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23 days ago
By Nick Harris

The Mike Hailwood of MotoGP™

Truly great sportsmen make it look so so easy. Jorge Lorenzo did just that.

When I was growing up with totally unrealistic dreams of actually racing a  motorcycle I eagerly devoured every  word in a book on just how to do it by my hero nine times World Champion  Mike Hailwood. The book suggested you should be able to place an imaginary sixpenny piece on every corner round the TT mountain course in the Isle of Man. Then for every lap of the six lap race, a mere 364 kms, you should be able to ride over every one of those sixpences to ensure smooth consistent lines. Hailwood could do it but very few others could. Without a shadow of a doubt Jorge Lorenzo would have hit that imaginary sixpence or euro in his case, on every single bend. In this era of tough aggressive encounters Lorenzo was almost a throwback who reminded me so much of the legendary Hailwood. Of course he could mix it and had to win those five World titles. Even the King of Spain had to step in to calm the explosive feud between him and Dani Pedrosa as they fought for the 250 cc title. Then when he joined the MotoGP elite and everything that goes with it. Lorenzo also had to deal with team-mate Valentino Rossi on and off the track.

I vaguely remember having to add the name of a teenager from Mallorca by the name of Jorge Lorenzo to the entry list on the Saturday of the 2002 125 cc race at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez. It was the day of his 15th birthday and he was too young to ride in the first two practice sessions on Friday. A year later he won his first grand prix in Rio but I’d already got to know Jorge. He was more nervous about having to speak English at press conferences than he was about riding grand prix motor cycles. We would meet up ten minutes before the conference and he would practice his answers in English to my questions. It was good training and soon no practice was required because he was such a frequent participant in the pole setters and race winner’s press conferences on route to those two 250 cc World titles.

He arrived in MotoGP with a bang. Pole positions, some mighty big crashes, especially that high side in China and that first win in Estoril were the stand out moments of that 2008 season. World titles on the Yamaha followed in 2010, 2012 and 2015 which was almost forgotten in the furore of the Marquez/Rossi war. Like Rossi he made the move to Ducati and struggled in the same way to adjust in that first year but then glimpses of that immaculate smooth style returned with three grand prix wins for the Italian factory.

In the end the pain of so many injuries finally took their toll this year. Lorenzo knew more than most that you paid a price for winning 68 grands prix and five World titles. Who would ever forget that weekend at the 2013 Dutch TT in Assen. Lorenzo crashed and broke his collarbone in the wet second practice session. He was flown to Barcelona to have a titanium plate fitted with ten screws to repair the broken bone. He returned two days later to ride the Yamaha into fifth place after 26 laps of excruciating pain. Winning World titles and grands prix was never easy.

To some people  Lorenzo played second fiddle to first Valentino Rossi and then Marc Marquez  but on his day and especially if he got away at the front, Jorge Lorenzo was quite simply unbeatable. Mike Hailwood would have approved.

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