x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Lorenzo aims high

The MotoGP championship leader admits he is excited by the prospect of winning the title in his second year in the sport, but has played down his chances.

Jorge Lorenzo has had a strong start to the season and he led the championship going into the race in Italy.
Jorge Lorenzo has had a strong start to the season and he led the championship going into the race in Italy.

The MotoGP championship leader Jorge Lorenzo admitted he is excited by the prospect of winning the title in his second year in the sport, but has played down his chances of achieving the feat. The Spaniard, 22, goes into today's Italian Grand Prix in Mugello with a one-point lead in the title race over teammate Valentino Rossi. And with two wins under his belt so far this season, the rider known as Por Fuera, has been hotly tipped to break up the recent Rossi-Casey Stoner Moto-GP stranglehold.

But Lorenzo said his primary goal is "winning races". He said: "That's the aim, not the championship. I don't obviously know what will happen or if I will be in the same place in the championship in three months time, we will see. It will be difficult and so I think it might not happen. "For me, winning the championship would be the most beautiful feeling you can have. I was born to be a rider, my father made my first bike when I was three years old. I don't know what can be better than this."

Despite being a relative newcomer to the series - this is only Lorenzo's second season in the championship - he is a double world champion at 250cc. And he showed on his debut in Qatar last season that he has the makings of a future MotoGP champion when he took pole for the season opener and ended up second in the race. He finished the year fourth in the championship, which included a victory in Estoril, but his season was more memorable for a string of crashes.

In all, he experienced seven accidents in just three months, resulting in a series of broken bones. He shrugged off the severity of the injuries and said the psychological rather than the physical blow had cost him the chance of more success in 2008. "The most important problem was the confidence, not the injuries," said Lorenzo. "I rode in Le Mans with two broken ankles. All these accidents made my brain think very bad things. And after Catalunya [where he was forced to miss the race after a practice crash] I really thought about stopping. It was hard to continue with so much pain but I got through it and learned a lot doing it."

Lorenzo has come off the bike already this season, crashing in a battle for third place in Jerez with 2007 champion Stoner. "The Jerez race was a disappointment but, when you're racing in your home country, you have to take some risks," he said. "I would still do the same thing next time." Lorenzo is contracted to be the teammate of Rossi, who he described as "incredible" and said it was "a pleasure to be close to him", until the end of the season.

But rumours are circulating in the MotoGP paddock that Lorenzo could join Team Repsol Honda. The rider himself admitted: "I don't know what will happen. I just want to say I'm very happy at Yamaha. I would like to continue with this manufacturer." Despite a wall - set up at Rossi's behest - between the pair in their Yamaha team garage, the pair enjoy a good partnership. The same cannot be said for his relationship with fellow Spaniard Dani Pedrosa, who lies fourth in the championship.

The pair's animosity dates back to their 250cc days and last season they refused to even shake hands on the podium in Qatar. But Lorenzo says that has now changed. He said: "I had a problem in the past but for me all that is just in the past. I don't have problems with him. I can't talk about his feelings but I don't know them. You'll have to ask him." Lorenzo has promised to keep the spats to a minimum this year and instead focus on race wins, starting at Mugello later today.

mmajendie@thenational.ae