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GP Week : Issue 202
21 GPWEEK.com // 21 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Last year, Jorge Lorenzo (right) was a towering force in MotoGP. He all but prevented Marquez from taking the title, racking up eight wins to the youngster’s six, and backing them with a heroic injury return at Assen, racing to fifth two days after snapping his collarbone. This year, five races in, it could hardly be different. Jorge has stood on the podium only once, crashed on lap one of race one, false- started at race two, and (perhaps the worst of all) has only once managed to beat his revitalised old-and-new team-mate Valentino. At the last round at Le Mans, Rossi was second for the third time in five races (his new crew chief is clearly an elixir of youth); Lorenzo made no mistakes in the race, but slumped to a dispirited sixth. After the race, Rossi opined: “I think he is maybe too anxious about winning.” Jorge was quick to dismiss this notion. “It cannot be, because for me the championship was over at the second race.” Instead, he compared himself to Vettel: winning everything last year, struggling this year. Sometimes it can happen, he said. “We can do nothing but wait for our moment.” The Vettel comparison rings true also on the crucial team-mate level: quite apart from his snatched-away second in Australia, Ricciardo has finished ahead of his Red Bull compadre at the last four races. But the history of Jorge and Valentino is a good deal longer, and a good deal more troubled. Rossi joinedYamaha in 2004, winning four titles between then and 2009. By then, however, Jorge had been signed up for two years as his team-mate. Rossi had been openly against this from the start, and the chafing was becoming intolerable. It began with the two pits divided by a wall to preserve tyre confidentiality: Rossi had switched to Bridgestone, Lorenzo was on Michelin. Next year they were both on Bridgestone, but at Rossi’s insistance the physical pit wall and the concomitant confidentiality of each rider ’s information remained in place. Until this point, Rossi had been happy to ally himself withYamaha for life. “I want to end my career on Yamaha,” he said, prophetically as it turns out. But when Jorge won the title in 2010, the year Valentino broke his leg, the tide had turned. If Yamaha signs Jorge to stay, I go, he said. True to his word, he did. To Ducati for two well- paid seasons. That backfired badly for both rider and his tight-knit pit crew; both emerging from the experience with results tables in tatters and reputations with some nasty stains. It was an altogether humbler (and financially worse off) Rossi who returned to Yamaha last year to fulfill his prophecy. No more pit walls, no more bans on data-sharing, no more diva behaviour. And while Lorenzo sparkled Rossi remained comparatively lacklustre. When he summarily disposed of his long- time crew chief, the already highly successful Jerry Burgess, at the end of last season, most dismissed it as the desperate flailing of a rider unwilling to accept that his best days were over. His new alliance with fellow-Italian Silvano Galbusera has proved very different, with the old magic conspicuously reignited. More importantly for Lorenzo, the results have shifted the balance within the Yamaha team, and given him the worst headache a rider can suffer. Everybody knows that the first person you have to beat is your team-mate ... TEAM-MATES FROM HELL OPINION OPINION MotoGP MICHAEL SCOTT