MotoGP

Honda ‘trying to help’ Jorge Lorenzo… but would Marc Marquez allow it?

Repsol Honda insists it is committed to bringing Jorge Lorenzo up to speed on its race-winning bike as Aragon exposes gulf to Marc Marquez

Repsol Honda team manager Alberto Puig insists the team is doing its utmost to improve Jorge Lorenzo’s form on its MotoGP machine after the most recent Aragon MotoGP exposed the sheer gulf between the Spaniard and Marc Marquez. 

On a weekend where Marquez demonstrated his sheer mastery with a dominant pole position and a romp to victory from lights-to-flag without seemingly needing to push to the maximum, Lorenzo only just avoided the ignominy of finishing last in 20th out of 21 runners.

Casting a shadow over a team that couldn’t fully appreciate its victory without being distracted by lingering questions about Lorenzo’s form, Puig insists Honda is committed to assisting its flopping star rider.

“The positive clearly is the victory and in the way it was achieved," he said. "The negative is that Jorge is not having an easy time with our bike, we are trying to help him as much as we can. 

“We know he is strong but unfortunately it has not been going as expected in these races. We need to find a different solution for the following Grand Prix.”

Pain on the bike, painful reading for Jorge Lorenzo

The numbers from the Aragon MotoGP make for some uncomfortable crunching for Honda.

If Honda was as blown away as we were by Marquez’s lap time of 1m 46.869s in FP1, then it was brought down to earth with a bump as it searched for Lorenzo in the same session - right at the bottom with a 1m 51.0345s. 

That’s 4.2secs adrift. A veritable ‘age’ at this level even before you consider the parity of the bikes.

Lorenzo would go on to qualify 20th and though he ran 12th in the race briefly, he plummeted to 20th again by the chequered flag, a mammoth 46s shy off Marquez – or to put another way, two seconds a lap.

With Lorenzo still declaring his injury as a justification for his poor form, it was pointed out it shouldn’t affect his efforts over a single lap as it inevitably does over a race distance. Perhaps more quizzical is Lorenzo’s relative calmness over the situation, insisting he is committed to his two-year deal and hopes to make improvements.

“As you know I always try my best,” he said. “It doesn't matter if I am leading the race or I am in 20th position, I always try my best. And when my best is to fight for the win, I win. And if my best is to get the results I'm getting, I need to accept that situation and to finish the race. There is no other choice.”

For now, Honda is mirroring Lorenzo’s lines about waiting for him to be fully healed to discover where he is on the bike, but as Puig says, even it will have expected more in the last two events which have seen him finish further and further adrift. 

Is it even worth Honda helping Jorge Lorenzo?

Yes, but (and it’s a big but) would Marc Marquez allow it…?

Whilst Lorenzo accepts “Honda will follow a little bit the way of the fastest rider, as is normal”, quite what he deems to be ‘a little’ looks rather ‘a lot’ from the outside. He recently told Crash.net that he’d have expected Honda to be able to satisfy both of them with machines catered to their very disparate riding styles.

It could well be a big question for Repsol Honda to face in the coming weeks as it begins to look towards 2020.

Indeed, would Honda benefit more from developing a MotoGP machine that is more comfortable for Lorenzo, a bike that though still probably very quick in Marquez’s hands, but one that isn’t as centred around its World Champion as it currently is.

In short, no more “Marquez specials” for the greater good if means it doesn’t have to contend with Lorenzo propping up timesheets for another year?

The more cynical may wonder whether Lorenzo’s lacklustre form is a ploy to steer this train of thought, but even the most hardened detractors would consider it a far-fetched (if calculated) ploy.

Regardless, from Marquez’s point of view, having a troubled Lorenzo taking up a lot of Honda’s time and energy is unlikely to appease him as he delivers the silverware in droves on a bike that appears to be an extension of his being.

He’s bringing in the goods, why would he want Honda to delegate more resource to a team-mate that is nowhere his pace?

Then again, simply getting Lorenzo into the team was a sizeable investment for Honda, one it is unlikely to want to see entirely wasted…  

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