Jorge Lorenzo retires from MotoGP. After growing speculation and a worsening struggle to regain confidence and form on the Repsol Honda, the 32-year-old five-time World Champion is to call it a day.
He made the announcement at a special press conference on the eve of what will be his final race, the Valencia GP on Sunday. It is the circuit where he secured the first of two 250cc titles in 2006, the last of three premier-class titles in 2015, and where he secured four of his 47 premier-class wins, out of a career total of 65 in all classes.
Lorenzo spoke at length and with clarity to the packed room, where riders joined press and team officials. He kept his emotions in check, but for one brief moment of dignified pause, only tearing up slightly at the end of a tribute film shown, celebrating his achievements since his debut, one day after his 16th birthday, at Jerez in 2002.
The germ of the decision had come, he said, “while I was rolling through the gravel at Assen”. He suffered two spinal fractures in that crash in practice. It came just days after another heavy high-speed crash in tests at Montmelo after the Catalunyan GP, in which he had also crashed, and taken out Rossi, Vinales and Dovizioso.
It was an unfortunate and premature climax to his first year with Repsol Honda, where he had signed up for two years alongside Marc Marquez, to make what was hailed as a dream team.
He at first had trouble finding the front-end confidence that his smooth, high-corner-speed style requires … a difficulty familiar to other riders of Honda’s feisty RC213V, which this year only Marquez has been able to ride consistently fast. But he felt he was making progress, before the crashes at Montmelo and Assen.
“I kept working with the team, thinking it was only a matter of time. Then when I was starting to see the light came the bad crash at Montmelo.”
After that and the Assen crash, Lorenzo missed four races before returning as a shadow of his former self. His struggles in the seven races since then have yielded just six points for three 14th-place finishes.
After his two 250 titles in 2006 and 2007, Lorenzo had joined Yamaha alongside Rossi for “nine years, probably the best time of my career. But I felt I wanted a change to keep full commitment and motivation, and that is why I went to Ducati.
“That gave me a big boost, even though at first the results were bad, and we kept working until that beautiful first win at Mugello [in the second year], in front of all the Ducati fans.”
Before that win, however, Ducati had been balking at renewing his contract, rumored to be worth a record 10-million euros for two years; and he had already reached agreement with Honda.
“I remember talking to Alberto [Puig – manager of Repsol Honda] at Mugello, telling him: ‘Be sure you don’t make a mistake signing the wrong rider’.” He thanked Puig for the faith he had shown and the efforts he had made, and publicly apologized to him and Honda for deciding to abandon the quest. Had it been successful he would have become only the fourth rider in history – after Hailwood, Lawson, Mamola and Capirossi – to win races on three different makes.
“Signing with Honda gave me another boost, and I achieved a dream, riding for the factory Honda team and for Repsol. But unfortunately the injuries came, and I wasn’t able to be normal. I had problems to be competitive.”
After the doubts following the Assen crash, he had decided to return to try again, but he had not been able to find the motivation. “I love this sport, but I love also to win, and when I realized it was not possible, so …”
He spoke of having worked hard and made a lot of sacrifices for his career, “but I realize that without being in the right place at the right time, it would not be possible. I have raced against a lot of people who had a lot of talent, but they were not able to continue like I have done.” He thanked racing bosses from Derbi, Aprilia, Yamaha, Ducati and Honda, as well as his family and other supporters.
Asked what was his best memory, he said: “I think the most important was winning the MotoGP title in Malaysia in 2010 – but there were five other moments: my first win in 125 in Brazil in 2003; the first 250 title in Valencia in 2006; my first MotoGP win at Estoril in 2008; Assen in 2013, when I did something incredible [returning to race to fifth 48 hours after breaking his collarbone]; and the last title in 2015.”
Asked about future plans, he replied: “I have always said that life is not only about bikes, but I didn’t think yet what I will do in the future. I will have a long vacation somewhere sunny this winter.”
Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta was alongside Lorenzo at the conference, and thanked Lorenzo for showing “how important is the human part of our sport.”CN
Footnote: Lorenzo’s retirement follows growing speculation not only that he would quit, but about who would take his place on the factory Honda next year.
The prime candidate is Johann Zarco, who himself bailed out early from a two-year contract with KTM after failing dismally to come to terms with the bike. After turning down a test-rider offer from Yamaha, the double Moto2 champion has raced at the last two rounds and will again on Sunday on the 2018 factory-supported LCR Idemitsu Honda left vacant by Takaaki Nakagami, who has undergone shoulder surgery at home in Japan.
Here is the press release and photos from Honda regarding Lorenzo’s retirement…
The Valencia GP will be the five-time World Champion’s last race in the MotoGP World Championship as the 32-year old announced his retirement ahead of his 297th Grand Prix start.
After 18 years of racing at the highest level, Jorge Lorenzo has today announced his retirement from racing ahead of the Valencia GP. With five World Championships, 152 podiums, 68 wins, 69 poles and 37 fastest laps, Lorenzo boasts one of the most impressive and consistent careers in Grand Prix racing. After a bruising campaign in 2019, Lorenzo has decided to draw an end to his Grand Prix career.
Debuting on his 15th birthday on the second day of practice at the Spanish Grand Prix in 2002, Jorge Lorenzo has spent his entire life racing. A first Grand Prix win came just over a year later with his famous ‘Por Fuera’ move in Rio de Janeiro in 2003. After a total of four wins in the 125cc class, ‘The Spartan’ moved to the 250cc championship and soon took back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007, his butter-smooth style perfectly suited to the intermediate class. His formidable consistency saw him take 29 podium finishes in three years, including 17 wins and earned him a factory seat in the MotoGP class.
Lorenzo’s start to life in the premier class was nothing short of amazing as he took three-straight pole positions and converted them to three consecutive podium finishes, including a first win in his third MotoGP race. Although some heavy falls would halt his title challenge, Lorenzo established himself as a star of the future as he ended his debut season in fourth place.
2009 saw the soon-to-be World Champion never finish a race lower than fourth and Lorenzo carried this consistency through to 2010 and a debut MotoGP World Championship. Finishing all 18 World Championship rounds in the top four, only twice off the podium, Lorenzo put in a dominating performance to take his first of three premier class crowns. With 383 points, Lorenzo set a new record for points scored in the premier class – a record which would stand for almost a decade. The championship was Spain’s second in the premier class, Alex Criville the only Spanish rider to have previously won.
In 2011 Jorge Lorenzo went toe-to-toe with Casey Stoner, the pair trading wins throughout the season. Unfortunately, an injury in Australia forced Lorenzo to miss the final three races of the season – his efforts during the course of the year still enough to earn him second place in the championship with an impressive 260 points. There was no stopping Lorenzo in 2012 as he took three wins from the first five races and missed out on the top two steps on the podium just once in the first 17 races. Again, his consistency was unmatched and Lorenzo marched to a fourth World Championship, his second in the premier class. His final World Championship came in 2015 as he overcame a season-long challenge from both Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi to clinch the title at the last round in Valencia.
After conquering three championships, Lorenzo made the decision to change manufacturer and in two years took seven podiums and three wins, joining a prestigious club of riders to win on two different manufacturers.
Taking up a new challenge for 2019, Jorge Lorenzo joined the Repsol Honda Team as he set his sights on becoming the first rider to win on three different manufacturers in MotoGP. Unfortunately, a pre-season training crash saw the Mallorca native miss the majority of testing and spend the opening races playing catch up. Despite making constant improvements aboard the Honda RC213V, a heavy crash in Assen saw Lorenzo suffer breaks to his T6 and T8 vertebrae, ruling him out of four Grands Prix and affecting him throughout his return.
Lorenzo leaves the MotoGP World Championship with a number of incredible achievements to his name including: the second most podium finishes in the premier class (114), the second highest amount of pole positions across all classes (69), the fifth most successful rider in terms of wins in the premier class (47) and the third highest point scorer of all time (2896) in the premier class.
The Repsol Honda Team wish Jorge Lorenzo all the best in his future.
Jorge Lorenzo: “I want to announce this will be my last race in MotoGP, and that at the end of this race I will retire from professional racing. I was 3 years old when everything started. Almost 30 years of complete dedication to this sport. Everyone who has worked with me knows how much of a perfectionist I am, how much hard work and intensity I put into this. Being like this requires a high level of motivation, when I signed for Honda I had an incredible feeling of motivation, achieving one of the dreams of every rider: to be an official HRC factory rider. Unfortunately, injuries came to play an important role in my season, being unable to ride in a normal way. I started to see some light but I had this bad crash in the Montmelo test, and some weeks later that ugly one in Assen. The truth is from that crash, the hill became too high for me, and even if I tried, I couldn’t find the motivation and patience to be able to keep climbing it. I’m disappointed with that, I want to say sorry to Alberto Puig, to Takeo, Kuwata, Nomura and all my team, who I have to say have always treated me in an exceptional way. I would like to sincerely thank everyone at Honda for their support and understanding and also extend my thanks and gratitude to everyone who has been there through my career.”
Yoshishige Nomura – HRC President: “It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Jorge Lorenzo, he has been one of the strongest champions in the last decade that we have fought against and now worked with. The chance to have Lorenzo in Repsol Honda Team colours was something truly unique and 2019 was full of promise. Unfortunately, he suffered a lot of bad luck with injuries before the season started and also during the season with his fall in Assen. As a result, he wasn’t able to recover the confidence he once had and we will sadly be ending our cooperation early as he retires from racing. We at Honda Racing Corporation would like to wish him all the best for the future.”
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