n the eve of the 2016 MotoGP
season finale at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo
in Valencia, Spain, Jorge Lorenzo was
getting a little nostalgic.
“I’ve been riding a Yamaha for nine
seasons, but Sunday will be the last time I
get on the M1,” said the Spaniard, who’d
spent his entire MotoGP career, stretching
back to 2008, with Yamaha. “It will be a
weird sensation. I’ve spent a third of my life
here. More than 150 races, 43 victories
and three MotoGP World Championships.
These nine years will be part of me
forever. Unrepeatable. Unforgettable.”
Next day, Lorenzo made it 44 wins
in 156 starts. A pole converted to an
elegant victory. Classic Lorenzo. Then
adios to Yamaha Motor Company Limited.
A mere 48 hours later, Lorenzo was back
at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, this time on
a different bike as he felt his way into a
first day in the saddle for Italy’s Ducati.
Since April 18, 2016, the day Lorenzo
announced he’d be leaving Yamaha for
Ducati, speculation had been rife on why
he’d chosen to leave his familiar and
successful Yamaha YZR-M1 for the fast
but flighty Ducati Desmosedici GP17. For
the rider himself, the reasons are simple.
“Sometimes when you spend a long time
with the same people and same ‘tool,’ it’s
almost impossible that it doesn’t become a
bit routine,” he says. “What motivated me
was a new team, with new challenges. It
gives me an extra boost of motivation.
“Ducati has made great progress over
the last three to four years with the arrival
of [general manager and de facto technical
director] Gigi Dall’Igna. Becoming world
champion again will be difficult, but we are
going to try together. We know the
difficulty and we have to fight against big
teams like Honda and Yamaha.”
Lorenzo confers with
his new Ducati team
at the pre-season
MotoGP test at Phillip
Island, Australia. (TOP
RIGHT) The Spaniard’s
regime off the bike is
an intensive one.
Maverick Vinales, the
guy who’s taken over
his Yamaha ride, at
Phillip Island testing.
LORENZO’S NEW RIDE…
DUCATI DESMOSEDICI GP17
The GP17’s 1,000cc, 90-degree V4 is
regarded as the most powerful engine
in the field. Its handling, not so much.
Mid-turn handling is a key weakness,
with frame flex the probable culprit.
…AND THE ONE HE LEFT BEHIND
The YZR-M1 is generally regarded as
the most user-friendly bike, but
MotoGP’s return to Michelin for 2016
didn’t always serve it well – especially
on load transfer in and through turns.
“People say the [Ducati]
is untameable and very
difficult to ride, but it’s not
as wild as people say”
Challenge aside, other factors also
played into Lorenzo’s decision. Perhaps
first and foremost was a desire to
disentangle from the “Kingdom of Rossi.”
When Valentino Rossi left Yamaha
to race for Ducati in 2011, a move that
would prove to be disastrous for the
Italian, Lorenzo became Yamaha’s main
man, finishing second in that year’s
standings and winning the title in 2012.
But low-key and laidback in his approach,
Lorenzo wasn’t the kind of rider who
“owned” the team he rode for, and when
a chastened Rossi returned to Yamaha in
2013, he was welcomed with open arms.
“Yamaha has a yellow heart,” was the
mantra for Rossi’s place in the Yamaha
grand scheme of things. In other words,