x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Lorenzo is still learning about life in fast lane rider

The exciting young Spaniard says he could be looking for a new team unless he is made to feel wanted.

Jorge Lorenzo is 25 points behind the championship leader and Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi but the Spanish rider, top and below, is confident of making a title challenge.
Jorge Lorenzo is 25 points behind the championship leader and Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi but the Spanish rider, top and below, is confident of making a title challenge.

Every night before he goes to bed, Jorge Lorenzo leafs through a self-help book. With a wry grin, the 22-year-old argues that he needs all the help he can get in his bid to make up the 25 points on championship leader and Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi.

Not long ago, the Spaniard was leading the MotoGP World Championship but he has dropped points to his Italian rival at the last five race weekends and psychologically the ascendancy is very much with Rossi. And Lorenzo is trying everything to get back on top, in the process collecting his very own library of self-help books. He explained: "I really enjoy those sort of books. "I don't read fiction as I like to read things that make me think I'm learning all the time. I try to read a bit of a self-help book every night - it helps me switch off and go to sleep having learned something else."

At present, Lorenzo readily admits he is very much the student in comparison to 30-year-old Rossi, who is favourite to defend his world title. "He's the teacher with all the experience and all the tricks and I'm learning every weekend," he said. "He's definitely the rider to beat - he's been a legend for a long time in MotoGP. He's the No 1, but the No 1 only has a certain shelf life in all sports. Some would say he's having his moment now but for how much longer? I don't know. Hopefully not long."

Lorenzo will be hoping that change in ascendancy happens at today's Czech Grand Prix, although the form book would suggest otherwise. At Brno a year ago, Lorenzo, in a season littered with high-profile crashes, stuttered to 10th place while Rossi took the win. But a year on, Yamaha's junior rider has gone from strength to strength and the crashes, on the whole, have been replaced by repeated podium finishes.

The most recent exception to that came at the previous round of MotoGP, the British Grand Prix, where Lorenzo finally looked to have got the better of Rossi before an avoidable accident on lap nine.Lorenzo misjudged his turn, hit the white line and came flying off his bike, dramatically skidding along the tarmac on his back with sparks flying from his protective clothing. Rossi also crashed but remounted to finish fifth for valuable championship points while Lorenzo could only watch from his neighbouring garage.

"I was feeling really good on the bike but I made a small mistake and when you're pushing 100 per cent, you can be gone in an instant," he said. "I touched the white line, which was stupid, and off I went. I tried to get back in the race but my bike was worse off than me. I just have to learn from that mistake for next time." Learning is Lorenzo's key word and he has been privy to a few Rossi masterclasses this season.

At Montmelo, he misjudged a turn and Rossi got past, likewise at the Sachsenring when Rossi went past on the final lap to win by 0.099 seconds for one of the most thrilling race finishes to an already exciting season. "That defeat hurt worst than all the rest this season," he said. "You can say I only lost by 0.099 seconds but it doesn't matter if you lose by 0.099 seconds or 99 seconds, you still lose. But I have to take the positives from it and I learned something else that day which will help me in the next battle with Rossi."

The title race looks set to be a straight head-to-head between Lorenzo and Rossi, the Yamaha pair having dominated proceedings in recent weeks as Casey Stoner's title hopes have gradually faded. But that inter-team battle may last for just seven more races, with Lorenzo mulling over a move to other teams on the grid. The most likely destination - should he opt to make the switch - is at Team Repsol Honda, who bagged a timely win through Andrea Dovizioso at Donington Park last month.

Lorenzo, though, will not be rushed into making the call but warned Yamaha to "make me feel wanted". "It's understandable that Yamaha love Rossi and have a close relationship as he has given them everything since joining the team, turning them into a winning team for the first time in 10 years or something," he said. "You need to feel wanted and appreciated at a team and that's not just about the money. Where you drive should not be about the money but about where you can do best.

"At the moment, other brands maybe make me feel wanted so we'll see what happens. It's a dream riding for Yamaha and I feel part of a family so there's things to think about." Talks are ensuing between all parties and it is thought a decision could be made before the end of this week over whether Lorenzo, the hottest new property in MotoGP, stays or not. Lorenzo is clearly revelling in the attention of his new-found fame. Last season, he became renowned for his recklessness, leading to all manner of acrobatic crashes and injuries.

Now, he is one of MotoGP's most recognisable faces, and it has led to plenty of additional benefits. "I used to struggle to get my pick of the girls but it's easier these days," he explained. "And that's mostly thanks to Facebook. That's an amazing invention and I've had some good dates because of it, and will hopefully have many more!" The dating game, though, is very much secondary for Lorenzo, who admits he desperately needs to get his championship challenge back on track this weekend to have any chance in the title race.

"Sure, 25 points is a big difference but we've seen already this season how quickly things can change in the championship," he said. "I still have the same belief in my ability on the bike and I know I can catch Rossi. It won't be easy but I'll go after him until the final turn of the final race of the season." mmajendie@thenational.ae