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Lorenzo's battle back from injury.

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Offline rooshooter

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Lorenzo's battle back from injury.
« on: November 11, 2019, 04:44:29 PM »

Lorenzo's battle back from injury - against his subconscious
by Mat Oxley on 5th November 2019

What’s wrong with Jorge Lorenzo? Has he lost it or is he merely waiting till his back is fully fixed? And why HRC’s plans for its 2020 RC213V should give cause for optimism

Jorge Lorenzo in the Repsol Honda garage

Lorenzo's 2019 season isn't easy on the track or in the garage Photo: Repsol Honda

The MotoGP paddock and fans around the world are agog with talk of Jorge Lorenzo. What’s up with the three-times MotoGP world champion? Has he lost it? Why doesn’t he retire? Why hasn’t he been sacked? Why don’t they put Johann Zarco on his bikes?

It must be said that the three-times MotoGP king is in a hole. A very deep hole. At Phillip Island two weeks ago he finished more than a minute (one minute!) behind winning team-mate Marc Márquez.

Last Sunday at Sepang, the 32-year-old Spaniard finished 34 seconds down. After the race he outlined his target for next week’s season-ending Valencia GP: “we are getting closer and closer to the goal of being 30 seconds from the winner”.

Something is obviously very amiss. But what is it? It’s been obvious since the start of the season that Lorenzo doesn’t get on with Honda’s 2019 RC213V. However, his body is also in a mess. The last time he was fully fit was when he was sat on the grid at Aragon in September 2018, before he fell at the first corner

Two weeks later a huge crash at Buriram caused serious ligament damage to his left wrist, which demanded surgery. The after-effects of that operation caused his left scaphoid to snap during winter training, which hampered him at every race, until he broke his back at June’s Dutch TT.

His disastrous results since his return from injury aren’t simply because he doesn’t feel confident on his bike. They are due to the fact that – and there’s no nice way to put this – he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. His Assen crash was uncomfortably similar to the fall that paralysed Wayne Rainey from the chest down in 1993.

“When you have such a huge injury you do have your doubts – these thoughts do cross your mind"

Lorenzo’s two fractured vertebrae – which began to crack when he crashed heavily during post-Catalan GP testing at Barcelona – still hurt. His surgeon says the breaks are healed, but if he still feels pain, how can he convince himself that if he has another big accident he won’t break his spine? That right there is his biggest problem, because a broken back is very different to a broken arm or leg.

The best way to illustrate Lorenzo’s situation is to compare his results from before and after Assen.

Lorenzo finished the season-opening Qatar GP 14 seconds behind the winner. In Argentina (where he was last away after accidentally engaging the pit-lane speed limiter) he finished 27 seconds down. At Jerez, Le Mans and Mugello he took the flag, 18, 15 and 20 seconds down. Bad results, but at Barcelona he was only four-tenths down in free practice, which may explain why he got over-excited on the first lap and ended up taking out Andrea Dovizioso, Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi.

On his return at Silverstone where he was in “high pain with my back” he finished 56 seconds behind the winner. At Misano, Aragon, Buriram and Motegi he was 47, 46, 54 and 40 seconds down. At chilly Phillip Island he was caught in the cold-tyre Catch 22 (see last week’s blog) and finished 66 seconds behind winner Márquez.

These are beyond disastrous results, but when you frame them in the context of someone who’s worried about breaking his back, they look a bit different.

Jorge Lorenzo suffers a fractured vertebrae during the Dutch TT

The body flip that fractured Lorenzo's vertebrae at Assen Photo: Dorna Sports S.L.

So why is Lorenzo even riding? Why didn’t he take the rest of the year off and get strong for 2020? Because riders are notoriously insecure about losing their rides, especially when they’re not getting great results. They know how racing works – leave your seat empty for five minutes and someone else will take it. Then there’s the small matter of collecting your wages.

Lorenzo has always been in his own man. You might say he lives in a bubble – let’s call it Lorenzo’s Land – where he is oblivious to the thoughts and concerns of outsiders. He has his own game plan, which involves no one else. Thus when critics suggest he should retire he doesn’t even notice.

“The criticism doesn’t affect me so much,” he said at Sepang.

Presumably (because no one else knows) Lorenzo’s current game plan is to work step by step towards preseason testing in February 2020.

Until then, only one thing matters to him: looking after his spinal cord.

“I guess I’m conscious of it – your brain prevents you from pushing to the limit,” he added. “I still feel pain, even when I’m lifting weights in the gym. Until I feel okay and I don’t feel any pain, then my subconscious won’t change the chip that tells me: okay, now I feel normal again, now I can push.”

Most MotoGP riders, including Lorenzo on a normal day, push to within 99.9 per cent of the limit every time they ride out of pit lane. That means they are always 0.2 per cent away from going over the limit. That’s life on a knife-edge, which is where Lorenzo cannot afford to live at the moment.

Before Assen, Lorenzo’s average race-lap deficit to the winner was 0.7 seconds. Since he fractured those two vertebrae the gap has tripled to 2.1 seconds. That’s how slow you need to go to make sure you don’t crash.

Inevitably this run of results (14th, 14th, 20th, 18th, 17th, 16th, 14th) have had thoughts of retirement swirling around his head.

“When you have such a huge injury you do have your doubts – these thoughts do cross your mind. But once you start feeling better you say, okay, I want to start again and do what I’m able to do.”

This is an important point to remember. Top racers don’t think like you and me. They would never scale the heights they do with an everyday mindset that habitually takes the path of least resistance.

If you or I were Lorenzo we would tell ourselves: I’ve won five world titles, I’ve got tens of millions in the bank and I’m 32-years-old. You know what? I feel like kicking back in a luxury beachside villa in Bali for a few months. Then perhaps I’ll try the Caribbean. And who knows where after that, but’s time to relax and enjoy the fruits of my toils…

Jorge Lorenzo on the grid at Sepang

Lorenzo on the back row of the grid in Sepang Photo: Oxley

Lorenzo insists his daydreams haven’t got that far. Thus we can only assume that he is working towards changing the chip in his brain early next year, once he is certain his spine is as solid as it needs to be.

“It will come together,” he explained. “The feeling that I’m 100 per cent will give my subconscious the mood to flow more, it will allow me to risk more and I will be able to train harder in the gym, so I’ll arrive at the track in better physical condition.”

If Lorenzo does get that far there’s only one other question: his motorcycle.

Honda’s RC213V has never been an easy ride, especially for someone who goes fast by riding smooth, gliding lines.

So what are the chances of HRC building a 2020 bike that works for Lorenzo? Possibly better than you might think.

Márquez, Lorenzo and Cal Crutchlow have all tried early prototypes of the 2020 bike and didn’t notice much difference. But HRC says its final prototype RC213V will have a different chassis with revised geometry and centre of mass.

HRC knows it needs to make the changes. Its 2019 RC213V featured a major boost in horsepower and torque, which helped Márquez dominate the championship. However, making big changes to a motorcycle’s engine performance usually affects chassis performance.

Related content

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    How I ride: Jorge Lorenzo

The 2019 RC213V has much more torque than the 2018 bike. And when you increase torque you increase negative torque. This is why all three HRC riders – to varying extents – have struggled with corner entry, because the 2019 engine has more engine-braking, which affects corner entry.

“I think the 2019 bike engine creates some kind of difficulty entering the corners, so it doesn’t give the rider the same feeling with the front,” revealed Lorenzo. “This is why I suffered some big crashes, losing the front at high speed. But some riders who ride more with the rear wheel, like Marc, have struggled less with the bike.

“I hope the new bike will fix these negative aspects and I think Honda understand what they must do to solve the problems. It’s not only me saying these things – Cal and even Marc say more or less the same things. Our comments are not the opposite, they are quite similar. The only difference is that Marc is winning and we are very, very far away! But it’s one thing to know where your problems are and why you are failing, it’s another thing to solve them on the racetrack.”

There may be some people that want Lorenzo gone, but HRC engineers consider him a technical challenge, like Dani Pedrosa, his predecessor at Repsol Honda. Pedrosa is the size of a 14-year-old boy but HRC nearly made him MotoGP champion on a bike that was three times heavier than him.

The inside of Lorenzo’s brain will be an interesting place in the coming months. Perhaps one hemisphere of his consciousness will occasionally be disturbed by thoughts of palm-fringed beaches on Bali, while the other waits for February, hoping that HRC is building a bike that will allow him to return to his former greatness.

 
 
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Offline Bacchulum

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Re: Lorenzo's battle back from injury.
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2019, 06:41:57 PM »
I didn't know he had broken his back.

Offline rooshooter

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Re: Lorenzo's battle back from injury.
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2019, 08:57:21 PM »
I didn't know he had broken his back.
I posted this in response to your question last week Bacchulum....pretty damn scary situation if you ask me...max bravery :o :o :o
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Offline GzeroD

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Re: Lorenzo's battle back from injury.
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2019, 09:29:45 PM »
The 2019 RC213V has much more torque than the 2018 bike. And when you increase torque you increase negative torque. This is why all three HRC riders – to varying extents – have struggled with corner entry, because the 2019 engine has more engine-braking, which affects corner entry...

To be contrary for it is my wont.
They all have slipper clutches and fly by wire throttles and can tune engine braking to the nth degree. Makes the above excerpt almost a non sequitur.
The answer: -80538738812075974³ + 80435758145817515³ + 12602123297335631³ = 42

Offline rooshooter

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Re: Lorenzo's battle back from injury.
« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2019, 08:33:12 AM »
The 2019 RC213V has much more torque than the 2018 bike. And when you increase torque you increase negative torque. This is why all three HRC riders – to varying extents – have struggled with corner entry, because the 2019 engine has more engine-braking, which affects corner entry...

To be contrary for it is my wont.
They all have slipper clutches and fly by wire throttles and can tune engine braking to the nth degree. Makes the above excerpt almost a non sequitur.


How I ride: Jorge Lorenzo
by Mat Oxley on 18th December 2018

Just before his 2018 season went pear-shaped we talked to the three-time MotoGP king about how he transformed his riding technique from 2015 to 2018

Jorge Lorenzo on a Ducati

Image courtesy of Ducati

How much did things change for you in 2016, when MotoGP switched to unified software and Michelin tyres?

A lot, a lot. When we started testing the new electronics and tyres at the end of 2015 and at the beginning of 2016 it was a huge change, because the first few times I tried the new electronics the engine-braking was always locking the rear wheel, because the software was very old-fashioned and not so sophisticated. It was difficult to ride the bike – you wasted a lot of energy and you were almost two seconds slower. Then little by little, it got better.

The other thing was the Michelins. At the beginning the rear tyre had so much grip and there was nothing at the front, so every time you started to push, on the second or third lap you crashed. Every rider: crash, crash, crash, crash; always mid-corner with throttle. Then Michelin reduced rear grip and improved the front tyre, so little by little the situation was compensated.

At the same time all the teams worked on the unified electronics to make their systems as good as possible. Also, the bikes themselves improved – the engines and chassis. In terms of tyres it depends on the track, but the electronics are still not at the same level as before.

You went from seven victories in 2015 to four in 2016, so did the Yamaha suffer a lot?

Honda suffered more in the first part of 2016, especially in acceleration [due to poor electronics set-up]. We were strong, but our problem was more a problem of tyres than electronics, because I couldn’t feel the front tyre.

Things were difficult, then we had more problems when Michelin went to a harder rear carcass [after Scott Redding delaminated a rear slick at Termas in April 2016]. In preseason testing I had been very quick, but when they brought these new harder tyres it made me weaker, let’s say. We were okay with the electronics, but then Honda improved their electronics so much, while Ducati was already good with the unified software and then they improved in other areas, like the chassis.

Related: How Petrucci rides

How did your riding technique change to suit the new tech?

When I was at Yamaha, not so much. The problem with the Michelin front is that you have to brake in a straight line, then release the front brake, if you don’t want to lose the front going into the corner. The Bridgestone front gave you the possibility to push harder in braking and keep braking to the last moment, almost at full lean. With the Michelins you cannot do that – you need to slow the bike more with the brakes, use a little more mid-corner speed, then prepare the exit of the corner with the rear tyre.

And what about your technique on the Ducati?

We still suffer in the middle of the corner because the rear always has more grip than the front and the front is always pushing, so to make the corner we need to slow down a lot. With the Ducati this problem is even bigger and also the bike isn’t easy for my style. The Ducati is very special because you cannot lean the bike – if you go more than a certain lean angle then the bike turns less. With every other bike, the more you lean, the more the bike turns, but with the Ducati there’s a certain limit you cannot go past.

I needed to understand all these little tricks in a very short time and when I understood, my performances improved

Why is this?

I don’t know.

So you try and make the corner as short as possible?

With the Ducati you need to make the lap time by taking profit of the bike’s stability: enter very soon to the apex, then stay as little time as possible with any lean angle, then take profit of all the acceleration.

That must be a huge thing for you, because it’s the opposite of your usual riding style?

Yes, I spent more than one year trying to learn. I was leaning, more and more, but the more I leaned the slower I was in middle of the corner!

When did you fix that?

I don’t know, but I compared my data with [Andrea] Dovizioso and [Danilo] Petrucci and they were faster than me in the middle of the corner with less lean angle. Why? I didn’t understand. How is this possible? But it’s just like that.

How do you use the rear brake? More in corner entry or to help turn the bike in the middle of the corner?

With the Ducati you have to use a lot of rear brake, especially in corner entry, because if both wheels are in line and not sliding, the bike wants to go straight to the gravel. You need to steer the bike like a boat, with the rear, to get the right direction into the corner.

That was quite obvious during the race at Brno – you were sideways into a lot of corners – which we had never seen on the Yamaha.

Andrea was at Ducati five or six years before he fully understood all these tricks, so he could take full profit of the bike’s potential. I needed to understand all these little tricks in a very short time and when I understood, my performances improved.

How did you change your corner-entry technique at Mugello, where you won your first race with Ducati?

That was more about helping the front tyre to survive. It wasn’t so much a matter of speed, it was just a question of making the tyre survive.

How did you do that?

You’ll have to look at my telemetry; which will be difficult for you!

But basically, you were more gentle with the front tyre?

Yes.

More: Lorenzo and Honda: will they win?

When did everyone start thinking about being more gentle to help the front and rear tyres?

You have to be smooth, but only to a certain point, because if you’re too smooth you won’t stop the bike and you can’t turn the bike, so you’re slow. It’s a compromise. The Michelins are good for me in some areas. For example, in the acceleration phase, because I’m very smooth with the throttle in the [bike] pick-up area.

On the other hand, the Bridgestones were a bit better for my strategy and for my focus because the tyres gave you the possibility to push from the first turn to the last corner at the same pace. I am very good at focusing and concentrating – I don’t often make mistakes – so it was difficult for my rivals to catch me and pass me. Now all the riders need to save the tyres and ride at 80 per cent of full speed during the first three-quarters of the race, then attack. So for this reason, the current tyres are probably a bit worse for me.

You said recently that you want to improve the Ducati’s corner speed, but why would you want this, when you are about to go to Honda?

Because if we can improve our corner speed so that we have the same corner speed as the Honda, while keeping our acceleration and braking performance, then we will win every race! If we can do all this and I don’t make a mistake, then Ducati will win the championship, for sure.

You say the Michelins don’t suit your natural strategy – how long did it take you to work that out, because you led some races in 2017, then faded?

During 2017 I wasn’t able to change my strategy to improve my results because I didn’t have the pace and I didn’t have the knowledge that I have this season. In 2017 I didn’t know how to ride the Ducati in certain corners and I didn’t know how to save the tyres, so my only possibility was to be as fast as possible in the beginning, because I had a good feeling with the tyres in the first laps, better than the other guys, so I tried to build as big a gap as possible.

This year I have much more knowledge, because I’m much more experienced with the bike and the tyres. At Brno [where Lorenzo battled for the lead and finished 0.178 seconds behind Dovizioso] I tried this new strategy of saving my tyres for the end of the race, so now I will probably try the same strategy at other tracks. It’s good, because now I know more ways to get good results.

More: Why Lorenzo is winning

You had ergonomic problems during braking with the GP18; what about with the GP17?

During 2017 I didn’t have the fuel tank problem, it was just a factor of the Ducati being more physical to ride. It’s when we started preseason testing with the GP18 that I started complaining about lack of support from the fuel tank.

What are the main differences between the GP17 and GP18?

Everything: the chassis is different and the engine is different. They made the engine smoother and they tried to make the bike turn more. It does turn a bit better, but normally when you try something new the bike isn’t 100 per cent better; maybe you improve seven or eight points out of ten, but two or three points are worse. This is what happened with the Ducati and this is why at some tracks the guys on the GP17s are very fast. At some tracks the old bike can be better.

We underestimated the difficulty of jumping onto such a different bike this year. The final part that allowed me to manage the bike over full-race distance was the modified fuel tank we got at Mugello. Before Mugello and after Mugello have been like two different championships for me.

As for why I won’t be with Ducati next year: people underestimated my capacity because of my results. They were thinking too short-term and they forgot what I did in the past.

It’s sad, because I know we could have achieved better things together. The legacy I will leave Ducati is that they now know more ways to improve the bike. The legacy for me is that I know I can change my riding style to ride a different bike completely differently and be competitive. I hope to take this with me to my next team.
 
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Offline Bacchulum

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Re: Lorenzo's battle back from injury.
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2019, 12:28:46 PM »
Quote
Lorenzo finished the season-opening Qatar GP 14 seconds behind the winner. In Argentina (where he was last away after accidentally engaging the pit-lane speed limiter) he finished 27 seconds down. At Jerez, Le Mans and Mugello he took the flag, 18, 15 and 20 seconds down.
This says to me that his poor performance isn't a consequence of his broken back, more that he broke his back because of his poor performances (trying to keep up with Marc).

Offline Mael

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Re: Lorenzo's battle back from injury.
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2019, 12:42:46 PM »
Quote
Lorenzo finished the season-opening Qatar GP 14 seconds behind the winner. In Argentina (where he was last away after accidentally engaging the pit-lane speed limiter) he finished 27 seconds down. At Jerez, Le Mans and Mugello he took the flag, 18, 15 and 20 seconds down.
This says to me that his poor performance isn't a consequence of his broken back, more that he broke his back because of his poor performances (trying to keep up with Marc).

Sort of agree with Bacchulum on this one.

Offline rooshooter

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Re: Lorenzo's battle back from injury.
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2019, 04:07:19 PM »
Quote
Lorenzo finished the season-opening Qatar GP 14 seconds behind the winner. In Argentina (where he was last away after accidentally engaging the pit-lane speed limiter) he finished 27 seconds down. At Jerez, Le Mans and Mugello he took the flag, 18, 15 and 20 seconds down.
This says to me that his poor performance isn't a consequence of his broken back, more that he broke his back because of his poor performances (trying to keep up with Marc).
Never under estimate what is required to keep up with Marc :o

https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/opinion/motogp/unreal-feeling-makes-m-rquez-king
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