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Matt Roberts on MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo

Jorge Lorenzo celebrates his world title triumph
Lorenzo has eluded the grasp of his title rivals all season

By Matt Roberts

On Friday 3 May 2002, the day before his 15th birthday, a young Jorge Lorenzo stood behind the protective barriers at Jerez and watched the opening free practice sessions for the 125cc Grand Prix of Spain.

The following day, he was out there himself, meeting the minimum age requirement to compete and setting an unsurpassable record as the youngest rider ever to qualify for a Grand Prix.

Starting from 34th on the grid, he gained 12 places in the race to take 22nd at the line, which marked the start of a career that would thereon be defined by precocity and pyrotechnics.

Two years earlier, Jorge and his father Chicho had left their native Mallorca, where for years as a youngster he had wowed English and German tourists with his skill on a homemade motorcycle in the parking lot of a water park next to their house.

The call of former rider and experienced manager Dani Amatriain, who signed Jorge up on the basis of a video sent by Chicho, took them to Barcelona and a new life dedicated solely to one goal: becoming MotoGP world champion.

Dani and Chicho were soon at loggerheads, firstly about Jorge's education, which the former saw as a necessity and the latter a distraction.

His father won but, as the conflicts grew more frequent and ferocious, the young man soon had a decision to make.

Jorge was on the podium at the opening 12 rounds of the season - only the fourth rider in history to do so

He sided with his manager, banished his father from his life and even broke up with his girlfriend, his first and so far only love, as he cut all ties with his homeland and his past.

While his career developed from points to podiums, wins and back-to-back 250cc titles in 2006 and 2007, with no paternal presence and no education to speak of, the youngster embarked on a parallel voyage of self discovery.

Recognising the shortcomings in his personality, which had won him few friends in the paddock, he consciously set out to become a better person, as well as a better rider. He hired a media coach, moved to London to learn English and studied self-help books, developing a love of literature and art.


His capacity to learn became evident on the track - never more so than in 2008, his maiden season in MotoGP.

A sensational pole position on his premier-class debut in Qatar was followed up by second place finish and a first win came in round three at Estoril as he established an early lead in the championship.

However, disaster struck in China, where a monumental crash in practice left him with two fractured ankles. Unbelievably, he returned the following day to qualify for a race that saw him take an incredible fourth position.

In the next round at Le Mans, he escaped further injury in another practice crash and took second place in the race. But just a few weeks later, he was back in hospital, missing the race in Barcelona with concussion following another heavy fall in practice.

Bubbling under the surface was an increasingly fractious relationship with Amatriain, himself now suffering with serious personal problems, which manifested itself in further lapses of concentration for Jorge at Sachsenring and, notably, a spectacular highside in the race at Laguna Seca.

However, he held his nerve to record two further podiums and secure the rookie of the year title.

Jorge Lorenzo in 2006
Lorenzo celebrates his 2006 250cc world title success

A clean break from his manager, who was issued with a restraining order after allegedly making death threats to Jorge and his personal trainer, saw the youngster ditch the number 48 - Amatriain's old racing number - and make a clean start with 99, at the same time making moves to rebuild his relationship with his father.

In 2009, the mistakes were evidently fewer and less serious as he battled with his team-mate Valentino Rossi for the title, eventually paying the price for race crashes at Jerez, Donington and Brno.

This year, however, they have been ironed out completely. Jorge was on the podium at the opening 12 rounds of the season - only the fourth rider in history to do so - and crucially he has finished every race in the top four, including seven wins so far.

His title celebration at Sepang, with friends dressed as the Mario Brothers, was inspired by seeing the Nintendo character toys in Japan last week, which he said reminded him of his happy days as a child.

As an adult, the good times are well and truly here and after the race he showed his class with a long list of 'thank yous', which, with some significance, included Amatriain.

Next year, the number will change again, from 99 to 1, but, while his quest to improve continues, the primary goal has already been achieved.

Jorge Lorenzo is world champion - as a rider and as a person.

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see also
Lorenzo takes MotoGP world title
10 Oct 10 |  MotoGP
Lorenzo clinches pole in Malaysia
09 Oct 10 |  MotoGP
Injured Pedrosa to miss Malaysia
07 Oct 10 |  MotoGP
Matt Roberts MotoGP column
06 Oct 10 |  MotoGP
Stoner seals Japanese MotoGP win
03 Oct 10 |  MotoGP
Lorenzo signs to stay with Yamaha
02 Oct 10 |  MotoGP
Rossi to undergo shoulder surgery
15 Sep 10 |  MotoGP

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