The third day at Losail has finally given one of the most highly-anticipated stars of the 2019 season his smile back. Jorge Lorenzo rounded out today's test with a time that placed him sixth overall, less than half a second from frontrunner Maverick Vinales.
A result that had seemed out of reach for the Majorcan after the first two days of testing but he was eventually able to set a 1'54.653, despite his less than ideal physical condition. The only thing to leave a mark on his day was a crash at the end of the session, in a very fast point of the track, though fortunately the rider was unhurt. Unique among riders, Lorenzo also raised the possibility of asking for a race time change for safety reasons
In any case, listening to his words, it seems clear that the positive performance far outweighs the only negative episode of an otherwise perfect day.
"Today is my third day as a Honda rider - begins a smiling Jorge - I wasn't physically fit at Jerez and Valencia and I didn't go to Sepang. So we didn't have chance to fully prepare for this test and the first race. But on this last day here, we've taken a big step forward and this means that once I'm back in top shape and can push harder, we might be able to improve other details and that will make us even stronger. I leave here satisfied, and can't wait to race".
Do you think this clears up any doubts about the potential of the Lorenzo-Honda pairing?
"As I said on day one, we hand't yet started work on the bikes seeing and so it's normal that the bike has improved as it has once we got to work. Weìve improved a little across all areas, making small but effective changes which have allowed us to improve in terms of our competitiveness and be closer to the fastest guys. I'm really pleased, as this shows we have the potential and that, if we work hard, we can do really well. I hope I'm able to soon express all this potential, because I know it will allow us to run at the front".
Only one negative, a crash that could have ruined his good mood.
"It was a little bit of a downer after such a positive day. I crashed at quite a fast point of the track, the bike flew towards the wall around the run-off area. I was almost upright, I used up a life line there. I crashed on the left side and tried to protect my left hand. It looks like it worked, as I was lucky and haven't sustained any additional injuries".
A crash with strange dynamics, what happened?
"I crashed because after a certain time here, the temperature suddenly drops and there is a lot of humidity. Several riders crashed during that period, and I think I need to have a serious chat with Carmelo Ezpeleta, as he is the person who decides, asking him to start the race an hour earlier. It would be better in terms of the riders' safety and well-being. I hope it can be changed, even just by half an hour or an hour.If we're unlucky and there is a lot of humidity on the day, it could be dangerous".
It'll soon be lights out at Qatar. With respect to your 2017 debut with Ducati and then your first race in 2018, how do you feel now? Do you feel faster than you were back then?
"I'f I compare with the season start with Ducati in 2017 and 2018, I have to say that I didn't feel so competitive back then. I feel the bike better now, I can be quite fast after a few laps and I better understand the bike's behaviour when the tyres begin to wear".
So you think you can make a better start to the championship.
"Sure, but in those races I was feeling better physically-speaking. But I'll feel a little better for the race than I do now of course and think that I can be back to 100% by race three. Now I can't wait to get back in shape and brake harder. I also missed the Sepang test which would have been important. If I have to see the glass half full, then I hope this is my last injury of the season, and that I can take on the year calmly".
Who will win come Sunday? here's what Jorge Lorenzo thinks.
"Knowing that this is definitely not a Honda track, and that Vinales has been quick, I might have him as favourite. But races are races. You have to start, complete many laps and consider the weather. I think many riders will be close, but right now Vinales has a small advantage. Then again, anything can happen".