The Kingdom of Spain has an official motto which declares “Plus Ultra,” translating to “Future Beyond.” And Spain is the Plus Ultra of MotoGP. It’s motorcycle racing-crazy and hosts four of the seasons 18 races, at Jerez, Barcelona, Aragon and Valencia.
Spain is the home nation of Jorge Lorenzo, 2010 and ’12 MotoGP World Champion. The Palma native has been outshone by compatriot Marc Marquez the past two years, but the second half of the 2014 season saw the 27-year-old get back in the groove, with four straight runner-up finishes at Indianapolis, Brno, Silverstone and Misano and wins at Aragon and Motegi, Japan.
This weekend, Lorenzo and his potent factory Yamaha YZR-M1 (ABOVE: Yamaha image) head to Austin, Texas for the second race of the 2015 MotoGP season at Circuit of The Americas. Will it be Lorenzo’s year again? Eric Johnson caught up with him to get his take on that and a lot more.
Can you talk about how important it is to set-up the bike at a GP and how important the team effort is in having a good race weekend?
Somebody can think that motorcycle racing is an individual sport. I don’t feel my sport is like this. During the weekend, without my engineers, mechanics, my personal team, I wouldn’t be fighting for victories. Maybe, I wouldn’t be in MotoGP. For example, without my father, who built me a motorbike when I was three years old, I wouldn’t be a rider. To be on top you need a good team, you have to trust in your team.
What is the Yamaha like to ride when you are pushing 100 percent on a fast lap?
It is crazy. The Yamaha M1 is one of the fastest bikes in the world. When you ride a monster like this you can feel the meaning of speed. Obviously, if you like the speed, you can enjoy it as you didn’t imagine ever. I don’t forget my first time with this bike…
Is it scary riding in MotoGP?
It’s not too scary, but after a lot of crashes you are more conscious that your sport is dangerous. If you find the way to be fast and don’t take too many risks, you are on the good way. Any rider is a little bit scared in MotoGP.
What it’s like to scrape your elbow?
You can feel the asphalt! Hahaha! It means that you are fast and you are really close to the asphalt. Really, my riding style is changing every year a little bit. Just details, but if I want to be better every year, I have to improve my style, create new things to make the difference with other riders. Everyone has his tricks.
Where during the MotoGP series do you get the fastest, most extreme lean angle with the bike and what does that feel like?
There are a lot of corners where we lean the bike to 62 degrees. Sounds crazy but for us it’s normal. I like the last corners in Barcelona, for example.
How hard is it to adjust that angle in a wet race?
Is not easy to ride in the rain, but last year I won in Aragon and it was one of my best moments of the season. In the rain you have to ride perfectly. The smallest mistake can be a disaster. If your angle is too much or if you brake too late, you crash. If your angle is not enough, you go slower than the others. It’s really more difficult under the rain, but at the same time the feeling is always special. Winning Aragon was a mental relief for me. I’d never been in a hurry looking for the victory and I wasn’t obsessed, because I knew that the win would arrive at some point. But, I have to say, afterward I felt liberated.
(ABOVE: Monster Energy image; BELOW: Yamaha image)
How have you adapted to Marc Marquez moving his riding and racing to a higher level?
When you are on top in your sport, you have to accept that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Marc is so strong and has a lot of skills. One of them is that he learns so quickly; on braking he is extremely strong and has a special riding style that permits him to play with the bike. The Honda allows him this kind of style, maybe because of the chassis – it looks more flexible. Obviously he’s a tough rival to fight because he always wants to dominate, at every session and that is so stimulating for us, it’s something that feeds us to try to beat him.
What do you think of the other top MotoGP racers? You, Marc, Dani and Valentino all seem to be in another league. How come?
Every rider has special skills. From Valentino, honestly, I would steal from him his abilities in a race for improvisation or his intelligence to manage the race when he is on the bike. Regarding Dani, I think he is so technical and he is able to get some advantage on acceleration because of his weight and exiting the corners. And concerning Márquez, I will take his mentality. He never gives up and he always tries to win, even in the tougher conditions. Sometimes he takes too many risks, but he always tries it.
Would you like to race a 500cc two-stroke?
Yes, of course! Is not easy to ride a 500. Current bikes are better in all the aspects, but the 500cc bikes have something special. I see some old races and it is really amazing how Rainey, Schwantz, Doohan or Crivillé ride these bikes.
You post a lot of photos on social media of yourself training. How come?
I love social media. It’s my way to be close to the fans. I try to show who I am outside the circuits…
How fit do you have to be to ride at your level?
I’m very strict with my diet. And I have just 15 days on vacation during the year. I try to be very elastic, so I do a lot of stretching. But at the same time I have to be fit and strong. I love hard work and training and I love racing. Sometimes you need some quiet moments to recover and unplug, but the problem maybe last year was this relaxing time was too long. I had several surgeries to take out some pieces of metal from the past that were creating some problems for me in some parts of my body. I started too late my pre-season… The most important thing is that I learned a lesson.
What do you do for fun?
I try to visit my friends and my family. And I try and get away from it all, too, just for a few days.
Who is in your personal hall of fame? In other words, friends, idols, people you admire.
Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali… The biggest talents in their different fields.
What does it feel like to ride a normal production bike on the street? Is it like a toy? Do you ever just ride for leisure in Spain?
I have some bikes at home, but outside the circuits I prefer to drive a car. I just go fast on the tracks.
What are your thoughts on 2015? What will it take to be a World Champion again?
Nobody knows the future. I only can promise effort and I will try to do my best again. 2015 will be better than 2014. The current level is so high; especially the first four riders in the championship regarding speed, constant pace and focus. To go one more step ahead is really difficult. but it’s crystal clear that if you are in perfect shape, physically and mentally, and the bike works well, everything is easier. In my case it is so; if I’m fine, I’m focused and I can fight for victories.
What’s in the near- and long-term future for Jorge Lorenzo?
I have two more years at Yamaha. As I say always, I want to finish my career with Yamaha. That would be really great! And I want to try to win another World Championship, of course. But I don’t know exactly when I will stop. I only think about the next two years right now.