Rossi's teammate, Jorge Lorenzo could be the biggest threat to him winning an unprecedented seventh MotoGP World Championship.
Less than halfway through his second season within the MotoGP World Championship and Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo
is only nine points away from points leader, teammate (or chief nemesis—you decide), and greatest motorcycle pilot of all-time, Valentino Rossi
. Quite a feat considering the 22-year-old has less premier class starts than Rossi has wins. Although they ride the same M1 machine, in the same colors, with the same tires, there aren’t a lot of similarities between this dominant Fiat Yamaha
Hailing from Barcelona, Spain, Lorenzo is arguably Rossi’s biggest threat in this year’s championship. He already has two World Championships under his belt from his 250cc Grand Prix days. This year, he’s started from pole position four times in eight attempts, won two races and other than one DNF at Jerez he has yet to finish off the podium this season.
Furthermore, Lorenzo proved not only how hard he’s willing to push the limits (crashing twice in Saturday’s qualifying at Laguna Seca; breaking a bone in his foot and separating his right shoulder after attempting to better his already P1 qualifying time), but also how much of an ironman he is by miraculously starting and going on to finish Sunday’s race in third place just behind Rossi.
We caught up with Jorge after Friday’s first practice session at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca during this year’s Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix before Saturday’s crash-fest.
ON HIS U.S. TRAVELS AND BEING BACK IN THE STATES:
MotoUSA caught up with Gorgeous Jorge at the 2009 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix before Saturday's qualifying crash-fest in which he separated his right shoulder and broke a bone in his foot.
“Yeah I’m happy, I’m happy because I like this country. Apart that every time I get here I have problem with my passport [laughs] always with the policeman. I always have this problem, but apart from this I love this country and I think it’s important that MotoGP come here. I stayed in Los Angeles two days ago. I just stay to do Yamahas video. (If you haven’t yet checked out the video, click here
it’s hilarious!) I’ve been a few times to San Francisco. It’s a nice place to visit and go shopping. I also was in Modesto, California, a few years ago at Kenny Roberts ranch doing dirt track - it was very, very fun.”
ON ROSSI’S AUDACIOUS FINAL-TURN, FINAL-LAP PASS AT CATALUNYA THIS YEAR:
“Every race is different. You know every race happens much different things than the time before. So it’s not like it can always happen. Maybe it never happens again. For sure Rossi has been very brave there. He’s put his balls… big balls in the bike but I’ve also had a little bit of luck because I think if he does this kind of thing 10 times—five times he’ll crash and five times he won’t. But he’s brave and for me he is a hero.”
ON WHAT IT’S GOING TO TAKE TO BEAT ROSSI REGULARLY:
“I beat Valentino last year sometimes. Especially when I won in Portugal, I beat him. I also beat him at Motegi in Japan. But I’ve never beat him so close - in a fight. I think it’s going to arrive. It’s only a question of time that someday I will beat him. It’s difficult because he is the maybe greatest in history. But I will try.”
ON HOW HE GOT INTO MOTORCYCLE ROAD RACING:
With the 2009 season almost halfway through, Lorenzo continues to pressure Rossi.
“Normally I would be a motocross racer but one day I went to visit some friends. And they were in an Aprilia championship - 50cc. And they didn’t ask me to come into this championship, because the championship needed the riders, because there were only like 10 or 15 riders. But they didn’t ask me. Then my father asked [them] why you didn’t ask me. And then from this point we took this opportunity to jump to the speed world. But I wanted to be a motocross rider.”
ON LAST YEAR’S BIG CRASHES AND BROKEN BONES:
“Yeah for sure it was very hard. I crashed every weekend and I had a lot of pain. It was difficult to accept this. At some point I felt sacred to ride the bike. I was scared to ride the bike. I didn’t want to ride this bike. I wanted to stop my career… for like one day [laughs]. Then I said to myself ‘let’s try again’. And then doing laps and laps and saying it’s dangerous but not as dangerous —I slowly became more sure of myself and I was back going fast.”
ON WHAT TRACKS HE THINKS HE CAN WIN AT THIS YEAR:
“I don’t think about tracks. For example I won in Japan. I’ve never won there. Last year I won in Portugal that I never won in 125 or 250, but I won in MotoGP. So that means at every track you can do a good race—it’s not a problem.”
ON HIS HOBBIES OUTSIDE THE RACETRACK:
Lorenzo pops champagne in Motegi the site of his first win of this season (2nd career MotoGP victory).
“I like motocross but it’s too dangerous for me you know? Especially the jumps. I prefer to do dirt track. This year I started to do soccer one day a week and I do martial arts like Bruce Lee [laughs]. And also I like very much video games, that’s probably my best hobby. And also Smackdown, or wrestling, but I don’t like so much this because it’s not true [smiles].”
ON NOT BEING RECONGIZED IN THE U.S.:
“For me it’s not a problem because I’m not like Brad Pitt, you know? In Spain everyone knows me but here I’m blessed because you go into a city nobody knows you, but when you’re here at the track everyone wants a signature or something. But the United States is so big that only if 1 percent loves the bike than it’s a lot of people, lots of lots of people.”
ON HIS FEMALE FANS:
“You can find a good girl in every country. But especially in Czech Republic there is a lot of blond girls and good girls. Also in America there’s a lot of blond girls - blond is yellow hair, right? Some girls are operated [hand gesture from the chest]. White teeth is really common in America too.”
ON “POR FUERA” (HIS NICKNAME):
Lorenzo said he's fond of the "operated" girls here in the U.S.
“The first victory I got in 2003 in 125 in the GP of Brazil. I overtake [Dani] Pedrosa and [Casey] Stoner by the outside so in Spanish by the outside means Por Fuera. So my logo is Por Fuera. The X for the Por and the crescent for the Fuera.”
ON BRAZIL NO LONGER BEING A STOP ON THE GP CALENDER:
“It was cool, was cool… cool girls, it’s not fun that we don’t go to Rio again. But maybe someday we’ll return.”
ON THE SECOND AMERICAN GRAND PRIX ROUND (INDIANPOLIS):
“It’s nice because the track has a lot of history and also outside the track there is a lot of green, so it’s nice to ride. The only thing is that when it rains there is a lot of water and its difficult to ride like last year.”
ON HIS RACING NUMBER SWITCH FROM 48 TO 99:
“Because 48 was the number of my ex-manager [Dani Amatriain], so I close relations with him and I wanted to also change his number.”
Lorenzo returns to action this weekend at the German Grand Prix held at Sachsenring after a week spent at his home recuperating from injuries in America. While he knows he’s not even close to being in top shape, after his heroic ride at Laguna, one simply can’t underestimate young Jorge.
If Lorenzo can keep the motorcycle off the ground perhaps we'll see him flying his Por Fuera flag more often.
“I am feeling a lot better after a week of rest but I won't be at 100% this weekend. I have some pain in my foot when walking and also in my shoulder joint, so the first thing I will do when I get to Sachsenring is go to the Clinica Mobile!” joked Lorenzo.
Similar to Laguna, Sachsenring is a track he’s had mixed results at and with the championship race heating up and Rossi a proven winner in Germany, there’s no doubt that this weekend will be decisive for Lorenzo’s championship hopes.
“Germany is one of the circuits where I've never done particularly well,” explained Lorenzo. “In fact I've only had one podium there, in 2006 when I was third in 250cc. Last year it rained a lot and unfortunately I fell on the third lap, so it wasn't a weekend to remember but I hope this one will be very different. My aim, as ever this weekend, is to be on the podium and to try to get as many points as possible compared to the rivals that are in front of me."