Trackside Tuesday: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

07/08/2014 @ 11:51 pm, by Scott Jones20 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times 2014 MotoGP 07.5 Catalunya Test 0337 635x422

Marc Marquez, 2013 MotoGP World Champion in his rookie season. In 2014, eight wins in eight races. Each day of his life garners another how many thousand fans? He seems able to win any race, to succeed in any situation. He looks bulletproof, invulnerable.

But he’s not the first to appear so in control of his own skills and talents that he can do nothing but succeed. Jorge Lorenzo’s 2012 Championship season seemed (until 2014, anyway) about as perfect a campaign as was possible in the current MotoGP environment.

First or Second in all but two races? Lorenzo looked like a machine designed to win titles, unstoppable when things went his way, and savvy enough to grab second place when things didn’t.

He probably would have repeated in 2013 had Marquez not shown up to exceed expectations by such a dramatic degree. And to the previously unflappable, metronomic Lorenzo, Marquez has become something like kryptonite.

At the Monday test after Catalunya, Lorenzo seemed more human than I’d ever seen him. He appeared, through my lens, a champion in crisis. He didn’t seem to be trying less hard. He seemed simply to find that how hard he tried had no effect on his results.

A first-lap mistake in Qatar, an epic false start in Texas, the appearance of progress in Argentina, only to miss the podium in Jerez. More trouble in France, a second place (but another loss to Marquez) at Mugello, then a fourth place at his home round…could it get worse? He didn’t know it then, but as it happened, it could and did at Assen.

After his dominant 2012, and the craziness of 2013 (when he won eight of 18 races, mounting the podium fourteen times, all while torturing his left collarbone at Assen, then again at the Sachsenring, and still finishing second to Marquez) – how does a rider handle that?

As we’ve seen this season, it’s difficult. And it reminds me that the riders are at their most interesting when things are going badly for them.

My own experience working with MotoGP riders has only reenforced my perception of their humanity. They are unique, but they aren’t supernatural. They have gifts, more than the average person, more even than the above average person. But they are still persons, still human, imperfect in their own personal ways and with flaws and weaknesses we often cannot see when they are winning.

When their imperfections are revealed, when they change from being riders who can’t lose to riders who can barely make the podium, that’s when they become real to those of us who live in the realms below World Champion-level achievement.

Marquez’s 2014 is remarkable, sure. How long can he keep up the winning streak? How long can his luck hold? Is there any problem his skill can’t allow him to overcome? All interesting questions, and he is exciting to watch on track.

But let’s face it, things are going his way and have been for some time. He’s handling prosperity well.

Lorenzo’s 2014 may seem to him one of, if not his single, worst seasons in Grand Prix racing. But from my perspective, watching him suffer this year has made him a sympathetic character in the drama of MotoGP.

Handling prosperity is easy, or so I’m told. Being Jorge Lorenzo in 2014, is not. As a champion, how he handles the rest of this season, and the seasons beyond this one, just may be where his true story takes shape. That is where we will see the real Jorge Lorenzo.

Photo: © 2014 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

Comment:

  1. Max says:

    So as long as his starts are crap so he has to work his way through the field. It’s about racing for the fans after all.

  2. smiler says:

    With the signing of Pedro for another 2 seasons, Marquez can now look forward to no competition for the next 2 seasons unless he gets injured or Ducati / Suzuki pull out a miracle.
    Will likely cop a load of flack, however Marquez is a winner, not a champion, there is a difference. His possibility to prove himself a real champion just got much more remote with the resigning of Pedro, Rossi and likely Lorenzo. Rossi has been resigned because Yamahaha want to keep him long term to run their MotoGP outfit, he can still get to the podium and is still the most entertaining personality in MotoGP. Rossi has no hope of winning a championship though. There is only one other rider cabable of being champion, Lorenzo on a clearly inferior bike and possibly past his motivation to do so. Interestingly a seasoned journo said the other week that Suzuki’s problem is the inline four has reached it’s development limit. Yamahaha are just further along that finite line than Suzuki just now but Suzuki will reach it too.

    Many complain about F1 and rightly so, however after four years of domination Vettle and Red Bull have been dumped and are really having to work very hard to win. The changes were instigated by the ruling body and rarely do they ever favour anyone party over another if ever. Rosberg and Hamilton are on an absolute par with no favouritism as with the drivers in almost all the teams. Williams are now getting in the way of much larger teams and will be in Mercedes way soon. McLaren will be powered by Honda next year and who would vote against that combination. Red Bull are also on their way back up the order and former champions are showing why they are not race winners but champions.
    Contrast this situation with MotoGP……
    There is now no one to consistently challenge 93 for another 2 seasons at least.
    Repsol now have one rider to win, one for marketing purposes, both Spanish and a sound basis for Respsol’s marketing and Dorna’s ability to promote Spanish products in the four Spanish rounds, the Argentinian round and the possibly rescheduled Brazilian or Portugese rounds.

    You could argue this domination is just the same as what happened with Vettel. However Webber made his situation very very clear to all on every occasion, fought tooth and nail to win on any occasion and the rule book then changed to really mix up the racing again.
    There is no other logical explanation to put Pedro on a 2 year contract knowing he will never win the championship.
    Even WSBK dominated by Tom Sykes, who has a similar style to Marquez, pole, and off in front. However there have been 8 different riders on the podium and 4 different winners in the previous 6 races.

  3. Xan says:

    @smiler: it’s strange really. I could have sworn that Marquez was in fact the champion last year…. I mean, what is this magical thing that makes someone who wins championships a champion and not just a winner?

    By that logic, Lorenzo is a winner instead of a champion as well. I mean, Marquez wasn’t there when he won, and he can’t seem to beat Pedrosa or Rossi either and Pedrosa doesn’t even have a GP championship!

    As far as Honda signing Pedrosa, why wouldn’t they? Having any racer who gets podiums if every factory’s dream. This isn’t talladega nights where “if you ain’t first you’re last”. Sure, he doesn’t seem to be able to beat Marquez, but neither can anyone else.

    And boohoo on the Yamaha. Rossi seems to be quite competitive with it. If he didn’t always make 14 mistakes a race, I’m sure he could win with it.

    As for the article, I find it hard to have sympathy for Lorenzo. He ran his mouth for the first few races of the season, and now that he seems to have lost the ability to compete, he’s silent. He’s never been fun to watch or a nice guy. If he’d tone down the hubris when he scoffed at 2nd or 3rd place, I might be sad about him missing the top 10.

  4. JW says:

    Xan

    Thanks for setting it real

    and Smiler, F 1 me no care about. Your comments leave me wondering why you watch Motogp when you always talk negative about the sport. I for one would never go into , say a NASCAR site and stir s*** up like you do. Life is short, stay with what you love and leave the rest.

    Me: Pedrosa is the best number 2 guy in the sport, if, and I repeat if MM gets hurt, DP has the best chance of still winning the title for the team and Honda. So I agree with. Hondas wisdom here.

    JL: I will be surprised if he stays with Yamaha, he says they are not agreeing about money and again I can agree -understand Yamaha’s wisdom here as well. Sad but true JL is in such a bad state of affairs right now the only move to make would be a big move. Think about it, if yamaha really wanted to keep him they would have locked in by now

  5. Chaz Michael Michaels says:

    It’s odd to me how the history happening before our very eyes cannot be embraced.

    The dominance that we are seeing from Marquez happens once-every-never.

    Marquez is a baby faced kid but let’s put his season into perspective–Agostini once dominated motoGP racing like this and he’s still famous for it. So, if you can’t stand Marquez or you think he’s not a “champion” well too bad for you because he’s going to be a very prominant, famous face in motorcycle racing for the next 40 years because of this season (like has happened with Agostini).

  6. Alclab says:

    @smiler

    LOL, as is tradition, we always find one of your “Marquez is not a champion”, “Dorna is evil” F1 this… etc. I believe Xan put it best. What do you think makes a “Champion” other than winning championships and race after race?

    Honestly, it’s a shame you only focus on the “boring” results of MM93 winning all of the races, personally I believe that this season along with 2013 has been one of the best to watch, sure, Marquez wins, but the racing in between is nothing short of spectacular (Mugello anyone?).

    I enjoyed the article, indeed it appears Marquez has “broken” Lorenzo or at leat his spirit, however, It appears from the outside that he has given up this season and will probably try to fight for the next one, or at least I hope, Mugello and most of the 2013 races has shown he has what it takes to beat Marquez, and the determination to win, and as the article says, we will see “As a champion, how he handles the rest of this season, and the seasons beyond this one, just may be where his true story takes shape”

  7. Chaz Michael Michaels says:

    btw, at same time I am sad for Lorenzo and to a degree Pedrosa. You can feel their spirit has been broken.

    funny to think Lorenzo actually once wagged his finger at Marquez. Marquez owns Lorenzo now…and everyone else for that matter.

  8. yama man says:

    Lorenzo to me is so much more interesting as a person then the consistent exuberance of 93. Us mortals with trials and tribulations, pain and grief under our belts make for a reflective, deeper person. 93 is fast, but is that all there is?

  9. Jason says:

    Marquez’s dominance of the 2014 Moto GP season reminds me of the 1997 500cc season. Mick Doohan dominated that season on a Repsol Honda with 12 wins, 2 seconds, and 1 crash out of 15 races.

  10. Highside Specialist says:

    Great perspective as always Scott – thanks!

    @Chaz – you’re right about watching history happen and embracing it. Many complain the MM93 is walking away with it and creating a boring season. I disagree. Each time he gets on a bike, he shows us something new wrapped in brave racing and race craft beyond his age. It’s great to witness it firsthand.

    @Smiler – Rossi, the GOAT, always has a chance of winning my friend. Racing isn’t over until the very last checkered flag falls. You could have said no one could beat VR46 in 2010, until……

    Prediction – A Marquez MotoGP Championship in 2014. A Marquez Moto3 Championship in 2014. Alex has found his footing and isn’t f#&king around.

  11. L2C says:

    Going to avoid the politics of this thread. Besides, everybody here already knows how I feel about most of what’s being discussed.

    Having said that, I want to thank Scott Jones for this article. It’s something that I have been looking to read about Jorge Lorenzo for most of this season. Most motorcycling journalists are over-stuffing themselves on Mr. Marquez and are showing little or no respect, or consideration, to Jorge Lorenzo and his affairs in the paddock, let alone other deserving riders.

    It was last season that I became a fan of Lorenzo and this was won through his personality, which unlike most would say here, I don’t view him as a hypocrite but as someone who deals with his challenges head on, adapting and making changes to his approach and viewpoint when necessary.

    This season, however, Lorenzo has not been willing to adapt as necessary to the shortcomings of the YZR-M1 and it has cost him some performance. My feeling is that he will adapt, sooner or later this season. It’s difficult to determine when we’ll see major improvement, but the fact that Yamaha still wants to sign him — and sign him for just about anything at all — speaks volumes about the factory’s continued faith in Lorenzo. And, personally, I think they are right to want to continue the professional relationship that they have with him.

    Rossi and Lorenzo, separate and together, are Yamaha Factory Racing. Good things are on the horizon for both riders, I think. Both are of enormous benefit to the factory, though it does remain to be seen if Lorenzo continues to have faith in Yamaha.

    Thanks again, Scott! This piece on Lorenzo is very much appreciated.

  12. keiths04 says:

    arent these guys paid to win? mm93 is just doing his job, not his fault hes better at his craft than his current peers. if anyone of us could do what he does im sure we would do the same thing, win. this is racing. Everyone else better start eating their Wheaties.

  13. “This season, however, Lorenzo has not been willing to adapt as necessary to the shortcomings of the YZR-M1 and it has cost him some performance.”

    I don’t think it’s been so much a matter of being unwilling as being unable. Lorenzo has always been a 250-style, wheels-in-line kind of rider who has relied extensively on edge grip and high corner speeds. The combination of bike and tires this year are conspiring against him in the same fashion as the Yamaha frame conspired against Edwards. Part of the reason Edwards has chosen to retire this year is that struggling to change his riding style (and failing) to meet the Yamaha’s requirements basically sucked a lot of the joy out of racing for him.

    I feel for any and every rider who struggles through hard times. How we face such demons truly define us all.

  14. smiler says:

    Well seeing as you asked.

    The reference to F1 was by way of comparison. it was not an advert of request to watch it. That clearly escaped you JW.

    Xan. When Doohan became Champion, he had to fight his way to the top, past Rainey and Schwantz. Whilst at the top he was in a garage on the same equipment as two/ three or more other riders capable of giving him a run for his titles but he used every trick to beat them off. Ever watch Doohan and Criville in Spain? Additionally he also nearly lost a leg and rode his entire championship career disabled.
    Barry Sheene, unless you have never heard of him then you will know how hard he had to ride to be champion.
    When Lorenzo won in 2010, he was beaten by his garage mate in previous years. His team mate was champion in 2009 and also won a few others. Who did Marquez beat from his team?
    Rossi is a champion because he changed manufactuers and still won. He takes huge risks, often qualified badly and still took the wins, broke Gibenau and Biaggi and again had more than one other rider on the same machinery. He also has a personality like Ago, Sheene, Rossi, Doohan and others.
    Xan the idea that because Rossi can get on the podium once in a while, the Yamaha is therefore competitive is hardly logical. Really.

    See the difference between winners and champions? Probably not.

    The reason why I watch MotoGP is because I love motorcycle racing, however I like racing and that means riders in the same team competing, more than one rider winning each race not because “he got the magic carpet ride” and a leg up from the organisers, more than one manufactuer capable of winning, rules that ensure close racing. When it is not like this then it is mundane and less than what I expect.

    Pedrosa, is there to ensure Marquez wins the championship for the next 2 seasons and for PR and marketing purposes. No other rider stays on so long and sees a string of riders come in, win the championship then leave.
    Development riders do development not entire seasons. If he is there because he can win races wel there are another 5 riders currently who could do that on the Repsol Honda.

    As for Dorna conspiracy theories.
    Dorna is a Spanish organisation, before they took over 6 riders in all classes were Spanish, now 22. The major sponsors are all Spanish. 4 / 18 rounds are held in Spain, Movistar have just signed up for 5 years, take a look where it operates and what it supplies. The 2 biggest factories are now Sponsored by Spanish companies as are other satelite teams. The two further rounds Dorna have tried to establish have been in former Spanish colonies. When (for example) F1 went back to Austria, the crowd, support and investment made were massive. So why would Dorna not be interested in rounds in : South Africa, Czech, Scandinavia, central Europe, Canada but very interested in rounds in Spain and South America.
    Has Dorna helped improve MotoGP in the UK? In a recession they signed a deal with BT Sport which no one watches. Unlike other motorsports org’s it charged fees to print media, who are also in crisis. How did it treat Kevin Schwantz in the US? How is MotoGP coverage in the US by the way?
    Is Dorna making any effort to ensure that feeder series like AMA is in shape to do so. Unlikely because it has built its own the Repsol CEV championship in Spain. In this paralle and feeder series, where 90% of the rounds are in Spain and the categories mimic Moto2, Moto3, Supersport and WSBK, just under 50% of the riders are Spanish.

    Dorna are distorting the sport, which means we will not see riders like Hayden and Edwards, Rainey, Schwantz or Roberts anytime soon. This must be however because no one in the US or elsewhere like racing. Once Hayden and Edwards are gone, how many Americans will there be in MotoGP? 1 who has raced once this year with currently 1, in the feeder series.
    Yet so many people on here bemoan the AMA, lack of American riders and love the contributions made by Hayden and Edwards but blame the AMA……..

    All irrational conjecture with no facts of course.

    Out of 8 riders, only one can or could ride a bike as quickly even as Marquez and that is Lorenzo. He is riding on the ragged edge to even keep up. Racing should be racing, not a procession and the rider not contrived.

    Moto3 is providing the best racing this year.

  15. “Ever watch Doohan and Criville in Spain?”

    That whole season was filled with Doohan whining about his teammate stalking him for much of a race and then looking for a way past at the 11th hour. Doohan was a great rider – hell, he still is – but his whining about being hunted by another rider was amusingly pathetic. Assuming you have a motogp.com subscription, you can easily find such interviews.

  16. L2C says:

    “I don’t think it’s been so much a matter of being unwilling as being unable. Lorenzo has always been a 250-style, wheels-in-line kind of rider who has relied extensively on edge grip and high corner speeds.”

    Pedrosa and Rossi have both modified their styles noticeably since the beginning of the season. The changes the M1 has undergone this season suits Rossi more than Lorenzo because Rossi has taken on the challenge of changing his style to suit the changes that the M1 has undergone. This clearly is working out well for him.

    Pedrosa has also modified his style to be a bit more loose, sliding the rear more often in the corners, however, for the first six races of this 2014 season, he was under team orders to set up his bike in a certain way. Gone were the lighting fast starts and beautiful tight lines of the point and shoot style that he and Stoner mastered on the RC2XXV. It wasn’t until Catalunya that Pedrosa returned to form. And he was only able to do this because the team orders that he was under were lifted. (Then Nakamoto came out with a bullsh-t interview claiming that the Repsol Honda team has never been under team orders on his watch. This after it had been reported in the press that Pedrosa had indeed been restricted by his team on what he could do with his bike setup.)

    Anyway, my point is Lorenzo began the season complaining about the M1 and the Bridgestones and did little else to respond to the situation as a new challenge. He basically set his team about finding a way to force the M1 to behave as it did during the 2013 season, something from the start of the season that seemed impossible to do. We now know that was indeed not the right approach. If Rossi didn’t make necessary changes to his riding style to suit the M1, he probably would be fighting with Lorenzo for 13th position in the wet.

    In a post (somewhere lost on this site) that I made at the beginning of the season, I said that Rossi is not a champion simply because he has won many championships and has won many races and podium positions, he is a champion because he adapts and does whatever is necessary to improve his performance so that he is capable of winning races. I also said that if Lorenzo (who by that time was clearly falling apart – false start in Austin, TX) was wise, he would pay attention to the not-quite-old master and learn something invaluable.

    Rossi is showing the world that an old dog can learn new tricks. It’s a lesson for everybody.

    Lorenzo is in the best place he can be while going through this rough period. Do you think that Sebastian Vettel is not doing everything he can to learn whatever it is that Daniel Ricciardo is doing in the RB10? Like you said, like Scott Jones has said:

    “As a champion, how he handles the rest of this season, and the seasons beyond this one, just may be where his true story takes shape. That is where we will see the real Jorge Lorenzo.”

    And you’re an F1 fan, Trane, so you know that Vettel is just taking this most disappointing season in stride. He knows that he is not done and that better days are coming. And he is doing everything he can to make sure that they will come his way. Lorenzo could learn from that too.

  17. All good points, L2C.

    I, for one, am hoping that Lorenzo gets his head in a good space and that he can overcome his apparent weakness this season. He’s a staggeringly good rider. It will be very, very interesting to see whether he can adapt his style enough to be competitive or whether he’ll slide into decline.

    That whole business with Pedrosa being forced to ride a different race was very damaging to his season.

  18. L2C says:

    “That whole business with Pedrosa being forced to ride a different race was very damaging to his season.”

    And now I will bite my tongue!

  19. L2C says:

    What Rossi had to say about Lorenzo today:

    “About the new tyres, for example Jorge has a lot of problems this season but for me I don’t feel a lot of difference. For me the new tyres are sometimes better. Maybe is it better for my riding style.

    “But anyway if you want to stay in the game you have to always try to learn from the fastest, and try to improve always the style. It never stops.” — Crash.netJuly 10, 2014

    Words of wisdom.

  20. Hi all,

    Just wanted to stop by to say thanks for the comments and discussion, some of which is more interesting that what I wrote.

    But I really appreciate the comments and am honored that so many of you read these Trackside Tuesdays.

    Thanks again,
    Scott

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