Lorenzo Dominates Friday Practice At Valencia GP

Three-time MotoGP world champion aims to end Yamaha era with a bang.

Lorenzo Dominates Friday Practice At Valencia
Jorge Lorenzo led both practice sessions on Friday at Valencia. “I don’t know if I have the best pace because this afternoon Marc [Marquez] put on a hard rear tire and I put on a soft.”Photo: Andrew Wheeler

Jorge Lorenzo dominated last year's season-ending race at Valencia, leading every lap en route to wrapping up his third premier-class title. Asked on Thursday at the Spanish track if he could replicate that performance from 12 months ago, Lorenzo reflected on his winning weekend, eventually circling back to answer the question.

“On Saturday, I made the best lap of my life,” he said. “The pressure was huge and the lap was incredible—almost perfect. Then, at the beginning of the race, I was so fast that it was difficult for Marc [Marquez] to keep my pace. I started losing grip on the right side. That’s where Marc and Dani [Pedrosa] caught me, but I kept going as fast as possible.”

This year has been tough, Lorenzo admitted. “We started very strong with our bike, but the other factories improved their bikes, and now it is quite difficult to win races. But we are there; in the last five races, we had a chance to win. Here, in Valencia, in the past five years, I have been competitive. I think we have a chance to fight for the win.”

Marc Marquez at Valencia GP
“Engine power is there,” Marc Marquez said. “Problem is, under acceleration, we have to reduce the power because of the wheelie. Yeah, electronics can help but in the end they just reduce power.”Photo: Andrew Wheeler

Lorenzo demonstrated on Friday that he is dead serious about winning on Sunday afternoon. Beginning his final appearance for the Movistar Yamaha team, the 29-year-old Majorcan led both 45-minute practices, the first ahead of champion Marquez by 0.387 seconds and the second by 0.247 seconds, the Repsol Honda rider again second.

At his end-of-day press conference, Lorenzo was beaming. “The tarmac here is quite grippy,” he said. “Also, the Michelin carcass is the same as Brno, Misano, and another track I don’t remember. It is not the harder carcass they brought to avoid overheating. So with this carcass and this tarmac, I felt very good from the first lap.

Lorenzo’s best lap, a 1:30.463, was only half a second slower than his pole-position-winning run from a year ago. After praising the Yamaha rider’s smooth style, one writer asked Lorenzo if he expected to go even faster tomorrow. “I always look smooth,” Lorenzo replied with a grin, “but sometimes I am not fast enough to be competitive.

“I was surprised how competitive I was today because the last five, six or seven races, I wasn’t really competitive. Arriving here, from the beginning, I was quick and consistent. The improved feeling? That’s the tire. I think Michelin needs to work in the future to give us the best tires for all of the tracks.”

Rossi at Valencia GP
“FP1 was quite positive,” Valentino Rossi said. “In the morning, I put on the hard rear tire, and at the end, I finished in second place. We continued with the hard rear tire in the afternoon, but for some reason it was more difficult.”Photo: Andrew Wheeler

Lorenzo also tried Michelin’s latest front slick, which has a different profile. “To be honest,” Lorenzo said, “I did not feel as much of a difference as I felt in Brno, the first time I tried it.” Marquez echoed Lorenzo’s comments. “No big difference,” he said. “Tomorrow, I need to compare again.”

Maverick Vinales was the only other rider under the 1:31 mark, just .010 seconds slower than Marquez, the Suzuki rider improving significantly in the warmer afternoon session. “Our machine prefers fast, smooth corners,” he said. “Here, the layout is a lot tighter, but we are also already among the fastest.”