The Balearic island of Majorca, off the coast of Spain, is a beautiful, tranquil place. Somewhere from out of that serenity came the likes of MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo.
The Spaniard, in addition to being a talent that threatens not only legend Valentino Rossi’s place atop the throne of MotoGP in terms of riding ability, has shown some incredible quick wit at press conferences.
Evidently, at the Le Mans press conference for this weekend’s race, Lorenzo was asked about a comment Rossi made recently, where he intimated a lot of the new “kids” were pussies. Without missing a beat, Jorge smiled and responded with something akin to, it must be frustrating to be getting beaten by those kids every weekend.
The affable Majorcan, as reigning World Champion, comes into Le Mans, the fourth round of the season, with a win (at Jerez) and two seconds (Qatar and Estoril) for the current points lead.
He has traded wins with Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa. In fact, unlike previous years where this trio was joined by Rossi to form a group of four that became known as “the aliens,” in 2011 – with Rossi adapting to the Ducati-this exclusive clan has been reduced, with the aliens being Lorenzo, Pedrosa, and Stoner. These three men are showing incredible speed, grit, and determination this season, each hungry for the title.
Friday the riders took to the Le Mans circuit for the morning and afternoon free practice sessions, where Lorenzo put his Yamaha fifth on the time charts after doing 45 laps, with a best go of 1.34.659, with the team working on chassis set-up and tire options for the French circuit. As Lorenzo has proven, he is a rider who likes to get the bike close, and then learns to work around the set-up, as opposed to spending too much time experimenting. So look for his position to change tomorrow (Saturday).
In 2010, Lorenzo stormed to nine MotoGP wins, racking up enough points to secure the title well before the season wound down. One of those race wins was here at Le Mans. However, Lorenzo isn’t getting cocky, commenting, “As I’ve said before, this year it’s going to be a difficult year. Some of the other riders are much faster than before. We’re working hard and we are trying a lot of things to improve the bike. We will keep on, we made some improvements over today and I hope tomorrow we will make a step and be a bit faster.”
One aspect of the Majorcan rider’s appeal is he seems to let his results speak for him, as opposed to making brash statements or cutting remarks in the press. With the exception of his run-in with Italian Marco Simoncelli over dangerous riding, Jorge has kept a fairly low profile. Of course he has a World Championship to his name, a title that he is in strong contention to hang onto for when the class returns to 1000cc’s in 2012.
At the first three rounds of 2011 – as he did in 2010-Lorenzo has shown incredible poise and concentration, even when being hounded by other riders. He seems to ride his own race and never get anxious, even with the likes of Stoner or Pedrosa breathing down his neck. He certainly doesn’t look to be a rider who can be shaken by pressure from behind.
That said, there are 15 rounds that stand between now and the end of the season. It’s anybody’s guess as to whom will be crowned champion. Right now, Lorenzo and the Yamaha are a very tidy, capable package. However, the Repsol Hondas of Pedrosa and Stoner are consistent thorns in the Majorcan’s side, showing renewed vigor and speed to challenge for the front.
I have to wonder what it’s like for Rossi, the series’ favorite, to see the likes of a new rider emerge to challenge him, aiming directly for that coveted spot of World Champion.
But that’s what racing is all about; champions will come and go, it’s the name of the game. But I have a strong feeling we have not heard the last from Rossi, not by a long shot.