The teammate from hell | Columns | Gassit Garage
Back when he was just a boy, rather a strange one but very, very fast, the Spanish used to call him “’Round the outside”. For obvious reasons. In 2018, “Gorgeous Jorge” has earned a new nickname: “Up the blind side”. His switch from difficult Ducati to hairs-breadth Honda caught everybody napping.
It was in Mugello, where he went on to take his first win since leaving Yamaha, that Jorge revealed that he was leaving Ducati. This much had become obvious with his poor results over the preceding races, especially when Ducati Corse Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti had remarked crustily at Le Mans that, “There is a big gulf between his fee and our budget.”
He went on to spike the curiosity by saying that he would be returning “on a competitive bike” for the next two years. This triggered a frenzy of speculation, among a racing twitterati already dizzy from a wildly spinning silly season. Guessing who would go where seemed almost as important as the racing. For some people, more so.
This being Lorenzo, it was necessary to think the unthinkable. But only up to a point. With Suzuki already spoken for, and KTM and Aprilia not meeting his “competitive” description, there could be only one answer. Jorge was going back to Yamaha. A rumour that gelled still further when Yamaha didn’t rule out the notion of supplying its still-notional satellite team with factory-spec bikes.
That seemed settled then.
So when the news broke days later that he was to join Marquez on Honda, there wasn’t anyone who wasn’t flabbergasted. Plenty of people admire Lorenzo’s super-smooth riding, his title achievements (three so far in the premier class alone), and his tireless work ethic. There is grudging respect also for his wilful independence, although this is often over-ruled by disdain for his habit of dispensing with his close allies at the drop of a hat. This started when he dumped his rider-coach-manager father, when he was still just a teenager.
But I am in a minority in the so-called MotoGP family (a sentimental misnomer that strives to unite the irreconcilable), because I seem to be one of only very few who actually like Lorenzo.
Like might not be the right word. It’s not part of a GP journalist’s remit to like the riders, though it helps if you like the racing. But there’s something about Lorenzo’s egotistic selfishness that fits a great champion.
He’s struggled with the Desmosedici, but always promised he was learning. After leading a lot of laps then failing, now he’s won a race, in typically imperious start-to-finish style. I venture to suggest it will not be his last this year. If he then goes on to win also on a Honda (and why not?), I believe he will be the first rider in the premier class to do so on three different makes.
His greatest achievement at Ducati, however, was to negotiate a record sign-on fee, easily eclipsing anything clocked up by Rossi, or anybody else. The rumoured amount for two years was 24-million Euros.
Also typically Lorenzo, this first win was for himself alone. As well as costing Ducati a huge amount of money, it did little for the brand, for it robbed teammate Dovizioso of five potentially crucial points. It was an echo of the last race of last year at Valencia, where Dovi was still numerically capable of winning the title. Against team orders, Jorge decided the best way to help him was to beat him.
Many believe his style is wrong for the Honda. We shall see. He’s an intelligent and hard-working rider, with enormous will-power.
If nothing else, though, he’ll be a thorn in the side of Marquez. The teammate from hell. That’ll be a novelty after the amenable Dani Pedrosa.
By Michael Scott