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Problems For Yamaha?

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Following this year’s MotoGP session has been quite frustrating to say the least for all factory Yamaha supporters and more so for the fans of Jorge Lorenzo. Crashing out at the first corner of season’s opening race and the continuous tail-chasing of Hondas (and occasionally of Vale) race after race must feel like a hammer driving stakes in the resurgent souls of the Spaniard and his trusted steed – the M1. The few podium finishes that Lorenzo has had this season will do little to abate the restlessness that must be growing within him. It is a good thing that men like Lorenzo are moulded, beaten and tempered under such moments of earth-shattering pressure that helps them keep their head and not turn their brains into a boiling pot nonsense and misjudgement.

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Let’s just back up a little. Last year’s MotoGP saw the arrival of a certain Marc Marquez at the highest rung of two-wheeled wizardry, and the “rookie” captivated people all over the world with his perfect turn-ins, exits and arm-sliding cornering skills that made it look more like a well orchestrated performance than a gruelling physical race that it really is. As the season came to an end the “rookie” became the youngest champion of the sport but only after he has fought for the championship with none other than Jorge Lorenzo. Last season gave a glimpse of what this year’s MotoGP battle would be like and the fans could not wait to see what Lorenzo would do to challenge the young superstar. A number of nail-biting races made themselves at home in our excitable, adrenaline-happy sections of the brain.

The season started with a crashing disappointment. After a trademark Lorenzo start as he howled into the first corner in Qatar he lost traction and crashed out of the race and netted his first DNF of the season while a glorious Marquez notched his first win of the season. Since then Marquez has won all races till date (7 in all) and has gathered 5 more pole positions (6 in all) along the way. The Hondas have humbled the Yamahas this season quite comprehensibly and the only glimmer of hope for the latter has been our very own Valentino “Valiant Vale” Rossi who, it seems, has been able to squeeze more out of his bike than Lorenzo has. The Doctor has been doing his level best to challenge the Hondas and it would be an understatement to say that he has been successful in his endeavours.

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Rossi came into this season with a cloud of uncertainty over his racing future as he himself felt “…not competent enough” and decide to race a few races to see if he can change his mind. And change he did. With the results that he has been getting it is very difficult to see Rossi giving up on racing just yet. That is just another aspect of reality that Lorenzo has to keep up with – that Yamahas are capable of challenging the Hondas. To be honest that is not entirely true as the Hondas are superior with respect to straight line speed and perform better under braking. So, not only can the Honda drivers brake later and harder, they can sprint past the Yamaha’s on the straights with a 4-5 kmph advantage. A proof of this has been the race at Mugello where Lorenzo truly challenged Marquez for the first time this season. With his M1’s brakes performing much better than ever Lorenzo was carrying more entry speed into corners and catching up to Marquez but on the straight he lost out to the latter who slipstreamed past him on more than one occasion without too much of an effort. As a matter of fact Lorenzo exited the last corner of the race and raced to the finish line leading Marquez only to lose out to the Honda’s machinery. The next race in Catalunya saw Marquez back on top and Lorenzo making a sorry fourth. It seems the brilliance of Lorenzo is yet to shine through properly and he is yet to truly adapt to his machine.

Whatever may be the case, the season makes me remember an article written by Ed Smith about cricketers being in a “zone” when they surpass all explainable limits of excellence and reach the pinnacle time and again. It is easy to say that Marquez is well within the “zone” and may as well be having outrageous parties over there while in case of Lorenzo the door to his “zone” has a sign saying –

COME BACK LATER.

Later cannot come sooner for him and for many of us.