Yamaha bosses have said it is essential that Jorge Lorenzo can return to winning ways in the second half of the 2014 MotoGP world championship.
The Spaniard’s struggle to be competitive in the first nine races has been one of the big surprises of the campaign, with Lorenzo only scoring three podium finishes, while Honda rival Marc Marquez has dominated to remain undefeated.
The double MotoGP world champion has struggled with Bridgestone’s new generation rear tyre, with a minimal change to edge grip performance impacting on Lorenzo’s high corner speed style.
He also took a while to find 100% fitness after three operations in the close season and has made mistakes too.
He crashed out of the lead on the first lap of the season opener in Qatar and then made a shocking jump start at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas.
Assessing Lorenzo’s troubled opening half to 2014, Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis told MCN: “It has been surprising and disappointing and for him it must be the same. If you look at the back end of last year when he won five of the last seven races, he was on the top of his game. But it went wrong really at the first tests. He didn’t feel comfortable with the tyres and that upset him and disturbed him. We then had the changes with the Open class and in the first races the Open bikes were quicker than the Factory bikes on any given lap and that confused him. He had the operations too in the winter, he didn’t start well and he wasn’t as fit as he should have been in the early part of the season and he’ll admit that. He changed some people in his close group, so I think there was just too much change that created confusion and he literally lost focus like what we saw in Texas. I’d never seen anything quite like at this level of sport and I guess that highlighted some of the issues, so it has been very disappointing.”
Lorenzo has shown glimpses of the rider that won eight races in 2013 and lost the title to Marquez by just four-points.
He raced the Repsol Honda rider to the chequered flag in a nail-biting Mugello round, but that was the only time he has seriously battled for a win.
As well as the horror start mistake in Texas, there was the nightmare of Assen when he suffered flashbacks in wet conditions of a 2013 practice crash that left him with a broken collarbone.
He trails Marquez by a massive 128-points when the series resumes in Indianapolis this weekend and Jarvis added: “We have seen flashes of his former self like in Mugello and then we thought he was back and the next race again was disappointing. Assen was very surprising but that was something he couldn’t control because that is a feeling from a flashback that creates anxiety and uncertainty and that was probably the worst point in his MotoGP career. We are looking for the real Jorge. We know what he is capable of and we have seen coming from the lowest of lowest. In Germany last year, the crash put him absolutely down and out but he came back and he almost won the championship. Will we see that again this year? I don’t know because Marc has shifted up a gear and it is a big, big ask, but Jorge must come back and be winning races again. That’s essential.”
Jarvis believes much of Lorenzo’s problems in the opening half of the season have been down to a lack of confidence more than anything else.
But he said to beat runaway world championship leader Marquez means everything on and off track has to be perfect.
Jarvis added: “The rider is a major influence in this sport and the confidence factor is so important. He hasn’t lost any of talent and skill to ride a bike but clearly if you want to beat Marc you have to be perfect all of the time. So your training has to be perfect, your set-up has to be perfect, your mind set perfect and confidence perfect and that’s what he has to find. If he had any doubt that he couldn’t find that again then I think he would retire. And he is certainly not planning on doing that, so we have to create the environment to re-find himself.”
Lorenzo will remain with Yamaha for 2015 and 2016 after Yamaha announced his new contract on the eve of this weekend’s Indianapolis round in America.