Maybe in his native country, Spain Jorge Lorenzo has a fan following. But even there his fans are outnumbered in good measure by those of Daniel Pedrosa. In the rest of the world, it would be safe to say that Jorge Lorenzo does not have too many fans. People may admire him, his never say die attitude, but fans, no way. If one were to ask themselves about why Jorge Lorenzo does not have fans (and that is putting things very politely, since reality is that many people dislike him) not too many good reasons surface. Therefore one will have to use the “theory of wavelengths” as proposed by Sigmund Freud, but then most believe that the whole theory is bunkum because it is somehow based in the occult. But there must be something to this occult, otherwise how does one explain the dislike and contempt that one feels for a rider that one does not even know at a personal level?
While one cannot pin point the exact reasons why Lorenzo is not popular, there are perhaps clues that can be used to get to the bottom of it all. There is no doubt that when Lorenzo raced in the 250cc category, and rather successfully at that, he came across as a very brash and often times stupid person. This had something to do with his misdemeanours on and off the track. On track Lorenzo was a hard racer, so hard that he was ruthless. The only other racer who could match him on that count was Marco Simoncelli.
But the receiving end of Lorenzo’s brutal tactics usually was the habitual whiner Andrea Dovizioso. Lorenzo took wide lines into corners and in the process of returning to the racing line usually chopped the front end of the rider who was behind him. But then there are fans of this variety of racing as well. So while this trait put some off it did not affect many. But what put everyone off was what Lorenzo did after winning races.
It will be very relevant here to talk about Jorge Lorenzo and his relationship with Valentino Rossi. There is no doubt that Rossi is afraid of Lorenzo’s talent. That is the reason why he served Yamaha the ultimatum choose between me or him. Rossi never said that about any of his other teammates. Colin Edwards was his favourite since Rossi was sure that Edwards was no threat to him. Lorenzo’s relationship with Rossi is a little more difficult to characterize. While there is no doubt that Lorenzo is a fierce competitor who has appropriately been likened to a bulldog by Kenny Roberts Sr. and that he took his competitiveness to Rossi, one cannot discount the probability of Lorenzo being a Rossi fan. I can assure you that it is not as far fetched as it sounds.
Lorenzo is much younger than Rossi and at a very impressionable age it is easy to make heroes out of those whom one admires. This statement of mine can substantiated with adequate number of examples. Prior to the emergence of the Valentino Rossi on the MotoGP scene no one, and I mean no one, in Rossi’s immediate past brought celebrations to the racetrack post victory and continued them on the podium. The generation of people such as Eddie Lawson, Wayne Gardner, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz, Mick Doohan and even Alex Criville never brought zaniness to the track or the podium post victory. Rossi changed all that. While he was a hard racer, he also came across a lovable, teddy bear like character thanks to his uninhibited and unencumbered sense of fun. While greats like Rainey, Schwantz and Doohan were respected, Valentino Rossi was loved. That is how he became so important to MotoGP.
People in Rossi’s own generation also maintain reserve. Casey Stoner post victory goes to his wife Adrianna, Pedrosa will go with his brow furrowed to Alberto Puig, presumably because if he were to smile, then Puig would make sure that Pedrosa would get a whipping and even Marco Simoncelli for all his other flamboyance had nothing in the way of celebrating with fans. But Lorenzo was the one who tried to emulate Rossi. After the race was over and he had won it, Lorenzo normally parked his bike next to a fence and played air guitar in the gravel trap. Then he would go on to the podium with a lollipop in his mouth.
He also started playing around with themes for his helmet and for his leathers.
Finally he even stopped using his regular number 48 and enlisted the support of fans to get a new number which turned out to be 99.
Despite his emulating Rossi, his fans who were minuscule in number did not grow into huge legions like Rossi fans. That is because Lorenzo simply did not have the natural flair that Rossi has. And his planting the Lorenzo land flags at circuits where he won races, drove people away from him in droves. In short, Lorenzo had succeeded in achieving the exact opposite of what he had set out to achieve.
But gradually in the last couple of years Lorenzo has been showing a different side to his personality. Sometimes it seems as if he is a genuinely nice person. When Rossi crashed a broke his leg, Lorenzo who managed to get on the podium in that very race somehow managed to get hold of yellow T shirt with the number 46 on it and dedicated his podium to the injured Rossi. While making sure that he is still ultra-competitive towards his former teammate, Lorenzo unlike Stoner, did not have nasty things to say when Rossi’s chips were down. He maintained that Rossi is an incredible talent and that it was only a matter of time before he would return to the top spot on the podium. Perhaps his most humane gesture came after the death of Marco Simoncelli last year. In the initial part of the season of 2011 there were two rivalries happening. One was the Casey Stoner-Valentino Rossi rivalry and the other was Jorge Lorenzo-Marco Simoncelli rivalry and both these were as much off track as they were on track. Lorenzo lost no opportunity to criticize Marco Simoncelli’s riding saying that he was far too dangerous in his manoeuvres and that he was danger to himself and other riders on the track. While saying this he had the magnanimity to accept that he once rode in a similar fashion and that he mended his ways keeping in view the safety of himself and other riders on the track.
But after Marco Simoncelli died at Sepang in a crash during the race and when Lorenzo’s estranged father found it suitable to comment that considering how Simoncelli was riding, it was inevitable that he had to die the way he did, Lorenzo made it known to the whole world that he did not subscribe to what his father was saying and that he was ashamed of his father who would say such insensitive things when a rider had just died. He could have very well said, I told you so, but did not. He actually expressed solidarity with the Simoncelli family and went to the funeral of the fallen rider. That was indeed a display of character that one rarely associated with Lorenzo, especially after he made a fuss about going to Motegi fearing radiation.
Last year was also the year when Casey Stoner, who never lost an opportunity to complain about an overtaking move that was put on him by Rossi at the Laguna Seca race in 2008, put an equally questionable overtaking move on Lorenzo. But Lorenzo maintained his equanimity and simply shrugged it of by saying ” Casey is normally a very tidy rider. It can happen to anyone sometimes and therefore there is no point in complaining about it”. I sincerely hope Mr. Stoner squirmed in his leathers, because he has proved beyond doubt that he is incapable of generosity even if it is for winning people over to your side. But that is highly unlikely.
At this point we will do well to remember that Jorge Lorenzo lost his number 1 plate to Casey Stoner last year but he was never bitter (at least outwardly) and has been very complimentary about the man.
Even at the beginning of this year when in preseason tests, Casey Stoner has gone faster than anyone and when Lorenzo was asked about this he said “Casey is fast on anything. He will go very fast even if you give him a cycle”. Anyone who understands competition will understand that these things are very difficult to say when you are talking about a competitor. Rossi’s good humour always evaporated when he was put on the back foot but Lorenzo in saying what he did showed a side to his persona which I certainly did not think existed.
So now to ask ourselves the question is this the real Lorenzo or has he been coached by some PR managers to say the right things and do the things that are considered right? I am sure that I can never answer that question for you or for myself. But I am equally sure that even the worst case scenario (which is that Lorenzo is only parrotting all the things that have been taught to him) Lorenzo has demonstrated that he is at least sensible and reasonable to understand that his image needed mending. Now that in itself is not such a bad thing. I am beginning to like Lorenzo, that much you must have gathered by now. I do not know if I will actually become his fan. But I like the fact that he rode around the Buddh International Circuit on an R15 and said that he wants to race in India. I like the fact that he rides a Yamaha, my favourite marque after Kawasaki. Now if he only stopped that habit of planting blag Lorenzo’s Land flags.
Who knows, he may actually have genuine fans outside of Spain and I could be one of them. I will tell myself that he is at least not a barbarian like Casey Stoner whose hobby is hunting animals with a bow and arrow. Stoner is a great rider but there is no taking away that hunting and that too with a bow and arrow is barbaric. Only white skinned, idiot journalists find that a symbol of simplicity and cuteness. Yeah this year, I am settling for Lorenzo. He’d better not let me down. Otherwise you know what fans can do when they get disillusioned. If you do not get what I am saying I strongly suggest you see the deranged fan that Robert De Niro plays in the movie “The Fan”.