Jorge Lorenzo: I’ve never been 100% fit on the Honda

Jorge Lorenzo shrugs off the presence of Johann Zarco's arrival in the Honda fold despite it potentially adding more pressure on his disappointing results

Jorge Lorenzo - Repsol Honda

Jorge Lorenzo has reiterated his objective to remain with Honda until the conclusion of his two-year MotoGP contract in 2020 as he bids to prove his ongoing troubles on the RC213V can be justified by his injury woes.

Lorenzo’s torrid time since joining the title winning Repsol Honda team have been well documented, the Spaniard accumulating on 23 points since the start of the 2019 MotoGP season versus Marc Marquez’s championship clinching 325 points.

Though Lorenzo has taken time out in 2019 because of a back injury he says he is still in recovery from, recent rounds have simply magnified his problems with only four points from four races ahead of Honda’s home Japanese MotoGP.

HRC‘s decision to call up Johann Zarco to replace Takaaki Nakagami for the final three rounds of the 2019 season is also seen as a clear indication it is considering its immediate options if it decides to negotiate an early exit for Lorenzo itself.

Lorenzo says he remains committed to seeing out his contract to the end of the 2020 season and was relaxed at the prospect of Zarco – who will ride a 2018 specification RC213V - coming into the Honda fold to place further scrutiny on his efforts.

“I don’t know, it's just a matter of the LCR team and Honda," he told Crash.net. "I guess they needed a rider because Taka is having an operation and Zarco is free and a fast rider, so why not? Maybe he'll be very fast and fight for pole position, I don’t know! Who knows!"

While three-time MotoGP champion Lorenzo is certainly disappointed with the results from his first season at Honda – which peaks with a best finish of 11th – he insists he has never had a chance to ride the Honda RC213V in a fully fit state, referencing injuries that stretch back to Motorland Aragon in 2018.

“When I first signed with Honda I expected much more. Maybe not necessarily to fight for the championship, but not the results that I'm getting now.

"In Aragon [last year] I had a foot injury, then in Thailand an injury in the hand, then in pre-season the scaphoid injury, in Qatar I broke a rib and then in Assen I broke the back.

"So I've never ridden at 100% with this bike. This has been a big influence on my results. My back feels better, every week I feel small improvements. But it's a very long process. So slow, the recovery."

What could happen to Jorge Lorenzo?

Ahead of this week’s Japan MotoGP – Honda’s home round – the signing of Zarco to the satellite LCR team raises more awkward questions for Lorenzo.

With a quality rider currently on the sidelines for 2020 MotoGP in Zarco, even if Honda have levelled no formal objectives for the Frenchman when he starts in Phillip Island, the man himself will likely have a grander plan in mind to insert himself into Honda’s future plans.

For now, Zarco’s best hopes of an imminent Honda deal rests on a testing and substitute role, possibly in place of Stefan Bradl who has been linked to HRC’s new WorldSBK effort. 

From Lorenzo’s point of view, his assertion he hasn’t been 100 per cent fit on the Honda sets up the premise that when he does consider himself fully recovered, he will be expected to deliver on the promises he has therefore made. Presumably there will be a timeframe as to when Lorenzo is back to strength and Honda will expect it to be from the moment he throws his leg over the bike in 2020.

Dropping Lorenzo early will be an expensive option financially but keeping him isn’t enriching the team as it currently stands either.

Working against Zarco though is a Honda that has been developed around Marc Marquez’s hustling rider style, quite different from the ex-KTM rider’s smoother approach. Indeed, the reason why Zarco is on the sidelines right now is because he couldn’t get to grips with the RC16, giving him a potentially narrow operating window to get the best from the Honda.

Time will tell but while Lorenzo’s desire to jump ship appears to have abated, it may not become his decision to make.

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