Lorenzo at Ducati – Will he fare better than Rossi?

Henry Kelsall

The biggest story of the 2016 MotoGP season was that Jorge Lorenzo would depart the Yamaha team where he had enjoyed so much success for a new chapter with the Ducati factory squad. The move raised many eyebrows at the time as Ducati were still in the rebuilding phase and had yet to win a race in 2016. However, come the end of the season they had taken two wins and many podiums. So the question is, what can we expect in 2017?

_gis6205

“I’m sure 100% if you forget Lorenzo with the Ducati for the battle for the championship you are very stupid, because I think he can be very competitive.”

Valentino Rossi

Lorenzo is aiming to do what former teammate Valentino Rossi did when he himself jumped ship from Yamaha to Ducati back in 2011. Rossi had hoped to make the ‘Italian Dream Team’ work, but instead the venture proved to be the most miserable period of his entire career. Over a two year period, he took only three podiums, failing to win and ultimately leaving the team frustrated. He headed back to Yamaha and the wins and title challenges returned. Since then though, Ducati has changed.  Gigi Dall’Igna arrived at the squad in 2014, and the team has been on a steady upward curve ever since – With 2015 seeing them start the year with a pole position and three consecutive second places. The end of that season saw them slip back, but things were about to get much better heading into the new season.

ducati5

Ducati’s 2016 was a breakthrough for the team. They had not won a race since the 2010 Australian GP with Casey Stoner and had endured several years in the wilderness. They put this right in 2016 and the winning drought was stopped with two victories and three pole positions. The bike suited more types of circuits than it had done in the past, its ridiculous top speed meaning it was especially suited to tracks like Austria and Argentina. Andrea Iannone took victory at Austria and Lorenzo’s new teammate Andrea Dovisiozo took the win in Malaysia. It could have been even better had it not been for the erratic performances from the riders, particularly Iannone. The Italian let potential wins go in Qatar and Le Mans, and a clash with Dovisiozo in Argentina was just one reason that lead to him being axed by the Bologna-based team. With the strong performances coming at just the right time for Ducati, it would be foolish to say Lorenzo is going to struggle as Rossi did back in 2011.

ok_g025163

 

 

“I was convinced that I wasn’t going to change my style despite riding a Ducati, and it won’t change.”

Jorge Lorenzo

The Ducati bike is knowingly the heaviest bike on the grid and thus the toughest to handle, but Lorenzo has stated he will not need to change his riding style. Lorenzo is perhaps the smoothest rider on the grid and he appears to be seemingly on rails whenever you witness him on a lap. He has almost an Alain Prost like quality about him. Lorenzo was third fastest on the first day of the post-season test in Valencia, only a tenth off the pacesetting Yamaha of his replacement Maverick Vinales.  While you cannot read too much into testing, his style clearly suits the bike well and you can expect more silky smooth Lorenzo in 2017. So, a much improved bike and team, no need to change his riding style, and a highly motivated Lorenzo aiming to do what Rossi couldn’t. So, what can we expect?

ok_ti16016

 

“Ducati announces that it has reached an agreement with Jorge Lorenzo thanks to which the Spanish rider will take part in the MotoGP World Championship in 2017 and 2018.” 

Ducati press release announcing Lorenzo’s signing

We can probably expect what we have been used to at Yamaha for all these years. I have no doubt in my mind that Lorenzo will be a title challenger in 2017, although his season could start a little slower as he fully adjusts to the bike. After 2016 saw nine different riders win races, and four manufacturers take victory, the days of Honda and Yamaha domination are clearly over. Maybe it would be a surprise to many if Lorenzo wins in Qatar in March, but it shouldn’t be.

2017 MotoGP World Championship, Round 18, Circuito Ricardo Tormo, Cheste, Valencia, Spain, 15 November, 2016, TEST