Analyzing Jorge Lorenzo's 2012 MotoGP Championship: A Triumph Of Consistency

What does it take to be a world champion? A little bit of luck, certainly. A whole heap of talent, for sure. But above all, it takes preparation: physical, mental and mechanical. That, most of all, is the lesson of Jorge Lorenzo's 2012 MotoGP championship. The 2010 champion came better prepared to the title chase, and ground down his opponents with his sheer consistency.

Lorenzo's assault on the 2012 championship started in Yamaha's racing department in 2011. The new 1000cc M1 may have been visually almost identical to the 800cc 2011 machine, but beneath the similarities was a very different machine. Yamaha's engineers had made the bike longer to cope with the extra torque and horsepower, and completely redesigned the engine to cope with the new rules. Modified electronics improved traction, while better wheelie control meant the bike lost less time in acceleration. The improved wheelie control alone cut a tenth of a second from the lap time.

It was obvious to Lorenzo that the 2012 bike would be competitive as soon as he rode it for the first time during the post-race test at Brno in August 2011. Where on the 800cc bike, he had been nearly half a second slower than Casey Stoner during Sunday's race, the day after, on the 1000cc M1, he was immediately within a tenth of the Australian on the Repsol Honda. Yamaha had done their homework, and Lorenzo knew that the rest was down to him.

Lorenzo's own preparation began during the winter of 2011. Knowing that the additional power and weight of the 1000cc bikes would make different demands on the rider, he focused his training on coping with that. At the Sepang tests in February, while the rest of the grid sat in their garages waiting for the sweltering afternoon heat in the tropics to subside, Lorenzo was pounding out the laps, running full race simulations to test his endurance and the behavior of the bike. He wanted to be sure he was ready for the first race of the year in Qatar. He was not as fast as Casey Stoner during preseason testing, but he knew he could be competitive.

His dedication did not go unnoticed. Nicky Hayden: "This winter, we got to the Jerez test after being in Malaysia for two tests, and me and Filippo Preziosi were talking about something, saying Casey this, Casey that, and I said I think if I had to pick a champion, I thought Lorenzo was the favorite." Why did Hayden have Lorenzo pegged as the favorite for the 2012 title back in February? "Even in the winter in Malaysia when we were testing, when it was hot in the afternoon and most people were staying in the box, he was out doing really long runs. Some people talked about long runs, but he was doing full race simulations, and it was clear he was ready, he was very hungry for this title."

Lorenzo's preparation paid off immediately at Qatar. After the flag dropped, the first race of the season started to play out as many - including myself - had expected. Casey Stoner's preseason speed on the Honda saw him edge away from the Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, opening a gap of over two seconds by the halfway mark. But then the tide turned: Stoner's progress stopped, and he slowly fell back into the clutches of Lorenzo. Arm pump had struck the Australian, and caused his pace to slow, by half a second at first, then by over a second a lap. Lorenzo was prepared, and cruised to victory. "You saw it in the first few races," Lorenzo's team manager Wilco Zeelenberg explained. "What were Casey and Dani complaining of? Arm pump. Jorge was ready, he knew the 1000s would put more strain on his arms."

Beating Stoner at a track he has traditionally dominated at gave Lorenzo a mental boost. More importantly, ending the race in great shape while his main title rivals had struggled confirmed to him that his approach to the season was paying off. It gave him the confidence to accept the two defeats which followed - at Jerez and Estoril - without losing his focus. Both times, he ended 2nd to Casey Stoner, but both times, he was close enough to be in contention, and he left Portugal just a solitary point behind Stoner in the championship race.

He seized control of the championship again at Le Mans, with an imperious display of wet weather riding that saw him win by a country mile. His victory in France was a demonstration not just of his preparation, but of the strength of the team that surrounds him. On Sunday morning during the warm up in the soaking rain, Lorenzo was two thirds of a second slower than Casey Stoner. He came in complaining of problems getting his Yamaha M1 into the corner, the rear of the bike breaking away. Wilco Zeelenberg, who had been watching from track side, talked to both Lorenzo and his crew chief Ramon Forcada and told them that everyone was having the same problem, with the rear breaking away in the wet conditions, and that actually, Lorenzo was much faster than the rest on corner entry. Where Lorenzo was losing out was on corner exit, Zeelenberg said, and Forcada set about helping Lorenzo get the bike upright more quickly so he could get on the gas faster. Lorenzo would win the race by nearly 10 seconds. His riding was sublime, but he had a bike that allowed him to ride with such confidence.

This same narrative would play out all throughout the year. Though Lorenzo would complain of problems after practice a number of times throughout the year, come race day, his team always gave him a bike he could win on. "The team deserve a lot of the credit, and especially Ramon [Forcada] and [Takashi] Moriyama (Lorenzo's technical engineer - MM) for giving him a bike that he felt he didn't need to come in for adjustments every three laps," Zeelenberg said of the championship. "That collaboration is so important, five years now with Ramon, four with Moriyama and I've been there for three years. It's a really strong group," Zeelenberg emphasized. Confident in his equipment, he could concentrate on finding the last few minor irritations that allowed him to get to the end of the race and still be fast.

Now firmly back in charge of the championship, Lorenzo went to Barcelona and then Silverstone and won comfortably. The Yamaha was starting to benefit from the new spec tire which had been introduced by Bridgestone from Jerez, a tire on which the Hondas were struggling badly. The tire had been tried at the official test at Jerez in March, and been voted an improvement by all of the teams except for the factory Honda riders, who complained of a lack of stability under braking. The Hondas were already struggling with chatter, a problem their riders attributed to the extra 4kg added to the minimum weight at the end of 2011, though both Stoner and Pedrosa had complained of some chatter at the first 1000cc test at Brno. With the rain that seemed to be following MotoGP around robbing the riders of dry practice time, it would take the Repsol Honda team the best part of the season before they got it sufficiently under control to be consistently competitive, though it never really went away.

Lorenzo's luck appeared to change at Assen. Lorenzo qualified on the front of the grid, with strong enough pace in practice to contend for the win, but he would not make it past the first corner. Alvaro Bautista got a fantastic start from 8th on the grid, but took his enthusiasm just a little too far. He braked far too late to make it through the Haarbocht at the end of the front straight, lost the front, and he and his Gresini Honda slammed straight into the Yamaha of Lorenzo, who had followed Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner into the first corner. Lorenzo went down, and worse, the engine of his M1 immediately started spewing smoke as it lay in the gravel. The 25-point championship lead which Lorenzo had taken to Assen was removed in one swell swoop, with Casey Stoner drawing even after winning the race.

The loss of 25 points may have been painful, but Lorenzo's biggest fear was the loss of one of the six engines each rider is allowed for each season. The engine that had gone up in smoke had been fitted to his M1 the day previously and had less than 180 km on it, a very long way short of the 2000-odd budgeted for each engine. With 11 races left to go, Lorenzo feared that this could cost him the championship if he was forced to start from pit lane. His first instinct was to go up to Race Direction to point out the injustice of losing an engine in such a situation. He was placated by the promise of one member of the four-man group which oversees the rulebook that they would look into whether the rules would allow him a new engine, as this one had been lost through no fault of his own. But the rules were mercilessly unambiguous. No exceptions, no matter what the cause. You have six engines to complete the season with, end of discussion.

While Lorenzo pinned his hopes on the clemency of Race Direction, his team, who knew better, were already planning their strategy. Even directly after the race at Assen, Wilco Zeelenberg said that he did not expect it to be an issue, and that it just meant a bit more work for the mechanics, as they would have to juggle engine usage to the end of the season, swapping out older engines with more mileage on during practice, and only replacing the engine with a newer one for qualifying and race day. Zeelenberg would prove to be right; Lorenzo made it to the end of the season with relative ease, while at Brno, Motegi and Phillip Island, Ramon Forcada and his team had more work slotting engines in and out of the bike to balance the mileage.

Lorenzo headed to Germany equal on points with Casey Stoner, but fearing that Assen had been a turning point in the season. All through practice, his fears appeared to be justified, as Lorenzo struggled to make any headway against a pair of rampant Hondas ridden by Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa. On race day, things were looking even bleaker, with Stoner and Pedrosa leaving Lorenzo for dead and building up a lead of nearly 15 seconds. But fate, or perhaps an excess of ambition, intervened. After spending all race long dicing with his teammate Pedrosa, Stoner made one last bid for glory. He lunged to pass Pedrosa at the bottom of the hill, but lost the front and slid off into the gravel. Pedrosa went on to take his first win of the season, while Stoner's crash handed Lorenzo 2nd, and gave him the lead in the championship again, this time by 14 points over Dani Pedrosa. The luck which had deserted Lorenzo so badly at Assen was back, and back with a bang.

Lorenzo celebrated his change of fortunes with his best performance of the year, annihilating the field at Mugello. He exploited a minor mistake by Dani Pedrosa at the first corner, holding the tight line while Pedrosa ran wide, and then disappearing off into the distance. He rode a near-perfect race, running at a pace within a few hundredths of a second of each lap, a punishing pace which no one else could follow. He left Italy having extended his advantage even further.

At Laguna Seca, the Hondas once again shone. At tracks that go left - like the Sachsenring and Laguna - the chatter which plagued the RC213V for most of the season simply was not an issue, and Lorenzo found himself with a fight on his hands. He held off the challenge from Stoner for the first part of the race, but eventually was forced to succumb to the relentless pressure from the Australian. But despite finishing 2nd again behind Stoner, Lorenzo extended his championship lead once again, as Dani Pedrosa came in behind him in 3rd.

After the all too brief summer break, the paddock reconvened at Indianapolis. Though the second US Grand Prix would pass reasonably successfully for Jorge Lorenzo, it would nevertheless prove to be a turning point in the championship. It would end Casey Stoner's championship run, and nearly his season, as the Australian suffered a serious and very painful injury to his ankle and the base of his foot. But it also marked the point at which Dani Pedrosa went from being merely competitive to dominating the MotoGP championship. He blitzed the field at Indy - with a little help from Ben Spies' abominable luck, the Texan suffering a massive engine blow up just as he was preparing his attack on Pedrosa - and went to Brno with the bit firmly between his teeth.

All through the weekend at Brno, Pedrosa looked to have the situation in hand, until a crash early in qualifying saw him forced to fall back on his #2 bike, which suffered serious chatter issues despite being set up identically to his #1 bike, which didn't. Lorenzo's crew chief Ramon Forcada had decided to revert to a setting which they had used the very first time he rode the 1000cc M1, a year earlier at the first test of the bike. It worked brilliantly, allowing Lorenzo to smash the pole record held by Valentino Rossi since 2009, and putting him back in contention.

The race at Brno would turn into the best of the season, with two men perfectly matched in pace, and never separated by more than a few tenths of a second. It also provided a graphic example of the difference between the Honda as ridden by Dani Pedrosa and the Yamaha as ridden by Jorge Lorenzo. Where Lorenzo was smooth and natural as an eagle in flight, swooping through turn after turn effortlessly in pursuit of his prey, Pedrosa was harsh, physical and jagged, stalking like a lion and hurling his Honda about to maximize braking leverage and acceleration.

It would be decided on the last lap. Pedrosa led, but Lorenzo was on him like a shadow, waiting for a chance to pounce. The pass he would make on Pedrosa was phenomenal, sweeping underneath the Repsol Honda man in the stadium section, where Pedrosa had not expected the attack. Lorenzo came carrying more corner speed than he had any right to expect to get away with - Cal Crutchlow had said of Lorenzo earlier in the year that the data showed he should be crashing in every corner, with the amount of lean angle he was carrying - and was past Pedrosa and into the lead ahead of the crucial uphill section. There, at the bottom of what has been nicknamed Horsepower Hill, Pedrosa used the strength of the Honda to his advantage, getting better drive out of the corners and powering past Lorenzo, leaving him defenseless. Lorenzo tried one last desperate move round the outside of the penultimate corner, but it was not to be.

Despite Lorenzo's loss there, Wilco Zeelenberg nominated Brno as his high point of the season. "Funnily enough, Brno was the best race of the season for me, despite the fact that we got beat there," he said. "The move [Jorge] made in the Autodrom was phenomenal. It was totally obvious that Dani won the race in the area where they have an advantage, but in terms of fighting spirit, and tenacity, and force of will, Jorge really excelled himself."

In just two races, Jorge Lorenzo's championship lead had been slashed from 23 to 13 points. From nearly a win, to a fourth place finish. Lorenzo was using his consistency - apart from Assen, he had never finished in anything other than first or second place - to grind out a path to the championship. But Pedrosa was clearly closing; Lorenzo's Spanish rival had momentum behind him, and had become the favorite in every race he lined up at.

That pattern looked set to be repeated at Misano, with Pedrosa showing outstanding speed - once the track had dried up sufficiently to make it worth the riders' time to actually go out - during qualifying, though Lorenzo was close behind. But the second Italian race would prove to be yet another turning point in the championship, this time through a series of bizarre incidents which started with a leaking clutch cylinder.

The red lights had already come on ready to start the race at Misano, when Karel Abraham suddenly raised his hand after his Cardion AB Ducati stalled on the grid, the leaking clutch cylinder making his clutch ineffective. The start was aborted, but the chaos which ensued left the teams wondering exactly what was going on. They all rushed back out onto the grid to prepare the bikes for another wait, and in the pandemonium, a tire warmer stuck to Dani Pedrosa's carbon disk brake. When the mechanic charged with removing the tire warmer found the front wheel locked solid, the team wheeled Pedrosa's bike off the grid and into pit lane to try to fix the problem.

Once in pit lane, the front wheel unblocked itself, and Pedrosa started the warm up lap from pit lane. That meant he would have to start the race from the back of the grid, forfeiting the pole position he had worked so hard for. A great start saw him quickly work his way forward, but his progress would be stymied by Hector Barbera, making the same kind of unthinking move on Pedrosa that Alvaro Bautista had made on Lorenzo at Assen. Down they both went, and Pedrosa's chances of points were gone, along with any realistic shot at the title. With Lorenzo winning the race, the Yamaha man now had a 38-point lead in the championship.

All Pedrosa could try to do was win every race left on the calendar, a task he set about with some verve. At Aragon, Motegi and Sepang, the races followed the same pattern: Lorenzo took the lead early, with Pedrosa sitting on his tail until the halfway mark, before passing the Yamaha man with ease and opening up an unstoppable gap. Even in the downpour in Malaysia, there was no holding Pedrosa, the Honda man taking the first rain victory of his entire racing career, slaying a bogey man which had haunted him throughout his racing life.

Pedrosa's problem remained unchanged, however: the spirit-sapping, grinding consistency of Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo may have understood that winning against Pedrosa now that Honda had the chatter problems under control was almost impossible, he also knew that taking 2nd at every race would be good enough to become champion. And that's what he did, everywhere, with no one to challenge him for the position.

Pedrosa's hope lay with his teammate. Casey Stoner had returned to action at Motegi, his damaged ankle still nowhere near healed enough to be truly competitive, but determined to get some miles under his belt ahead of his home Grand Prix at Phillip Island. Stoner's ankle had slowed him at Motegi, the heavy braking and many right-hand corners taking their toll on his ankle, and his arms were suffering in an attempt to compensate. At Sepang, it was the rain which had initially spooked Stoner, the Australian fearing that another crash could leave him with permanent damage. Once he got into his rhythm, he started to close on Jorge Lorenzo, chasing him down as the rain started to fall ever more heavily. He caught the Spaniard too late to be of any help to Pedrosa: Race Direction had already red-flagged the race once Stoner reached Lorenzo's tail. The Australian would take no points off the championship leader in aid of Pedrosa's title bid.

The MotoGP circus headed to Australia for the final leg of the flyaway triple header, and the penultimate round of the series. Pedrosa's wins had seen him cut Lorenzo's lead from 38 to 23 points, and with 50 points still in play, Pedrosa still had a shot at the title, at least in theory. He now really needed help from his teammate, though he neither expected nor requested such assistance. Casey Stoner had come to Phillip Island with one goal only, to win the last MotoGP race he would ever compete in on his favorite circuit, and in front of his home crowd. As if to underline the expectations for the weekend, on Thursday, the circuit held a ceremony to rename Turn 3 "Stoner Corner". All through practice, Stoner lived up to those expectations, no one getting within half a second of the Australian's times. If Pedrosa wanted to take extra points from Lorenzo, he was going to have to do it all himself.

The Repsol Honda man gave it his best shot from the start. Lorenzo led away from the line, wanting to wrap up his second MotoGP title in style, but Pedrosa was in no mood to hang around. At the Honda hairpin, Pedrosa stuffed his RC213V inside Lorenzo's Yamaha to take the lead, and started to push as hard as he could for a gap. As they crossed the line at the end of the first lap, Stoner sliced past Lorenzo to put himself exactly where Pedrosa wanted him: between the two Spaniards, potentially taking another four valuable points from Lorenzo. But Pedrosa was having to push hard to keep Stoner behind him, and it quickly became apparent just how hard. Pedrosa ran about a foot wide going into the Honda Hairpin for the second time, just enough to end up on a piece of old, damaged tarmac with less grip than the rest. He slid out of the race, taking any hope he still had of the 2012 MotoGP title with him.

It was Dani Pedrosa's only mistake of the season, but it was a costly one. Though Casey Stoner went on to dominate the race in the same way he had dominated practice, Jorge Lorenzo once again came home in 2nd, the tenth time he finished there this season, and more than enough to wrap up his second MotoGP title. He celebrated in style, liberated, but it had been a very long and very hard slog. "This year has been even tougher than the first time I won the world title in 2010," Lorenzo told reporters afterwards. "I knew the competitors were stronger and more constant this year, so I had to be stronger and more constant than them. It was not easy, because I had to be very strong, very fast, and take a lot of risks but I didn't make a mistake. Also, Yamaha offered me a much better bike than last year. For this reason we are the best in 2012."

"I feel liberated, freed of the weight," Lorenzo had said, and it was apparent at Valencia. Stoner's win at Phillip Island meant that the three men who had tyrannized the 2012 MotoGP championship headed into the last race of the year nearly equal, on wins at least. Jorge Lorenzo had taken his six victories early in the season, while Dani Pedrosa's six wins had all come in the second half of the year. Casey Stoner's five wins had come at various stages throughout the years. The final race of the year was a matter of honor, for bragging rights for the rider with the most wins of the year. If Pedrosa won, he would at least have the consolation of having won more races than the man who took the championship from him. A win for Stoner would bring him level on victories with his two main title rivals. For Lorenzo, a victory would be a fitting end to his second world title, a crown on his season.

The difficult conditions - a wet track with a single dry line - caused everyone problems, though once again, Lorenzo and his team made the smartest choice on the grid. After the sighting lap, Lorenzo realized he would be able to run slicks, not wet tires, a change he promptly made on the grid. During the warm up lap, Dani Pedrosa followed Lorenzo around, saw his tires, and came to the same conclusion. Pedrosa came into the pits, jumped onto his dry-weather bike, and started from pit lane. Once the racing line dried out properly, Lorenzo started to push forward, leaving Andrea Dovizioso, Aleix Espargaro, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner behind him.

As riders who had started on wet tires started returning to the pits for slicks, Lorenzo's smart decision started to work against him. The Spaniard quickly began to come up against traffic, as he lapped riders who had lost time in the pits. Behind him, Pedrosa was closing rapidly, the Repsol Honda man suffering less with traffic than Lorenzo had. Determined to win, and with nothing to lose, Lorenzo closed quickly on James Ellison, the next rider ahead of him. He misjudged his closing speed and was forced to take a wider line through Turn 10, running off the dry line and onto the still wet surface. It was too much to ask of his tires, and he highsided out of the race, one of the more spectacular crashes of his career though without any serious effect. Pedrosa went on to win the race comfortably, scoring the best win tally of his career and earning bragging rights as the rider with the most wins of 2012.

Lorenzo's crash was, in an odd way, illustrative of his entire season. His team had put together a brilliant strategy, adapting to the situation quickly and cleverly. Lorenzo saw a possible advantage, and immediately tried to exploit it.

But in the previous 17 races, Lorenzo had been forced to exercise restraint, to keep one eye always on the title chase. Now he had the title already wrapped up, he could give free rein to his ambition. With less at stake, he could afford to err on the side of boldness, and take risks that might not pay off. He made a mistake, his first of the season, though in typical racer fashion he tried to lay the blame elsewhere, on Ellison in this case. At Valencia, he finally allowed himself the freedom to take a chance and make a mistake. That he did had no real bearing on his season, other than some fairly costly repair bills for Yamaha.

There were many elements that went into Lorenzo's second MotoGP World Championship. The YZR-M1 Yamaha had given him was clearly a better bike than the 800cc machine he had campaigned in 2011, meaning he could be competitive right from the very start. The bike never showed any of the chatter which had so badly plagued the Hondas, the Yamaha's chassis clearly better adapted to both the old and the new Bridgestone tires. The bike was fast all year, though Honda caught up and eventually surpassed the Yamaha by the end of the season. Yamaha's basic philosophy - make a bike which is as easy as possible to ride, helping the rider to feel comfortable while seeking out the limits of the machine - paid off once again. And the ease with which the bike both held its line and turned played into Lorenzo's strength, rewarding the smoothness of his style.

But a good bike still needs to be set up properly to get the best out of it, and the staff in Lorenzo's garage excelled themselves this year. Not once did Lorenzo start a race with a bike that was sub par. Not once did he have a bike with significant problems he had to ride around. Ramon Forcada, Takashi Moriyama and the rest of the mechanics and engineers started each weekend with a bike that worked well enough for Lorenzo to focus on setting up a bike which would last the distance, not just get around the track in one piece. Wilco Zeelenberg acted as the perfect liaison, watching Lorenzo from track side, and steering his comments where necessary based on what he saw. The balance of maturity, wisdom and experience in his garage gave Lorenzo the tools he needed to get the best out of himself.

Most of all, though, it was Lorenzo himself who earned his second world championship the hard way. It was Lorenzo who understood that racing a 1000cc MotoGP bike would not be like racing an 800cc machine with more power. The demands were different, the physical strain greater, the effort required for braking and turning greater also. He put in the hard miles in the tropical heat to prepare himself for the season, and it paid off in the first half of the season. With the maturity and experience of four seasons in MotoGP, he knew what it would take to win a championship, rather than a race. He won when he could, took second when he couldn't, and was always strong enough to fight off any challenge for second. He did not make a mistake all season, only letting himself go when there was nothing more at stake. His focus, his discipline, was second to none. In 2012, Jorge Lorenzo was the best motorcycle racer in the world.

He was also a joy to watch. His style looked effortless, sweeping through corners imperiously like a Roman general leading his troops into battle against a band of disorganized marauders. He barely moved on the bike, and the bike barely moved underneath him, yet the pace he achieved was scintillating, too hot for anyone but Pedrosa and Stoner to follow. But the smoothness of Lorenzo's style belied the effort which the Spaniard actually had to put into riding. "His style only looks effortless," Zeelenberg said. "It costs a huge amount of energy, but perhaps less than other riders. But because of this, he can find the limits more easily, can put in seven or eight laps and understand where the problems are. He does the same thing in the race, and that means he runs less risk of crashing."

Can Lorenzo repeat the achievement again next year? It looks like being an awful lot harder in 2013. The Hondas are now better sorted than before, and the change in Dani Pedrosa is palpable. Pedrosa is calmer, more focused, but also braver, fiercer, more willing to push to the very limit and take on a battle. Buoyed by his performance in 2012, Pedrosa will be a tougher man to beat next year. And then there's Marc Marquez: the rookie has been sensational in Moto2, and just gets better and better. He was already quick on a MotoGP bike, the few laps he did get to put in, and should be up to podium pace from the very first race. He is also fearless, as fearless as Marco Simoncelli was, but with the talent of a young Valentino Rossi or Casey Stoner. Marquez has all the makings of a superstar, and will ruffle Lorenzo's feathers a number of times in 2013. Lorenzo will need all the equanimity he can muster in the fact of that much aggression.

Last, but a very long way from least, there's Valentino Rossi. The former champion returns to Yamaha humbled by his experience at Ducati, but with two years of stifled ambition bursting to get out. Whether Rossi is still fast enough to pose a serious challenge against Lorenzo is as yet to be seen, but it would be foolish indeed to bet against him trying. Rossi may or may not be able to challenge for the title, but he is certain to have his eyes on a few wins. The old fox still has plenty of tricks up his sleeve, and will be pulling them all out throughout the year to try and beat Lorenzo, both on and off the track. First, beat your teammate, runs the old racing adage, and there is nothing that would give Rossi more pleasure than beating the man he regards as the Spanish usurper. The Yamaha hospitality was always a warm and welcoming place in 2012; in 2013, the temperature could get more heated at times, and positively icy at others.

No doubt Jorge Lorenzo is aware of these challenges, and will be ready to face them. Jorge Lorenzo was the best rider in the world in 2012, and will want to be the best again next year. He has the intelligence and maturity to go with his raw talent, that much he proved this season. He has the team surrounding him to defend his title successfully. But he also knows it will not be easy. If he thought 2012 was tough, just wait for 2013.

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"Once the racing line dried out properly, Lorenzo started to push forward, leaving Andrea Dovizioso, Aleix Espargaro, Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner behind him."

??? ;-)

Also, pray should be prey in

"... swooping through turn after turn effortlessly in pursuit of his pray ..."

Sorry to be nitpicky, but I'm sure you don't want these minor errors tainting your otherwise excellent article.

Thanks. Took me a long time to write that article, and missed some things while proofreading. Fixed them now.

Germany race (14th Paragraph) - " But fate, or perhaps an excess of ambition, intervened."

Absolute masterclass! I don't feel that I have seen better articles/journalism anywhere else, even including other fields

Awesome article as always :)

"He is also fearless, as fearless as Marco Simoncelli was, but with the talent of a young Valentino Rossi or Casey Stoner."

A lot of riders have looked great in the lower classes before moving up to the top eschelon. Pedrosa was every bit as impressive as Marquez in the lower classes but in 7 seasons on a factory RCV his stats are unimpressive. Biaggi also dominated 250 but didn't quite have what it took to beat the best. Its simply too early to say Marquez has that level of talent.

While reserving judgement is always prudent, and the jury is indeed still out on Marc, you could not have picked two worse examples to illustrate the idea of riders who didn't succeed in the big leagues. I'd be willing to bet that most riders, having accomplished what Pedrosa or Biaggi have in that class, would call their careers a screaming success.

I could think of to illustrate that lower class success doesn't mean a rider has what it takes to beat the best in the world to titles in the top class. I could have compared him to Aoyama or Elias who also won titles on 250/Moto2, but neither have had as much hype or were really as impressive in the lower classes as Biaggi, Pedrosa and Marquez. To me the expectations of the latter 3 riders correlate better than guys like Elias, Aoyama, Melandri, Jacque etc etc. As you say though if Marquez can match the acheivements of Biaggi and Pedrosa he'll be doing very well, but that just underlines my point that to go further and compare his talent to the likes of Rossi and Stoner before he's turned a wheel in the top class is very premature. And I doubt that either Biaggi or Pedrosa would regard their respective careers in the top class as 'screaming successes'.

Picking the most extreme examples - OK, fair enough, and it makes the point.

Here's the context I was thinking about: I just heard Crutchlow talk about the deep satisfaction that the two podiums he has in two years of MotoGP gave him. And it was clear when he was saying it that he meant it - the WSBK and WSS years weren't even on his emotional radar when he was speaking. What a single MotoGP win would mean for that guy, words probably couldn't describe. To him, career stats like Biaggi's and Pedrosa's seem like something from another species.

For me one of the biggest deciding factors of this season was Casey Stoner. In the first half of the season he was winning or relegating Pedrosa do 3rd, while in the second part of the season, there was only Lorenzo and Pedrosa. Nobody else was close to them. Maybe the outcome would be the same with Stoner winning a lot, and relegating Pedrosa to second, but Pedrosa was also riding incredible well, so who knows.
Either way, Lorenzo had a fantastic season. His team, preparation and skills got him this well deserved championship.

George,as I like to call him is the consumate racer. Never takes his eye off the ball. Total commitment,dedication and integrity. His team responds in kind.
Great write up,David. Watching Lorenzo reminds me so much of Wayne Rainey and that is an absolute compliment. Mentally, he's the toughest I've seen since King Kenny back then. Well,thats to be expected having enjoyed Kenny's boot camp back then.

If having the second highest podium rate of active riders (behind VR) and having won one more race than the champion this year is unimpressive stats; then I would really like to hear what are "impressive stats" according to your standards....

Since 2006 Pedrosa has 22 wins and 0 titles to his name, despite being the lead factory Honda rider throughout that period. In the same period Stoner amassed 38 wins and two titles, despite being on a privateer bike in 2006 and Ducati until 2010. Over the same period Rossi also has more wins and two more titles than Pedrosa, and Lorenzo has more wins than Pedrosa despite being in the top class for two less years and also has two titles. Maybe unimpressive is the wrong word, I certainly think Marquez has a lot to do before he can be mentioned alongside someone like Pedrosa in terms of talent or anything else, But when you're talking about the cream of the crop Pedrosa falls short over his seven years as lead Factory Honda rider.

You forgot to include:
Number of events missed due to injury?
Number of events a rider was riding recovering from injury?
Probabily even if you take these into account Stoner will still be up, but not by the same margin.
You should paint the whole stats picture and not just the numbers that support your argument, otherwise, how about we compare Rossi's last 3 years against Pedrosa's?
Maybe to make it more fare we should also include the relation with number of wins another rider had on the same bike in the same period.
Bottom line, Rossi, Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa are brilliant. Let's hope that Marquez is also and we have everyone healthy on well sorted bikes.

And I'm not being selective with the numbers - I'm comparing their stats since they have all been racing eachother in GP, regardless of the fact Stoner wasn't on a factory bike in 06 and both Rossi and Stoner had to contend with the Ducati. And Stoner actually has 1 more DNS than Pedrosa due to illness or injury since they joined the top class in 06 - between his lactose issues and busted ankle he's spent the most time convalescent or riding unfit out of all the aliens. But Rossi also had his broken leg and wrist issues, Jorge tore ankle ligaments in a stack and missed races after losing the top of his finger in 2011.. Pedrosa's injuries occurred over a short timespan but over the full 7 year period (or 5 in Jorge's case) they even up, and he still doesn't rank alongside the other three.

These are remarkably hard to assess, and judge. Your claim that Stoner spent the longest time riding with injury is hard to prove, I think. A few examples:

  • Valentino Rossi injured his shoulder in motocross accident after the Qatar race in 2010. That injury hampered him for the rest of the season, and even impeded him for the first 2 or 3 races of 2011. The tear in the ligaments connecting his shoulder was extremely serious.
  • Dani Pedrosa crashed in Motegi in 2010, and had a plate fitted to his collarbone. Though that quickly fixed the problem, it also caused him to suffer the symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which hampered him through the first few races of 2011. He had surgery after Jerez to remove the plate causing the problem, but it meant riding with yet more pain. A couple of races later, he was knocked off by Marco Simoncelli and broke his collarbone again.

The point is that these riders spend a lot of their time riding with injury, probably the best part of a season. Stoner has had his share of injuries, and lost his share of time to recovery, but then so has everyone else.

Though it is true that Stoner has more DNS's due to illness or injury since 2007, the 'riding handicapped' part is a lot harder to determine. How long Stoner's lactose issue were troubling him is also hard to define. But in the end the point you and I are making is the same - Pedrosa cannot really have been said to have been more or less hindered than anyone else through injury if we look at it on balance since they have been riding against eachother.

It also underlines one other thing - they're all tough sumbitches!

If I remember correctly, Stoner said he first started noticing the lactose problems around Jerez, and they got steadily worse as the season progressed. By Barcelona, he was almost incapable of lasting an entire race. Still ended up on the podium though, which is an achievement in itself!

If you wanted to try to figure out when it started, you could probably check the lap analysis PDF files from's results page and try to spot the lap time declines toward the end of the race.

but then I would have to do the same for the other riders and I think it would just confirm the original point you were making, it's hard to determine!

I remember that Barcelona race well. Pedrosa has had some bad luck but you wouldn't say Stoner's been blessed by good fortune in MotoGP either. There was the lactose thing which stopped him being a contender in 09. Then there was the Laguna 08 race is rightly regarded as the turning point that year, yet it was Rossi that blinked first in that battle by running off at the corkscrew. Had he not miraculously found a grate cover off track that season could have played out quite differently.

Ben Spies has to take the award for being the least fortunate rider I can think of in Modern GP though, there again maybe he's just managed to condense all his bad luck into one season, which could actually be a good thing!


I often marvel at how differently the record books would look with one crash, or one front-end save, here and there turning out differently. It's very easy to imagine VR with at least two more MotoGP titles than he has - and it's equally easy to imagine him with half the titles that he has.

I think it's fair to say for a good proportion of his career fortune smiled upon him. He stayed incredibly free of injury until 2010.

Lorenzo owes a debt of gratitude to Spies. In any given season, at this level, your teammate will beat you at least a few times. Even Criville would beat Doohan from time to time. Lorenzo didn't lose a single point to his factory-backed teammate all season long. That helps - a lot. Had Stoner not raced, or had the results that Spies had, Dani would be champ.

A long and brilliant article, that's very rare, thanks :)

I'm hoping for the same kind someday about Stoner's carreer ;)

Wilco Zeelenberg explained. "What were Casey and Dani complaining of? Arm pump. Jorge was ready, he knew the 1000s would put more strain on his arms."

Does anyone really believe this to be the case? C'mon at the top level of racing in the biggest team with two title contenders who forgot to do their chin ups before the season? Or that one long hot afternoon session protects you from arm pump? Why wasn't the entire field suffering from arm pump since Jorge was the only one prepared for it?

Otherwise a pretty decent summation of the title fight of 2012. Thanks and merry Christmas to one and all. God bless you and yours.

Another fantastic article David. Thank you.
I will never write or say anything against the huge talent that Jorge Lorenzo is. He is a fantastic rider, gifted, consistent, disciplined and above all he is smart. Wiggysan calls him Mr. Inch Perfect and I think that´s a great description.
But the fact that avoiding DNF´s is more important these days than winning races is damaging the spectacle. I love racing since the mid 70´s and I realise rule making is not easy, but I do not enjoy a race when riders are not trying their best in order to win.
To be a champion in MotoGP you need to be outrageously fast, have one of the best two bikes available, a lot of guts and plenty of luck. But once you´re there the most important thing is not finishing out of the points. Therefore top riders will decide before or during a race whether they will try to win or just harvest as many points as possible. Lorenzo won just one of the last nine races. He was definetely not racing for wins but for points and avoiding DNF´s. Stoner and Pedrosa were racing with a different mindset and their DNF´s were simply too much in the end. 2nd and 3rd places were in the end more important than race wins in order to decide the Championship.
I´m not blaming anybody or complaining. It´s just the result of having very competitive riders who do their math.

I believe it also goes with the fact that there are only 4 bikes on the grid who can contend victory. This call for conservative racing equal 4th at the very worst. Take away Spies (incidentally from your team) and you are third. Scrap an injured Stoner and you are second.
If there were 8 bikes capable of winning .... Lorenzo could have been second anyway (I am not doubting for a split second his talent) but it would have been much harder or at least it would have required more effort or risk taking.

Next year we still have the two Hondas and the two Yamahas ... possibily with Tech3 gap from factory machines likely to increase rather than shrink (same goes for sat Hondas)

Well you can blame the rules also. Rules that Honda have pushed and pushed for. They pushed for 6 engines stating a R&D exercise and a reduction in costs. Behind closed doors it's an increase in costs to get these engines to do that many KM's. It does bode well for R&D for streetbikes, for reliability sakes, at least they can make that argument to their corporate heads. The reality is Honda knows they make the most reliable motorcycle engines so pushing this gets them an advantage and believe me Honda will barter to get every advantage they can, much like Ducati in WSBK. Now Honda has pushed and got 5 engines for a season.

I bring this up because you (Ciccio) brought up the riders playing the numbers game. Well the engine rules are a numbers game too, a game for which the fans suffer for. This rule means less time on the track and less times for the fans to see X rider and bike doing circles. I think this factors into the riders playing the numbers game and was definitely a factor in Jorge's championship title. Remember, as the article pointed out, that he lost a fresh engine through no fault of his own. That played a big factor in his choices for the remainder of the season and dictated some of those teams' decisions on how to approach each race.

It was nice in the (g)old(en) days where this wasn't as much of a concern, full power Mr. Sulu, tires smoking, and sliding, and very little intervention of electronics in the fray.

Wouldn't the spectacle be vastly improved with 24-25 liters of fuel for the factory riders, 10 or more engines per season, and a ban of TC, WC, anti-spin, turn by turn mapping, and launch control? The rider would have to manage the launch at the start of the race (instead of LC with a rev limit) , the spinning of the tires, and TC would be their right wrist. Some are afraid of Valentino leaving the series. Implement what I said above, and even without Rossi, Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Stoner or Marquez, you'd have your spectacle back. The spectacle returns as soon as all these electronic nannies are removed and those functions installed back in the riders' right wrists. These bikes can be designed without TC, contrary to popular belief. The current ones cannot be ridden without TC because they were completely designed around it.

Nakamoto made it clear in an interview this year prior to decisions coming forth about 2014, that the spectacle and fans are just not his concern. If this doesn't change then expect more of the same. Carmelo should have stood his ground, lost Honda, and made MotoGP like F1 where the mfr's make engines, and the teams build the bikes. Engine limits, fuel limits, tire limits, and the overabundance of rider nannies are why many say it's boring today.