After 8 seasons on the Yamaha, it’s time for the MotoGP champion to leave the nest and sign with Ducati. The Italian team is on the rise, and Lorenzo could go a long way in tuning out his critics.
Jorge Lorenzo, the most controversial rider on the grid, Spartan clad helmet and all, rode to another brilliant win in Qatar. He’s got the fastest bike on the grid, he’s got the most speed over one lap of anyone on the grid, he dominated pre-season testing, and is the favorite to clinch his fourth premier class title. And now is the time for him to leave the relative comforts of Yamaha and chase more than just wins and titles. It’s time to ditch the shadow of Valentino Rossi by doing exactly what Rossi did in 2011, and then do it better.
It is an open secret that Jorge Lorenzo might be the most disliked but successful rider in recent racing history. Most motorcycle racers life the good life, the money, the fame, the glitz and glamour of getting paid millions of dollars to race million dollar motorcycles around the world. Yet Jorge Lorenzo finds himself more as a Sisyphus than a beloved racer. He wins, he fights back from grueling injury and then wins some more, he rides to the point of precision that you begin to believe he is on rails. And yet the majority of MotoGP fans shun him, even boo him on his regular visits to the podium.
Some riders like legendary Mick Doohan and Lorenzo’s contemporary counterpart in Dani Pedrosa spend their entire careers on a single bike. There is no lack of historical precedent for a rider staying with one team his whole career, especially when the bike is as good as the Yamaha has been. As we begin the 2016 season, we also unknowingly enter the 2017 silly season when contracts and rides are secured for the year to come. Along with Lorenzo, every rider for Honda, Ducati, Suzuki, Tech 3, KTM, and Aprilla is up for a renewal at the end of the season. We could see one of the biggest single season shifts in MotoGP history. Valentino Rossi already signed his two year contract with Yamaha, and all signs point to the fact that it may be his last, he has nothing left to prove.
This is not the first time Jorge Lorenzo has been at this crossroad, MotoGP contracts are usually a two year affair. In 2010 and in 2012 Ducati offered Lorenzo nearly $15,000,000 a year to join the Bologna based squad. He said thanks, but no thanks on both occasions. It was a smart move in 2010 as the Ducati went from a championship winning caliber bike to a unmitigated disaster featuring none other than Valentino Rossi who left Yamaha for Ducati in much of the same way he left Honda in 2003 after winning three straight titles. Between 2012 and now, Lorenzo has won 24 races and two more titles, his standing as one of the all time greats can never be challenged. Not only that, but the Ducati team is on the up, and the bike is fast. This is not a team coasting on past success as it was in 2012, this is a team hungry for wins and titles, and with the best engine on the grid. There has never been a more appropriate time for Jorge Lorenzo to make a career defining move to another team and prove he can ride another bike to another world title.
One of the reasons that Jorge Lorenzo fails to win over so many fans is that he publicly holds the opinion that his success comes solely and purely from the fact that he simply worked harder than anyone else. That his innate disposition for riding a motorcycle, his height and weight, his place of birth and proximity to racing, his father buying him a motorcycle at the age of 6, any of the millions of chance happenings that are required to allow a rider to make it to MotoGP don’t seem to faze Lorenzo. Fans punish Jorge Lorenzo for this perceived arrogance, and while it is a perception, there is some truth to the matter that he has failed to take any real risk outside of a race itself. He has often imitated other riders, most notably Valentino Rossi, when it comes to the finer points of branding. And while he says he is not interested in how he is perceived, it is almost certainly a bold lie that Lorenzo doesn’t dream of thousands of roaring fans screaming his name the same way they do for Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, or the late Marco Simoncelli. A move to Ducati, a move to any team would go a long way to silencing his critics that say shows no personal touch, that he seems to simply go through the motions of winning race after race on the fastest motorcycles ever built. Jorge Lorenzo has the wins and titles, he now needs to define himself away from the nest of Yamaha that has nurtured him for so many years. A win, or even yet, a title for Ducati would propel Jorge Lorenzo out of the depths of whatever purgatory MotoGP fans have placed him in and finally give him the kind of genuineness so many fans have been waiting for.