Yamaha's media onslaught - and their assault on the MotoGP title - continues, with the Japanese factory signing Jorge Lorenzo as a test rider for the 2020 season, as we suggested they might yesterday. Lorenzo is to start immediately, taking part in the shakedown test at Sepang, and will continue his work testing in Europe for Yamaha, as well as taking part in the other official IRTA tests during the season.
For the moment, Lorenzo is to be a test rider only, with no wildcards planned. Yamaha is open to giving Lorenzo a wildcard, should he change his mind about them. Currently, he is content to be a test rider, with no ambitions to race. The injuries suffered during the 2019 season on the Repsol Honda knocked the desire to race out of him. But Lorenzo has had a long period to train and recover, and will start his testing duties fitter than he has been in a couple of season. What effect that will have on Lorenzo's interest in racing is yet to be seen.
The signing underlines how serious Yamaha are approaching the task of regaining supremacy in MotoGP. The Yamaha was strongest in recent years when Lorenzo led development, and Maverick Viñales praised the bike left to him by Lorenzo in 2017 when he joined Yamaha, Viñales winning three of the first five races that season. Viñales will be hoping that Lorenzo can return the bike to those heights.
The press release appears below:
JORGE LORENZO TO STRENGTHEN YAMAHA FACTORY RACING TEST TEAM IN 2020
Yamaha is delighted to welcome back three-time MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo. He will join the Yamaha Factory Racing Test Team programme with the aim to boost MotoGP development during the 2020 season.
Gerno di Lesmo (Italy), 30th January 2020
Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. and Yamaha Motor Racing are delighted to announce that five-time World Champion and very successful Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo will be reinforcing the Yamaha Factory Racing Test Team for the 2020 season.
Lorenzo is not only a big name in the MotoGP paddock but also a widely celebrated Yamaha rider. He made his debut in MotoGP with Yamaha in 2008 and spent nine years with the Factory MotoGP Team, winning all three of his premier class titles on the YZR-M1, in 2010, 2012, and 2015 respectively.
Starting from the MotoGP shakedown test, held in Sepang, Malaysia from 2-4 February, Lorenzo will ride the YZR-M1. He will also take part in other Official IRTA Tests and some private Yamaha tests this year, with the sole aim to help Yamaha‘s engineers with the 2020 MotoGP development. The Spaniard is the perfect man for the job as he is known for his smooth, precise riding and clear feedback. He will be supported in his search for innovation by Silvano Galbusera, who will be Crew Chief for Lorenzo in the Yamaha Factory Racing Test Team.
So far, no wild card rides are planned for Lorenzo in 2020, but Yamaha is open to the possibility, should he decide to race again.
MANAGING DIRECTOR, YAMAHA MOTOR RACING
Of course, we are delighted to welcome Jorge back at Yamaha. When we knew that Jorge would stop his active racing career, we immediately started to consider making a proposal for him to join us.
"The statistics of his achievements with us in those nine years together speak for themselves. He is a vastly experienced MotoGP rider, who is closely familiar with the M1 and the people at Yamaha. We have come to know Jorge as a very precise and motivated rider, with flawless consistency and good technical insight: all the qualities you need in a test rider at this high level.
"Combining Jorge‘s experience, knowledge, and riding speed with experienced Crew Chief Silvano Galbusera is an important element in Yamaha‘s strategy to strengthen the Test Team, which aims to bridge the gap between the engineers and test riders in Japan and the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team.
YAMAHA FACTORY RACING TEST RIDER
I‘m very happy with the decision to join the Yamaha Factory Test Team. I was always planning on staying involved in MotoGP and returning to the paddock, and I think this is a suitable role for me. I know the team and the M1 well. The Yamaha really suited my riding style, and it will be very interesting to ’meet up with my old bike again‘.
"Returning to Yamaha brings with it some good memories. We secured many podiums and victories, and three titles together, so we know where our strengths lie. I want to thank Yamaha for this opportunity, because this allows me to do what I love – riding motorbikes and pushing the limit – whilst enjoying a slightly calmer lifestyle than I did in previous years.
"I‘m very motivated to get to work and can‘t wait to start riding. I want to do my best for Yamaha‘s future, and I hope my riding experience will be helpful to Yamaha‘s engineers and riders to bring the title back to Yamaha.
Jorge Lorenzo was born on the Balearic island of Mallorca, Spain on 4 May 1987. He began riding motorbikes at home at the tender age of three, and within months of taking to two wheels he was competing in his first minicross races. In 1995, aged eight, he won the Balearic title and followed that up the next year by taking the Island‘s minicross, trial, minimoto, and junior motocross titles.
Lorenzo graduated to road racing and national competition in 1997, and it didn‘t take him long to adjust, winning the Aprilia 50cc Cup in 1998. Despite officially being too young, a special dispensation in 2000 allowed him to compete in the Spanish 125cc series at the age of 13. He made history the following year when competing in Europe and becoming the youngest ever winner of a European 125cc race.
In 2002, the precocious teenager once again showed that age was no barrier to a quick rise up the ranks of motorbike racing. He made his Grand Prix racing debut on his fifteenth birthday, on qualifying day for the 125cc Spanish Grand Prix. He had to miss the Friday practices as he wasn‘t old enough yet.
After three years in the 125cc class, he moved up to the 250cc class championship. When he switched to Aprilia in 2006, the Spaniard came into his own. He dominated the field, taking 8 wins out of 16 races and scoring 11 podiums in total. He made sure to show this was not a fluke the following year: having swapped his usual number 48 for a number 1, he convincingly duplicated his title winning ways, securing 9 wins out of 17 races and 12 podiums.
The man from Mallorca had made his point: he was ready to challenge along with the big guns in the premier class, and Yamaha took the opportunity to scoop up this racing talent in 2008.
Back with number 48, his first year in the Yamaha Factory team started in the perfect way. Lorenzo secured pole at the first race, setting a new lap record that previously stood for ten years. He went on to claim two podium finishes before his first MotoGP victory came at only his third race with Yamaha. However, a series of crashes and injuries would compromise the remainder of his debut season on the M1. But Lorenzo showed his unshakable determination: he kept pushing and still took fourth place in the final championship standings, earning him the Rookie of the Year award.
A switch in 2009 to the number 99 that Lorenzo fans have grown accustomed to, was the first sign of change. ’X Fuera‘ (a nickname alluding to his flamboyant outside overtaking style, depicted with a red cross on his helmet) was calmer and more collected and it showed in the results: a second place in the overall rankings, behind team-mate Valentino Rossi. These achievements also earned Yamaha the Constructors and Team Trophy that season.
The next year it was Lorenzo‘s time to shine. He took 9 out of 18 race wins and a staggering 16 podiums (12 of which were achieved at the first 12 rounds of that season) to take a formidable first MotoGP Championship victory in Malaysia.
Returning to the number-1 plate in 2011, he narrowly missed out on the title honours again, taking second place despite a serious crash during round 16 at Phillip Island bringing a premature end to the Mallorcan‘s season. But he got to enjoy the sweet taste of victory once more in 2012, when he proved to be unbeatable. He started his campaign with a win at the opening round and overall took podiums in every single race bar two, including six wins and ten second places, earning himself his second premier class crown in Australia.
This achievement was followed by a second and third place overall in the next two years, both seasons having been compromised by big crashes in Assen (2013) and at the Sachsenring (2014). However, Lorenzo is known for his steely performances. And so, in 2015, he claimed the number-one spot once more. During this dramatic season only team-mate Rossi was able to compete with him. The championship fight came down to the wire, but in the end it was Lorenzo who took the victory in Valencia, earning him his third and final MotoGP title.
Lorenzo completed one more season with Yamaha, taking third in his ninth year in the premier class and bringing the partnership‘s total to 44 wins, 107 podiums, and 39 pole positions. He ran two seasons with Ducati and one with Honda, before announcing his retirement as a MotoGP rider at the end of 2019. In 18 seasons he secured 68 wins, 152 podiums, 69 pole positions, and 5 World Championships. This will rightfully see him inducted as a MotoGP Legend at the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.
Whilst he will be thoroughly missed by racing fans this upcoming season, they might not have to miss him for long. No wild card rides are planned for Lorenzo in 2020 as of yet, but Yamaha is open to the possibility.