Jorge Lorenzo has come a long way since he was a carefree and crash-happy MotoGP rookie in 2008.
Eager to show he was a natural successor to Yamaha’s incumbent number one Valentino Rossi, Lorenzo spent almost as much time in the Clinica Mobile as he did on the podium in a bone-crunching first season.
So when he got his hands on a second MotoGP world crown at Phillip Island in late October, it was further confirmation of his transformation from prolific crasher to the epitome of consistency.
Lorenzo’s 2012 championship was constructed out of a run of consistency seldom seen when the risk of mistakes and crashes lurks around every corner.
The 25-year-old didn't finish lower than second in the 16 races he made it to the chequered flag and the season was further proof of the lessons learned from the painful mistakes in the early phase of his career.
The old adage of you can teach a fast rider not to crash but you can’t teach a slow rider to be fast could have been invented for Lorenzo.
Slowly but surely he honed his riding skills to levels of finesse that would make a lead dancer in the Bolshoi ballet envious.
Speaking at Phillip Island when second place sealed him the crown, Lorenzo said: “When I first came to MotoGP I didn't know my limit. I was fast but I couldn't become world champion like that and this was my goal. So I needed to learn from my mistakes and to understand my limit and try not to go over it.
For this reason I am very proud of my evolution. The main thing has been to feel the limit in every corner in all conditions and in every track. It is very difficult to find your limit and make fewer crashes. I have tried to improve my concentration and to understand in advance how the bike will react; either when closing the front or high side. This not so easy and I suffered a lot of injuries to understand this.
I tried to remember in each situation what I uffered and how I struggled, so that is how I improve myself year by year. Obviously I can mistakes in the future and crash and get injured but I try to take the positives from all this."
His rise to prominence culminated in his first MotoGP world title in 2010. That breakthrough success though came amidst of backdrop of accusations that his victory was a hollow one.
Dani Pedrosa’s form fluctuated more than the Dow Jones, Casey Stoner was wrestling a Ducati that handled like a three-wheeled shopping trolley, and Valentino Rossi suffered the first major injury of his career when he broke his right leg in Mugello.
In 2012, Lorenzo has survived an onslaught from Honda that pushed him to the brink of his physically and mental capacity.
An early season purple patch that saw him win five of the opening nine races was the perfect launch-pad to his second crown.
With a healthy lead he could adopt a more conservative approach in the latter stages of the season.
Lorenzo’s factory Yamaha team boss Wilco Zeelenberg believes the pressure not to surrender such a healthy points advantage put the double 250GP world champion in a strait jacket in some races where ‘Protect what you’ve got’ became the strategy over ‘win at all costs.’
The Dutchman told MCN in Australia: “As soon as you have that lead it is easy to try and protect it. I think in the last two or three races Jorge was riding on egg shells. In normal circumstances like at the start of the year I am convinced he would have won some of these last races. Maybe not all but he had to play it safe because if you make a mistake and throw away a lot of points you don’t look so clever.
He used his talent and his ability to understand that second was still very good. Lots of people were saying if you keep pushing and win a couple of races then Dani will lose his faith in winning and that is very easy to say.
But in that situation Jorge also has a lot of points to lose as well by making a mistake. He wanted to win but he also didn’t want to take any risks and you can’t win like that or race like that.”