Jorge Lorenzo was in little doubt: 2017, a season in which the Majorcan toiled before gradually finding his way, confirmed he and Ducati possess the potential to scale the dizzying heights of his glory years at Yamaha and claim a fourth MotoGP world championship.

Speaking at the Bologna factory's MotoGP presentation, Lorenzo used his time in front of the press to talk up his chances for the year ahead (“hopefully we can do it from the beginning at Qatar”), as well as indicating his desire to remain at Ducati beyond this year.

Team-mate Andrea Dovizioso’s recent successes and unexpected title challenge confirmed the potential within the factory in Borgo Panigale, he said, while Lorenzo’s own mid-season renaissance from the summer break saw him become a regular challenger for the top six places in the autumn of last year.

Should the 2018 version of the Desmosedici be a slight upgrade on what he raced in the previous ten months and be competitive at every track on the calendar, Lorenzo feels a championship challenge will be forthcoming. The five-time world champion was clear he has every confidence in Ducati’s ability to make this happen.

“I think not only my expectations, but all the team around [are that] we definitely believe we can do it, that we can win the championship,” said 30-year old Lorenzo. “Firstly, with Andrea. He didn’t do it but he fought for the championship until the end. He won many races.

“So now the team believes that it’s possible to do it. I am looking forward to this season because it could be the first season in Ducati that two riders fight for the world championship until the end. This is my will and this is what I’m looking forward to and what I’m working to achieve.

“Still we need to get a bike that goes well at each races of the year. I have a lot of confidence that the team will do that this year. And when this happens it’s a matter of being fast and faster than the rest. Winning races and fighting for the title will be a consequence of a lot of hard work.

““You cannot secure anything but obviously I finished the championship at quite a high level. Obviously it wasn’t the level I wanted because I want to be as I was in my best period with Yamaha. I think I can do it also with Ducati. Hopefully we can do it from the beginning at Qatar and try to win the race.”

Not that Lorenzo feels he has it all figured out. There is still work to be done at his end in adapting to the Desmosedici, known to be more powerful and less agile that the Yamaha M1 he rode for nine years.

However 2018 should mark an important change: Lorenzo believes this year’s machine will be tailored more toward his needs, with the machine’s turning ability a clear focus for factory technical chief Gigi Dall’Igna.

“You never stop learning,” he said.” I never stop changing my riding, even when I was in Yamaha in my eighth or ninth year. I think you always learn something if you have the will or the curiosity to do it.

“When I retire I will always try to learn something. Obviously this year I changed so much. I learnt so much to try and ride the Ducati at its best. It’s never complete.

“I believe that last year, if we were like this, I changed a little bit more than the bike to adapt myself into the bike. Probably this year will be the opposite and the bike will improve quite a lot to go in my direction, to be [strong], not only in acceleration, braking and the straight, but also in the centre of the corner.”

While it may only be the middle of January, much of Monday's talk centred on factory and rider plans for 2019. Factory management indicating it would prefer to keep Lorenzo teamed with Dovizioso beyond this year. 

The Majorcan concurred. Signing an extension to stay with Ducati beyond ’18 is the 30-year old’s “priority” (“to finish what we started”), even if commanding a similar salary to his current contract – estimated to be around twelve million Euros – could prove difficult.

“I have a good contract because my value in the market was high, you know,” Lorenzo said. “A lot of riders speak about that, but when I signed the contract I was five-time world champion. I won many victories – 44 in MotoGP. A lot of pole positions. I fought for the world title for nine years. I won this contract.

“Obviously, they say your value is the same as your last race. My last race is a crash so it’s not very high! And last season was not good. But, you know, I’m lucky to be here for the passion because economically, luckily I’m well.

“I will be competitive if I decide to continue. My priority is to stay with Ducati to finish what I started – that is to try and win the world title. If it’s possible to continue in Ducati, I will be very happy. It’s very early to speak because we didn’t speak about that [yet] but I’m sure sooner or later it will happen and we’ll see what happens.”

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