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“It’s a dream”: Lorenzo’s road to the top in red

It’s been a long time since Jorge Lorenzo stood on the top step of the podium. He returned to it, this time in red, at Mugello

Since Valencia 2016, Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) hadn’t won a race until his ride at the Autodromo del Mugello to take his first imperious win for Ducati. For a rider who won his third outing in the premier class, has been crowned Champion three times and taken more title fights down to the wire, it was a difficult drought of victories – and ending it was, in his words, “one of the top three days of my life.”

Lorenzo puts the hammer down for his first victory in red

Despite the tougher times, there have been flashes of serious pace and progress for the Spaniard since he first got on a Ducati at the end of 2016, fresh from that most recent win in blue. High on the timesheets and grinning after he tried the bike, it started well – and his first podium for the Borgo Panigale marque was soon to come, taken on home turf at Jerez. There were more visits to the rostrum at Aragon and Sepang, and 2018 started even better as the ‘Spartan’ sliced around the Malaysian track in testing faster than anyone ever had before. But then 2018 hit a hurdle and a brake problem in Qatar was the first in a series of difficult races, despite Lorenzo leading much of the first half of the both the Spanish and French GPs.

The difference of late and in Italy, says the number 99, came from the updates he’d requested from Ducati that arrived in Jerez, further improved by some modifications to his fuel tank for Mugello. Being a winner at the venue six times on arrival was another good omen, as was his pace in practice and his qualifying performance that put him just 0.035 off pole. He took the holeshot as in Spain and France, but this time, the hammer was down and the pace remained high in that incredible Lorenzo-style rhythm; lap after lap until taking the victory by over six seconds.

After the win, the five-time World Champion reflected on the race, his detractors and the road back to the top.

“There have been a lot of critics in the last year and a half,” began the Ducati rider, “many hours of work with my trainer and my team, and finally the dream arrived. Finally, I got some pieces that gave me confidence, I demonstrated it was true what I said, and I won my first race for Ducati.”

What he said was that when given a bike that gives him confidence, he can win – exactly what he did. So how does it feel?

“To win with Ducati in Mugello is a dream. But to win a race in MotoGP after a year and a half with no result, with so much criticism and hard work and finally you did it, it’s amazing. This is an example of never giving up, we can all do things if we keep working and go for it. You can achieve it.”

It wasn’t as ‘easy’ as it looked from the outside, however, despite the incredible pace and rhythm – with Lorenzo having changed a lot from Saturday to Sunday, mindful of the worry shared with much of the grid: the front tyre.

“I changed my riding style completely to save the front tyre, and I made the biggest change from practice to race of my life,” he goes on to explain. “And after the race, I looked at the tyre and it was much better than I expected. I used my mind, I focused and I kept pushing till the last lap.”

Lorenzo hints at his future...

Going back to reflect on the road to the top, Lorenzo also touched on the rumours surrounding his future – hinting it could be too little too late for him to ride on in red next season.

“To believe in Jorge Lorenzo before was hard, now it’s easy to say,” smiled the ‘Spartan’, responding to Casey Stoner’s belief that Lorenzo had only been missing one thing to be able to win. “I say I don’t make excuses but I don’t, when I make a mistake I say it. When I need something, it’s true. And I showed it. Ducati gave me this modification and I showed it was true. I never lie and I hope now people believe my words. One side of my heart is happy about this, but then the other is sad because if I’d had this before I could have said I was going to continue with Ducati…but I can’t tell you that.”

Where he’ll be next year is yet to be confirmed, but he’ll be racing as the only man to have won for both Yamaha and Ducati. Something doubted by many, as Lorenzo pointed out – but not by those competing against the Spaniard.

Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) had one fantastic soundbite on one of the only riders to have beaten him in a last lap battle, agreeing with the man himself: “Lorenzo shut a lot of people up today.” And in the post-race Press Conference, current teammate Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and former teammate Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) were both asked whether they were surprised to see the number 99 win. Short answer? No.

“I expected Jorge to be stronger today than in the past, I already saw in practice he had chance to drop less during the race,” said Dovizioso. “I didn’t expect it quite like this but the race was particular. He managed the race in a really good way, because both tyres he used were very soft so to keep that pace until the end was very difficult.”

And Rossi – another man to having ridden both Yamaha and Ducati machinery – was also penciling in Lorenzo as a threat after practice, as well as noting his calibre.

“It’s difficult to say you wouldn’t expect a victory for Jorge, because he’s one of the top riders,” affirmed Rossi. “Winning with Ducati is difficult, you need time because it’s a very different bike compared to the Yamaha and Jorge had been with Yamaha a long, long time since he moved to MotoGP. Other weekends he was strong in practice but yesterday I saw the sheets and I saw he had really good pace, and I expected he could have a good race.”

With another little chapter in this incredible era of racing written, will it now continue at another venue where the Lorenzo’s Land flag has been planted a good few times? Next up is home turf for the ‘Spartan’, where he took his first front row in red last season: the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya where, rumour has it, we’ll find out more about 2019, too...

2018 Italian Grand Prix: MotoGP™ Full Race