Multiple world champion Jorge Lorenzo’s defection from Ducati to Honda was one of the biggest stories of the 2018 MotoGP season. Social media went into meltdown when news broke back in June that the Spaniard would be replacing Dani Pedrosa in the factory Repsol Honda squad, and although Lorenzo was released to ride the RC213V in post season tests at Jerez and Valencia, he has been unable to publicly speak about his new ride until his contract with the Italian manufacturer formally ended a few days ago.
With him now officially a Honda employee, the five-time world champion has spoken for the first time about his first impressions of his new ride and his hopes for the year ahead.
“Repsol Honda may be the most successful team in history,” he said. “They have the most victories and titles. To compare them with a football team, they would be a Barça or a Real Madrid. There is no team with more titles and more importance worldwide than this one.”
Lorenzo has spent the past two seasons riding for Ducati, but was unable to replicate the success that had seen him score three world titles between 2010 and 2015 on a Yamaha. Ironically Lorenzo hit a purple patch just after announcing the switch, winning three races in the mid-season before suffering an injury hit final third of the year, but he feels that he can be immediately competitive on the Honda, which has previously been considered a difficult machine to ride.
He added: “Last season I rode a completely different bike (the Ducati), that was very big and very tall. Maybe it was a little too big for me. The Honda suits me better in terms of its dimensions. It is more compact, a smaller and lower bike, with which I can lean over better. I felt a little more confident when entering corners, because the closer you are to the ground, the more confidence you have. The first impression was positive and I saw a lot of potential there. It’s all very exciting, very new and enjoyable.”
Lorenzo’s change of form at Ducati was widely attributed to a reshaped fuel tank, and the Spaniard is confident that his new squad will also be able to adapt the Honda to suit his silky smooth riding style. He continued: “One of the things that impressed me most was the ability of the Repsol Honda team to react, providing what you ask for. I was quite clear, Honda took note of all my indications and within a few days they had everything ready and we had a fuel tank almost 100% to my liking.”
Of course, one of the biggest challenges Lorenzo faces in 2019 will come from within. His team-mate will be the phenomenal Marc Marquez, who has given the squad five world titles in the past six years. Lorenzo says that the pair should be able to learn from each other, and make the Honda challenge even stronger for the coming year.
“All riders have our strengths and our weaknesses,” he added. “Marc also has them. I will try to learn from his strengths, and I guess he will try to learn from mine. We will push each other; I will want to beat him and he will want to beat me, and that always makes the team grow and helps provide new technical progress for the bike.”
Lorenzo and Marquez will unveil Repsol Honda’s latest livery at a launch event in Madrid on January 23, ahead of pre-season testing and the opening round of the 2019 campaign, which takes place at the Losail circuit in Qatar on March 10.