A new battle awaits the 'Spartan'

In less than two weeks Lorenzo makes his Honda debut in Valencia as the five-time Champion partners seven-time Champion Marquez in 2019

It all started on 7th June, the announcement that five-time World Champion Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) will join the Repsol Honda Team in 2019, partnering seven-time World Champion Marc Marquez.

It was a surprise to many, and this is what Lorenzo himself said about the decision in the pre-event Press Conference at the Catalan GP: “Actually, my priority was to stay at Ducati and finish what I started. But from Le Mans, I started to fear the fact that Ducati wants to replace me with another rider. So, I started to think of another way…”

It was Lorenzo who approached HRC, but Honda wasn’t going to turn down such an opportunity to have the two riders who have won all but one of the last nine MotoGP™ World Championships. In simple terms, it’s a formidable team and the combined numbers between Lorenzo and Marquez don’t lie: 12 titles, 138 victories, 268 podiums and 149 pole positions.

On paper, this is something of a dream team. Internally, dealing with two multiple World Champions could – and almost certainly will – be difficult at times. But this doesn’t seem to be phasing both Marquez and Team Manager Alberto Puig.

“I’ve always said I wanted a strong teammate to pull the team up,” commented Marquez ahead of the Catalan GP, a race which saw the future teammates finish 1-2. Shades of next season, perhaps?

Meanwhile, this is what Puig had to say about Lorenzo’s signature: “A top team wants to have the best riders. The opportunity came up, so we grabbed it. It will not be easy, but Honda has always loved a challenge!”

Tensions have risen between the two in the past, and we saw it again this year in Aragon when Lorenzo blamed Marquez for causing his first corner highside. A situation like that as teammates may end differently, however, there’s another question on everyone’s lips that needs answering: can Lorenzo tame the Honda?

The super smooth, infinitely precise style of the ‘Spartan’ is the opposite of how Marquez rides, of whom the latest RC213V machines are based around. So, can Lorenzo take to the Repsol Honda like a duck to water? And if so, how quick?

“At Ducati, it took him a while, but once he became fully acclimated, he won two races in a row at Mugello and Catalunya,” explains Puig. He adds, “no doubt, he will be fast. At what point? I do not know. But he has the potential and the experience to get good results with our bike.”

The number 99 also believes he’ll have no such trouble adjusting to the Honda: “Those who have followed me since my debut know that I can be quick on any bike. I won with Derbi, Aprilia and Yamaha. With Honda, I only stayed a year in 250cc but I still earned a few positions and some podiums. The challenge will not be obvious... But sooner or later, I know that I can go fast.”

One thing is for certain, though. HRC will not be making two different types of motorcycle to fit each of the rider’s needs: “We will not develop two totally different bikes,” said HRC technical director Takeo Yokoyama. “The direction will be the same, after there may be slight differences, it is not a concern for us.”

While he remains dressed in red for now, in little under two weeks’ time Lorenzo will be relieved of his duties with Ducati as he heads out on to test a Repsol Honda machine for the first time in Valencia. You can watch Lorenzo’s much anticipated first outing at the post-Valencia preseason test on motogp.com, which takes place on Tuesday, November 20th and Wednesday, November 21st.