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Jorge Lorenzo on Ducati failure, turning down Petronas, his secret Honda deal

Jorge Lorenzo gives a detailed account of the period in May 2018 when it became clear he wouldn't be retained by Ducati, only to get a lifeline from Honda

Jorge Lorenzo - Ducati MotoGP 2018


Jorge Lorenzo has opened up about the behind-the-scenes frustrations and clandestine negotiations of the 2018 MotoGP season that led to him penning a contract with Honda before Ducati axed him from its line-up.

The Spaniard, three-time MotoGP World Champion, left Yamaha to join Ducati at the start of the 2017 season in a bid to become one of only a handful of riders to win titles with two different manufacturers.

Also looking to achieve greater success than great rival Valentino Rossi, who endured two lacklustre seasons with Ducati before returning to Yamaha, Lorenzo’s endeavour seemed destined to go the same way as he struggled to adapt the famously unique handling traits of the Desmosedici.

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Claiming he had the best starts, braked later than anyone and lifted the bike up before anyone else, Lorenzo insists his poor form was not down to him primarily, but the dimensions of the bike affecting him physically.

Speaking in the latest episode of his new 99 seconds ‘vlog’ series on YouTube, he said: "In 2018, I was the rider who had the best starts, braked later than anyone and put the bike upright first to use all of Ducati's power, meaning I accelerated the best, but I suffered from the same problem again and again.

“I had arm fatigue during the races and that made me slow my pace very much and also a turning problem that made the front wheel not want to turn in the same way as the rear.”

"Supposedly this was caused by the aerodynamics, those large wings that Ducati had, which made a type of turbulence in the middle of the corner, at maximum lean, and with worn tyres it made it very difficult.

By May 2018 matters had come to a head with Lorenzo anticipating the axe from Ducati, leading to initial talks with Suzuki before it signed rookie Joan Mir.

There were also in-depth talks with the incoming Petronas SRT Yamaha squad, who were prepared to build the set-up around him, he claims but the Spaniard says he wouldn’t join a satellite arm of a manufacturer he won world titles with.

“I didn't really feel like [joining Petronas] because I'd already been in the official Yamaha team and it seemed like a step back. Everything seemed black…. All my thoughts were negative. I didn't see the light at the end of the tunnel."

Jorge Lorenzo and the unexpected call up from Honda

With Suzuki off the table and Lorenzo prepared to turn down Petronas SRT, his fortunes turned with an unexpected phone call from HRC boss Alberto Puig during a mid-season test between the French and Italian MotoGP rounds.

Explaining that Honda were keen to hire Lorenzo to replace Dani Pedrosa in the team, Lorenzo was sworn to such secrecy he wasn’t allowed to inform his manager, who instead was continuing to work on a Petronas SRT that wouldn’t come.

After confirming his interest and being told the biggest potential hurdle to overcome - that being Marc Marquez’s right to exercise a veto over signing him - was no issue, just a week later Lorenzo headed to Mugello  with a Honda deal in his back pocket.

“Between Le Mans and Mugello there was a test in Montmelo (Barcelona). I stayed in a hotel in Barcelona to train before it and while I was cycling I received a surprise call from Alberto Puig, who told me that he didn't want me to get too excited but joining the Honda team in 2019 was a possibility.

"He still had to work with the Japanese team but they said the option was interesting, and that the most important obstacle, that I had already anticipated, was that Marquez could supposedly veto me from joining. But they had already spoken with Marc and he had no problem about me joining the team.

“This made me more cheerful… but above all Alberto Puig told me to keep the conversation confidential. I couldn't resist telling my coach Ivan Lopez but no one else, not even my manager, who was still very focused on Petronas."

Ironically Lorenzo’s form took a sharp upward turn that very weekend with modifications to his Ducati fuel tank and the wings easing the strain on him physically enough to secure an against the grain win.

He’d go on to win again in Catalunya just a week later, before adding a third success in Austria mid-way through the season.

They would prove his last notable results in MotoGP though, Lorenzo’s Honda deal proving high-profile but ill-fated, with injuries and a failure to gel with a RC213V chassis designed around Marquez’s particular style, leading him to retire at the end of 2019.

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