Jorge Lorenzo was signed up by Ducati this year to fight for the world title, yet has only one podium compared to teammate Andrea Dovizioso’s three victories. Can the triple world champion win for the Italian team this year?
It is probably safe to say that no one thought Lorenzo would struggle with the Ducati like he has this year. Although it is a very different beast to his old Yamaha machine, there were expectations at last year’s end of season test that he could fight for wins and the title immediately.
But that has not been the case. A difficult pre-season saw him finish outside the top ten in the season opener and Qatar and he has only taken one podium in eleven rounds this year at Jerez. He has lead in Mugello, Barcelona, Brno and Austria but won none of those races, slipping back down the order, although the Brno result is skewed due to the flag-to-flag nature of the race. So what has been plaguing the Spaniard?
Lorenzo has lacked front end confidence throughout almost the entire season. The Yamaha was a nippy, responsive bike that would allow the rider to as he pleased and fast. This has been shown by how fast Maverick Vinales has got up to speed on the bike, winning the first two races of the year.
The Ducati meanwhile is a heavy, more physical bike and has been very tricky for a while. 2016 saw a lot of those problems addressed as they won their first races in six years, Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone taking a win apiece. As the year has gone on,
As the year has gone on, this year’s Ducati has improved and really gelled with Dovizioso. The Italian is a title contender with three wins so far, two of those back to back in Mugello and Spain. ‘Desmo Dovi’ knows the bike, knows how to ride it and how to get around its foibles. Lorenzo has not had the luxury of developing the bike for over five years.
“The key is that I’m getting to close to the feeling I had with my previous bike. I don’t have it yet, but it will come. The fairing gives me a lot of confidence in the front. Let’s say my limit is farther. I am faster, half a second faster on all laps.”
A new fairing was unveiled at the Brno race which not only looked striking, it also brought a new lease of life to Lorenzo. The fairing is giving him a feeling more like the one he had on the Yamaha, and that is giving him around half a second a lap in pace. This is a very positive sign. The whole year has been a steep learning curve for the Spaniard and it looks like he is finally making some progress in his efforts to win again. The question is, will he be able to win this year?
“We are making huge steps and I hope to make the last one I need in the Misano test.”
It would be amazing if he did not do so, based on his recent progress. Austria saw him lead ten laps and only fall to fourth and that has been put down to simply a fuel consumption issue. This forced him to turn the engine down, losing performance that could well have kept him in the lead battle. Lorenzo himself said his performance in Austria was probably his best ride for Ducati so far. His six-second margin to Dovizioso at the end of the race was the smallest margin he has had to a race winner all season.
Clearly, big progress has been made. And if the progress continues at the current rate, Lorenzo will surely take victory this year with Ducati. And when the learning is complete, the other riders had better watch out. Because as well all know, when he is on a role, Jorge Lorenzo can be unstoppable.