Unlike other sports in motorcycle racing there are few days off. When the future of your career rests solely on last weekend’s result there aren’t a whole lot of options aside from shutting the helmet visor and racing no matter how you feel. It’s how champions are made and a quality evident in reigning MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo.
After missing last weekend’s race in Germany because of a violent high-side style crash in which he re-injured his already displaced left collarbone, the 26-year-old Spanish rider is here in California, ready to race despite his fragile physical condition.
“My health is not good,” reveals Lorenzo. “But it’s enough to be on the bike and fight to get some points.”
It’s obvious by the quiet, almost whisper-like tone of his voice that he’s exhausted. Banging up your body, followed by surgery, and travels halfway across the world tends to do that—even for the fittest athlete.
“Normally when you break your collarbone you need one month to recover—minimum,” he says. “But I fight for the world championship so I want to lose the minimum points possible. That’s why I take the race in Assen, that’s why I take the race in Germany and also here. So we don’t lose so much points and still have the option to win the championship.”
Originally Lorenzo announced he was going to skip Laguna, after all he assumed he was out of the title hunt. But in a crazy turn of events his chief rival, Dani Pedrosa, also crashed hard in Germany forcing him to also miss the race.
“Before his crash I didn’t want to race here,” shares the two-time MotoGP champ. “But after, obviously he didn’t get points at Sachsenring so he couldn’t be further compared to me in the championship. Now I am just 11 points less than the leader [Marc Marquez]. It is very difficult to say ‘I don’t want to race, I want to rest’ because the championship is there. You have a big possibility to win. If I would be in fourth position or fifth position obviously I would not stay here. The crash from Dani helped me make the decision to race.”
With every word Lorenzo’s body winces in pain—you know, the icky flu-like kind after a big surgery. Only Lorenzo had two surgeries—in quick succession, the most recent being an operation to repair a bent titanium plate and screws suffered during his practice high-side eight days ago in Germany.
‘We cannot change the past,” he says. “We can only look forward. We have to live and compete with the conditions we have. I am luck to have the possibility to race here.”
“Mainly I cannot push the same with my arms during braking,” continues Lorenzo. “I need to brake a little before and to brake less to help my bad shoulder and not stress it too much. I put in more force with my right one and less with the left. It is difficult to be competitive but I’m doing it.”
He is in fact ‘doing it’, qualifying sixth for Sunday’s race less than a half of a second behind pole-sitter Stefan Bradl.
“It’s an individual sport," he says. "There are 18 races—you can’t lose any races if you want to win the championship. On a [football] team you can lose a lot of games you still have the possibility to win leagues and to win cups. Like in Formula One you have to be consistent and take points in every race.”
Even though he’s stayed out of trouble so far this weekend, the real test will be how he manages tomorrow’s 32-lap race at one, if not the most physically demanding road race circuits in the world. A lot can go wrong for him.
“You have to be a little more careful in every corner,” he says. “I don’t concentrate too much on the pain... you try not to focus too much on it. It’s the only way to survive and get the best performance.”