Jorge Lorenzo, in his 99 Seconds program on YouTube, has been opening up his trunk-load of memories and in the run-up to Mugello he cannot fail to mention the 2018 Italian Grand Prix. It was a race in which he took his first victory with Ducati and at the same time it marked his farewell to the Borgo Panigale manufacturer. Up to that point, the results with the Desmosedici had been far below expectations.
"I was the rider who had the best starts, the rider who braked the best, who braked later than anyone I was the one to put the bike upright first and use all of Ducati’s power, but I suffered from the same problem again. I had arm fatigue during the race and that made me slow my pace very much and also a turning problem that made the front wheel not want to turn in the same way as the rear. This was caused by beastly aerodynamics, those large fins that made a type of turbulence in the middle of the corner at maximum inclination" he says .
So, after the first GPs of the year, Lorenzo was without a bike.
"I had scored 16 points in 4 races - he remembers – Petrucci, whom many practically placed as my substitute in Ducati, finished 2nd at Le Mans, Suzuki seemed to want to bet on a younger rider, Joan Mir, so the Suzuki team doors were closed, Honda seemed to give me no answers, and the only option that still seemed open was Petronas ”.
It was not an easy time for Jorge…
"Everything seemed black, all my thoughts were negative and I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel - he admits - I saw myself at 31 with no bike, there was the option of Petronas but it was for me like taking three steps backward after being in the factory team. I practically had depression. Between Le Mans and Mugello there was a test in Montmelò and while I was there at the hotel I received a surprising call from Alberto Puig and he told me that he didn’t want me to get too excited, but that there was a possibility with of joining the Honda team. I thought that the most important obstacle was Marquez, but they had already spoken with him and he had no problem about me joining the team”.
At this point his future was decided.
"We agreed to meet in secret with Alberto, on the outskirts of the circuit, and he presented me with the first offer - he continues his story - I had a few days to accept it and it was a pleasant surprise, because, due to the bad circumstances, I was expecting a lower offer. I had to tell Albert (Valera) about it and a few days after the test we went to Puig's house and signed the contract. We arrived at Mugello without this pressure to achieve results and happy thrilled and excited to sign with the most powerful team in the championship ”.
This newfound serenity and his technique did the rest. Ducati supplied him with the famous new fuel tank made according to Jorge's instructions, the smaller wings were another help and finally the Majorcan worked on his riding style. The rest is history.