Jorge Lorenzo’s 2009 Season So Far
Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo has already this season become the biggest challenger to his World Champion team-mate Valentino Rossi.
Jorge Lorenzo has been a joy to watch so far this year, starting every race on the front row, driving his legendary team-mate Valentino Rossi right to the limit and pushing on ahead of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa in the standings in just his second premier class campaign.
The Spaniard started the season with a solid third place finish in the Monday night race at the Losail International Circuit behind Stoner and Rossi, having got away from third on the grid.
It was not long, however, before he registered his first victory of the year as he stormed to glory at the Polini Grand Prix of Japan. Again starting from third, Lorenzo notched the second premier class win of his career by a two second margin over his illustrious colleague Rossi to place himself at the head of the standings.
Arriving at Jerez Lorenzo said that performing in front of the Spanish fans in Andalusia was enough to warrant riding right on the edge and risking it all for glory, but when he crashed out with five laps to go – as he attempted to chase down Stoner for third place – it was difficult for the young Majorcan to take. Especially as he celebrated his 22nd birthday the next day still pondering the costly crash.
The ultra-confident Yamaha star hit straight back in France two weeks later though, as he judged the wet-dry race – and the bike swap it entailed – to perfection, and masterfully crossed the finishing line in first place, whilst Rossi was back in 16th. Lorenzo was therefore back on top of the standings again.
Stoner took over from Lorenzo at the top with his brilliant win for Ducati at Mugello in the following race, with Lorenzo finishing in second place – in front of a slightly disgruntled Rossi at a circuit where the Italian had not been beaten since 2001.
What was to come next will be remembered as one of the best races in recent years. Lorenzo starting on pole and with Rossi just behind him in second place on the starting grid the Yamaha pair contested a fierce battle throughout the race, with the MotoGP title holder requiring all of his skill and experience to outdo Lorenzo on the final corner for one of his greatest victories.
It was not so close at Assen as Lorenzo made a poor start to the race after qualifying third and could not make up the gap to racewinner Rossi. Still, another second place behind arguably the best rider is history is hardly a bad result.
Returning to the scene of a spectacular first lap crash in 2008, Lorenzo did much better in the 2009 running of the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, crossing the line third behind Pedrosa and Rossi in just his second ever race at the tricky Laguna Seca track. He had picked up a shoulder injury with another accident in QP but despite the pain his lap times were not overly affected.
Another close battle with Rossi at Sachsenring, which again went down to the last lap and ended with Lorenzo in second place once more, meant that The Doctor had built up a 14 point lead over his young rival by the time MotoGP arrived at Donington Park for the last time.
In slippery conditions at the British track Lorenzo was caught out by the rain as he crashed out when leading the race and although Rossi could only manage fifth place – having crashed himself and remounted – there was worse to come at Brno. Lorenzo crashed and suffered another DNF in the Czech Republic as Rossi took his fifth win of the season to open up a 50 point championship advantage.
Game over? Not quite yet… Lorenzo hit back immediately with another great performance at Indianapolis where Rossi suffered his own first DNF of 2009 and the gap was back down to 25 points with five rounds to go.
With Rossi outperformed at Mugello earlier this season for the first time in seven years it was perhaps inevitable that he would prevail on home soil at Misano, but Lorenzo still kept the pressure on with his fifth second place finish of the current campaign. Indeed, other than his three DNFs at Jerez, Donington and Brno, which all came as he battled for the race lead or for at least a podium slot, Lorenzo has finished on the rostrum at every other Grand Prix thus far in 2009.
It was announced before his Indianapolis triumph that Lorenzo will continue with Fiat Yamaha as Rossi’s colleague next year, despite reported offers from rival teams, and he still has four races left in 2009 to try and break down his team-mate’s current 30 championship lead.