Usually lacking confidence in the wet, Movistar Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo managed to finish the penultimate round of the season, the Shell Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix, at the Sepang International Circuit, in third. Despite making the podium, he lost out on second in the championship to his teammate Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha).
The wet conditions have been a major concern for Lorenzo
Lorenzo has had no choice this year to adapt to riding in the wet as the world championship class made their way from a very wet meeting at Phillip Island, to Sepang were they were hoping for it to be much hotter, but it turned out to be even wetter and humid than in Melbourne.
The Sepang International Circuit has been resurfaced completely since they tested here on the Michelins, the French tyre manufacturer who took over as supplier to the MotoGP from Bridgestone, and parts of the track had also been restructured opening a variety of race lines.
So it was either a matter of get good in the wet for Lorenzo, or miss out on vital championship points; something he needed should he wish to continue fighting for and succeed in securing second place in the championship at the final round in Valencia.
Front row start for the 2015 MotoGP champion in Sepang
Lorenzo qualified to start the race from the front row behind Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) on pole, and Rossi as the 2015 MotoGP champion was set to start from third on the grid. He got a strong start and immediately gained before being mugged byhis teammate Rossi who managed to overtake three riders in one turn. Lorenzo was soon passed by Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) who made his return from injury as he broke vertebrae in Misano.
Iannone and Rossi engaged in a battle ahead of him, as Lorenzo lost another place to Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) who passed him to take fourth, leaving Lorenzo to spar with British LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow for fifth. The duelling duo meant that he lost a lot of time and space on track from Marquez, Iannone and Rossi.
Crashes helped Lorenzo to gain places
Initially, the pressure was eased on Lorenzo when Crutchlow crashed out behind him allowing him to focus on catching the leaders. Then, ahead of him, Iannone crashed out leaving him third in the running, which is where he remained until the end of the race crossing the line almost 12 seconds behind race winner Dovizioso (who became the ninth different MotoGP winner this year).
Finishing third meant that Lorenzo lost his battle for second in the 2016 MotoGP championship to his teammate Rossi who finished second, which left him on 236 points in the championship, which was 28 more than Lorenzo on 208, meaning he is unable to catch him. He still needs to finish ahead of Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Maverick Vinales who is fourth in the championship on 191 points, if he wants to collect third before he moves to the Ducati Team next year.
Lorenzo felt luck was on his side
Lorenzo was “being honest” when he said that at Sepang he had “been lucky” as he knew that “without the crashes” he would have “finished fifth or sixth”; he talked about how “Crutchlow, Iannone and Marquez crashed” before “finally” he “got this podium” which he felt was “OK”.
The Spaniard spoke of how “in the past” that he has “been competitive in wet races” which is when he “felt great”. He noted that “especially with pit stops” that he has gone and “won races” and “secured podiums”, and also mentioned how he “got pole positions in the rain”, however he admitted, that “in the wet with the Michelin tyres this year” and also “especially at the beginning” of the season, that he “had trouble getting confidence in the front tyre”.
Changes in the settings in the bike have helped him to adapt to conditions
He described how it had been “hard” but that “after Brno” they were able to make “some modifications to the setting” and also admitted that at Sepang the “tarmac helps”. He found that “at this track” that he “had more grip than normal” which meant he “had more confidence” and found he was “able to be more competitive”.
He admitted that he was probably more competitive “in the race a bit less than in qualifying” but “finally” he found that “because of some luck” everything was “enough to get to the podium”. He said, “We now go to Valencia with the aim to confirm the third place in the championship.”