To be 25 points ahead after six races isn't bad by any standards —especially against the best in the world. That's the situation Jorge Lorenzo has imposed on the rest of the MotoGP field after the first half-dozen races of 2012, relentless in his quest to regain the World Championship that he conceded to Casey Stoner last season.
A showman who thrives on attention, the Yamaha factory rider must have been pretty irked over the last few weeks with taking a back seat to extraordinary circumstances. Stoner's retirement bombshell and Valentino Rossi's second place at Le Mans distracted fans from what has been a joint best season start for the 2010 champ. He lined up around a hundred fans on the home straight at Montmeló and stuck a flag in the gravel at the end of the weekend, and still hardly an eyelid was batted.
Now, one has to stop and take note. A comparative dip in form for his rivals —one that would still be enough to lead the championship in a normal season- has been contrasted by the most consistent Jorge Lorenzo that we have seen in almost two years. Four wins and two second places is the Spaniard's record from the opening six GPs, and he already has more victories to his name than he did over the whole of 2011. Silverstone marked only the second time in his premier class career that he has taken three wins on the bounce.
In the 'olden days' there were select occasions in which a rider could pick up a trio of consecutive wins and not go on to lift the title. Kenny Roberts (1983), Freddie Spencer (1984), Wayne Gardner (1988) and Mick Doohan (1992) were all on the receiving end of such misfortune, but the only time it has happened in recent history is with Stoner in 2008.
How is Lorenzo picking up his wins, then? There's some degree of variety there. Just one —the Qatar GP- has been won from pole and even that doesn't tell the same story. He led the opening two laps and the final four at Losail, taking advantage of Stoner's arm pump issue. At Le Mans he showed that he can lead a race in its entirety, in the wet. At Montmeló he demonstrated his skills in a knife fight with Dani Pedrosa.
What we saw at Silverstone was the Lorenzo 'chase down and pass' at the midway point. Again it was a problem for Stoner at the front which reined him in, but Lorenzo is always there and is no slouch himself. His fastest times were all achieved in pursuit of the Australian, followed by an immediate dip ranging from a couple of tenths to an entire second slower than his pace prior to his lap eleven overtake.
Not since Valentino Rossi's 990cc heyday have we seen a rider with such variety of winning methods, as the case mounts for Lorenzo playing the pivotal role in making the 1000cc class an immediate hit. Would fans have been so excited about this year's races had things followed on from testing, with Stoner continuously blowing everyone away at every opportunity?
Whilst we might be enjoying the surprise, Lorenzo is not one to go for a long shot. The rumours of his jumping ship to Honda —like the Ducati switch proposed to him in 2009- got as far as the listening stage, rather than advanced negotiations (although I believe the move to Repsol Honda was much more of a possibility than one to Ducati, based on respective bike performance/reputation). I never expected him to leave Yamaha and risk leaving what is back to being the best bike on the grid, but he'd have been a fool not to have lent Messrs. Nakamoto and Preziosi his ear. Unsettle your rivals, leave them in a weakened position as they try to organise their own futures (Dani Pedrosa, I'm looking at you) and wangle yourself a nice pay rise out of it all. J-Lo's love don't cost a thing? Try telling that to Lin Jarvis, who said that ideally he would have signed Lorenzo to a new deal before Le Mans. With his stock rising rapidly, Yamaha's star rider could even have afforded to have waited a while.
He came to Silverstone in control. His new contract took centre stage in the press conference, announced just enough in advance for journalists to prepare their questions. It's just the right time for him to take charge of the standings as well: The man with the butter dish on his pit board is on a roll.
- Sports & Recreation