, although he battled on to finish fourth in the race before coming back with another podium next time around in France. The middle part of the season was difficult for the young Spaniard as several more crashes left him with further injuries and battered confidence, but he never gave up and made it back to claim two more podiums. He finished the season in fourth position as rookie of the year, the most successful debutante since the start of the four-stroke era.
Following his outstanding debut year, Lorenzo came of age in 2009, winning four races and pushing his team-mate Valentino Rossi to the limit throughout a superb season. The Spaniard took the team’s first victory of the year at Yamaha’s home race in Japan and he went on to take further wins at Le Mans, Indianapolis and, for the second year in a row, Portugal .
Lorenzo and his team-mate Rossi produced some of the greatest racing in years as they fought wheel to wheel at race after race, with the last-lap battle in Barcelona standing out, amongst others. Although Lorenzo lost out there by a few thousandths of a second, the performance he put up against his older and more experienced team-mate was enough to convince even the most sceptical of onlookers that he is a champion of the future.
As well as his four wins, Lorenzo stood on the podium an additional nine times and only missed out once in all 17 rounds on a front-row qualification, a remarkable show of consistency. He was Rossi’s only championship challenger in the latter half of the season and once that chance was gone he focused on securing the number two spot, which he duly did in Valencia.
Having run Rossi close in 2009, Lorenzo came into the 2010 season looking to beat his adversary under equal terms, though a pre-season injury certainly cast doubt on whether he could mount a challenge from the start. As it happens, the Spaniard signalled his intentions with two wins during the opening three races, earning him the early edge over Rossi.
In the end, Rossi’s leg injury during the fourth round scuppered any chance of a season-long rivalry, but with Lorenzo proceeding to win nine races on the way to a dominant title victory, many feel he would have been difficult to beat regardless.
Indeed, with a record-breaking points’ total to his name and 16 podiums in 18 races, Lorenzo shrugged off the inconsistency reputation that dogged him initially and naturally assumed Rossi’s mantle as team leader when the Italian defected to Ducati.
With ‘No.1’ adorned on his Yamaha, Lorenzo set about defending his title, though pre-season testing had revealed the M1 to be down on the pace of the four factory-specification Honda RC212Vs of Stoner, Pedrosa, Dovizioso and Simoncelli.
Indeed, once racing was underway, the Honda proved the bike to beat from the off, but Lorenzo’s race craft was enough to make his Yamaha a race-win contender, while his consistency served to keep Stoner honest for much of the year.
Wins at Jerez, Mugello and Misano kept him in the hunt, though an injury sustained at Phillip Island would force him out of action for the final three rounds. Even so, Lorenzo was still able to seal the runners-up spot for the second time in three years.
With the much discussed return to 1000cc machinery expected to pose a new challenge for both Lorenzo and Yamaha, the Spaniard went into the off-season keen to prove that Stoner’s 2011 success was not indicative of an era of dominance.
And so it proved, Yamaha coming up with a bike that would prove marginally quicker than Honda’s machine – particularly on race tyres -, allowing Lorenzo to notch up four wins in the opening six races. Opening up a small gap over Stoner and Pedrosa, though a controversial crash at Assen – blamed on an errant Alvaro Bautista – pegged him back, Lorenzo remained a model of consistency throughout the year.
When Stoner eliminated himself from the running through injury, Lorenzo would spend the second-half of the year contending with a charging Pedrosa instead. However, with an even healthier margin over the Spaniard in hand, a canny Lorenzo would simply spend the latter half focusing on second place behind his countryman knowing it would be enough to keep him ahead overall.
Going on to seal a second career title with one round to spare, what Lorenzo’s year lacked in headlines – at least compared with Pedrosa, Stoner and even Rossi -, he made up for with consistency and a blistering turn of pace when he needed it.
Endearing himself to a number of fans with a less showmanship approach to his racing in 2012, Lorenzo will nonetheless be propelled back into the limelight in 2013 when he is joined by former team leader – and foe – Rossi at Yamaha. Keen to let his racing do the talking, all eyes will be on the pair to see whether the ‘pupil’ can beat the ‘master’ on equal footing this time…