By now you have already heard that this is the last weekend Jorge Lorenzo will be gridding up professionally. Honestly, nobody should really be surprised about this given him struggling to get into the points while his teammate is off winning world championships on the "same" machine. Before the #99 FanBois jump in screaming about his back, oh, I am aware. To say he has been battling an injury is an understatement. He fractured a vertebra earlier this season while racing with a back injury received in testing a week before.
Racing with an injury, pushing through the pain, is nothing new to him.
I met Jorge Lorenzo back in 2009. He won't remember it. In fact I doubt he remembers much of that day. He had just finished third at Laguna Seca, his second year on the Yamaha, that much I am sure he recalls. Given the fact that he was very, VERY, injured from crashing in qualifying and still managed to battle with the best.
I was a wide-eyed turn worker back then,new to riding and just starting to follow MotoGP as a fan. I was wandering around the paddock long after the racing had finished, just not quite ready to admit that I would have to wait another year to experience the best racers on the planet in person. I happened to be walking by Lorenzo's trailer when the door opened and out popped, or rather begrudgingly limped, a completely knackered Jorge. Due to a broken foot (and if I am remembering correctly some impressive shoulder injuries) I was amazed that he was able to make it down the stairs. It took him two tries. There is no way this was the same guy that an hour or two before was celebrating on the podium.
But it was. Once at the bottom of the steps, his eyes glazed over from whatever meds they gave him, he tried to sign some autographs. After signing a helmet for the guy next to me, Jorge started to walk to his garage as if he forgot he already raced. His friend had to step in and interrupt Jorge's muscle memory as that was all he was running on. He was a racer after all.
Like him or hate him (I have done both over his career) Jorge earned his "alien" status. Give him a shot at some clear track, a motorcycle with a custom fit gas tank, and a green flag and he was untouchable.
I could speculate as to what his "real" reasons for retiring are as I am sure many will in the next few weeks. But I will not. He is leaving a job that he seemed to genuinely love on his terms, whatever his reasoning really does not matter. As someone that has done something similar recently on a much smaller scale, I applaud his ability to make such a difficult choice.
Thank you, Jorge, for your time in MotoGP. While I was never your biggest fan, you always kept things interesting. As a fellow Honda racer (stop laughing) I wish you the best on the weekend. And Jorge, if you are looking for something to do with your retirement, the 2020 AFM Schedule will be up soon, and if you need a place to pit I will let you borrow my generator.
All Photos From My Alter Ego: Oxymoron Photography.