Jorge Lorenzo Interview: On The Switch From Yamaha To Ducati, How He Made The GP18 Work For Him, And How He Approaches 2019

Jorge Lorenzo's two seasons at Ducati have truly been a roller-coaster. The three-time MotoGP champion went from a consistent front runner to struggling mid-pack. By the end of his first season, Lorenzo was starting to look competitive, leading races at the Red Bull Ring, Misano, Aragon, and Sepang, and scoring a couple of podiums.

A new bike was supposed to turn better and make his life easier, yet Lorenzo seemed to struggle once again in the first half of 2018. From the beginning of the season, it looked like Lorenzo's time at Ducati was over, and would be considered a failure. Then, Ducati brought a redesigned fuel tank to Mugello, and Lorenzo's fortunes were transformed, winning two races in a row at Mugello and Barcelona, and suddenly being a force to be reckoned with at pretty much every race.

But it was too late. Minds had already been made up before Mugello. Ducati had decided to move on from Lorenzo, and Lorenzo had decided to switch to the Repsol Honda team for 2019. The apogee of Lorenzo's time at Ducati was also his swan song there.

At Aragon, I spoke to Jorge Lorenzo about the wild ride he has had aboard the Ducati Desmosedici. He spoke frankly about the lessons he learned about himself, about adapting to the bike and changing his riding style, and his struggle to make Ducati understand what he needed to be faster. He described the differences between the Yamaha and the Ducati, and what he expects when he moves to Honda. And he talked about how he kept himself going in the face of adversity.

Q: What have you learned at Ducati? What was the big lesson that you learned? It’s been such an interesting, emotional, up-and-down time.

Jorge Lorenzo: A lot of lessons. Probably the first one is that we underestimated the change from Yamaha to Ducati. We thought that it would be more easy, that with my normal style, with the same style I was using in Yamaha I could be competitive also with the Ducati. I wasn’t right. I needed to change completely.

Q: Why did you think that? A lot of us felt from all the way being told that it would be difficult. You must have followed the Ducati around previously on the Yamaha and seen the way that it was being ridden?

JL: It's one thing to see it from the outside and another thing to go onto the bike and to feel everything. To feel the limitations, to feel that the bike is telling you that you cannot trust to enter the corner in the same way. So they were just completely opposite bikes.

Firstly starting from the engine. The Yamaha engine is so smooth, from the bottom, the first touch, to the high RPM. The Ducati is the opposite. The first touch is not very clean, it’s like a bomb, aggressive. Then when the RPM goes high, the bike becomes very nervous.

Secondly, the braking. The Ducati is very stable on the brakes. Also very stable when you start to block the rear. You can block the rear with a lot of confidence. So you need to take profit of all this stability and all this confidence in braking to make the lap time just on braking. Instead the Yamaha is not very stable on braking, and you need to brake much before and release the brake very quick to take profit of the smooth engine and the chassis and the corner speed.

So, these two things are completely opposite. Even that, I needed to use the rear brake so much that I almost never used with the Yamaha.

Third part, I could not lean with the Ducati. With the Ducati, in that area, it's the only bike that in certain margins, certain levels of lean angle, the more that you lean, the less that you turn. It's the only bike in the world that happens this. But in certain areas is like that. At certain levels of lean, you turn less. With a normal bike, the more you lean, the more you turn, but not with the Ducati.

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I like Lorenzo and don’t really get why some people don’t (though I will admit that he doesn’t always seem very media savvy and doesn’t always help himself in interviews) but I’m astonished to read here that he didn’t think it would be difficult to adapt to the Ducati. He then goes on to describe all of the differences that he had to adapt to and they’re all differences that every MotoGP pundit had been talking about for years. All of us knew the Ducati didn’t feel as ‘trustworthy’ entering a corner. We all knew the first touch of the throttle felt like a ‘bomb’ (heck, not only had I read motorcycle jounalists say this already but I could hear and see it myself, standing trackside during free practices, comparing the way the Yamaha and the Ducati existed corners). 

But Lorenza admits that he thought it would be easy to ride the Ducati with his “normal” style from the Yamaha.  I wonder if these guys just have such unwaivering confidence in themselves (which I’m sure is necessary) that they fool themselves sometimes. 

At any rate, I’d be more critical of the guy but Lorenzo admits he was wrong and he sorted all of it out. I’m hopeful these lessons really will help him adapt quickly to the Honda so we can see him competing at the front next year.

I also think it's the case that elite performers can't (or won't allow themselves to) articulate any form of weakness.  If Lorenzo uses visualization (and a coach) to prepare psychologically for training and competition, (and it wouldn't surprise me), he would only visualize himself excelling and succeeding, not stumbling at the start and fighting the bike in the corners.

+1 for his AC/DC shoutout!

Your best work yet. Honestly I don't know how you do it. But the more I read from your website the hungrier I get for new content. I can't wait to see Lorenzo on the new Honda already! Keep up the amazing work. Subscriber for life!

Absolutely, digitalrurouni.

David, you ask the questions in a good way, very direct. The responses are not only clear and concise, but easy for us punters to understand. It was fascinating to read that it was like changing category for him, going from Yamaha to Ducati. I only wish you had asked him about his experiences, re: Michelin vs. Bridgestone tires.

Thank you so much, I'm a JL99 fan, but sometimes it is not very easy to understand his motivation.

And also +1, subscriber for life!

JL makes it hard for me to ‘like’ him because i have always felt he was a ‘bad’ winner and an even worse loser (lots of excuses). But i never doubted his talents and wanted to be able to pull for him. I have also always respected him for his bravery and how he rode to 4th after his collarbone surgery and getting back on after some of his moonshot high-sides

This article showed so much humility (though still gave us a ‘3rd person reference!’). I will be pulling for him going to Honda and look forward to him winning on his 3rd manufacturer in the premier class. 

Your interview with Lorenzo was what we have become to expect as intelligent and instructive.

However, the one question you didn't ask is ; How do you justify taking about £15 million Pounds/Euros to basically fail?

Just like Alonso in F1, he has been paid several lottery winners money to justify why he didn't just get on the bike, sort it out and win races. 

My admiration for Casey Stoner grows.

Please tell me there's a second part to this interview, and that "suggested mapping 8" is mentioned!?

Great read!

Great Interview.

A question though, Why do Spaniards say “block”?  I'm assuming it means to “lock up”, yeah?  As in “to lock up the rear”…  or are they describing something else?  Block is an odd word to use.

is that at some point 'brake lock' got compressed into 'block'. 

You know, the kids these days will do anything to lessen the amount of syllables needed for speaking or texting. ;)