Jorge Lorenzo – as cool as it gets


You’ve got to hand it to Jorge Lorenzo.

During 2012 he was the rock in a rough sea. This has been a stormy year of dizzying change in MotoGP: the arrival of CRT bikes, Casey Stoner retiring, Valentino Rossi changing jobs once again and finally the Bridgepoint bombshell. All year, only one thing stayed truly consistent: Lorenzo.

His results at the 16 races he finished on his way to the title were stunning – never outside the top two. First at Qatar, then second, second, first, first, first, second, first, second, second, second, first, second, second, second, second.

That kind of regularity is unique in the modern era and Lorenzo is certainly a unique racer. He has a very individual approach to the sport and he rides in a very special way.

During his early years as a GP racer he was a petulant teenager, famous for smacking one of his Derbi mechanics on an off-day. After that, he did calm down, but not much. After winning back-to-back 250 world titles he arrived in MotoGP in 2008 and began hurling himself down the road with frightening regularity. He got hurt rather too often and once admitted that he was scared of doing serious damage to himself. For a while, it looked like he might not make it.

But somehow Lorenzo turned the corner. He transformed himself from a cocky young hothead into a young man who seemed able to deal with just about everything with an air of Buddhist calm. This was something he learned through studying sophrology – a kind of meditation or self-hypnotism.

It is this technique that allows him to find calm in the midst of the MotoGP chaos to focus entirely on what he’s doing, rather than being distracted by everything going on around him. Lorenzo isn’t the only racer to use meditation to help put him ‘in the zone’, but he seems better at it than anyone else.

Sophrology may also have something to do with his riding technique, which is about as Buddhist as it’s possible to get on a bike. Lorenzo is so calm, so relaxed, so perfect that he’s like a metronome. He rides with an exactitude that has his peers shaking their heads in disbelief – lap after lap after lap he will use the same centimetre of tarmac. And his riding has become even smoother and even neater over the years, possibly because that’s the best way to ride the latest MotoGP bikes and tyres.

While most champions of the last few decades have owed most to the teachings of former dirt tracker King Kenny Roberts, Lorenzo’s style harks way back to 1960s legend Mike Hailwood. It’s all about seamlessly smooth transitions between braking, cornering and acceleration. Lorenzo barely seems to move on the bike – he’s perfectly settled, just like the bike and tyres, because that’s what the Bridgestones need – constant pressure throughout those three phases.

Lorenzo’s style is as different as it’s possible to get from someone like Wayne Rainey, definitely Roberts’ greatest disciple. The winner of the first three 500 world titles of the 1990s was so physical on a GP bike that each phase of cornering was sharply marked by a dramatic change in body position. That’s what it took to get those bikes to work – major changes to front and rear loading.

The only moment Lorenzo lost his cool during his march to his second MotoGP crown was at Assen, where Alvaro Bautista attempted to brake 50 metres later than usual and skittled the World Championship leader. Lorenzo could be forgiven for having a strop in the gravel trap, especially after seeing one of his six engines rev itself into oblivion. But while much of the media began making a big song and dance about him running out of engines, Lorenzo refused to get in a panic and remained blissfully in control for the rest of the championship.

Lorenzo has the talent, the brains and the mindset to be a multiple MotoGP World Champion. But during 2012 he did also have some luck on his side – he was lucky that his Yamaha YZR-M1 gelled perfectly with the latest Bridgestone slicks while Honda had nightmarish chatter problems with the tyres. But that is the way with control tyres – sometimes they work against you, other times they work in your favour. Good luck or bad luck, he’s definitely a deserving World Champion.

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