When Valentino Rossi jumped from Yamaha to Ducati after the 2010 season, he later admitted he knew the move probably was a mistake from the very first time he tested the Desmosedici the day after the 2010 season finale at Valencia.
The Ducati was recalcitrant at best, a very difficult bike to get to turn. Rossi knew immediately he faced two years of hard slog and probably had made the biggest mistake of his career.
Photos of Rossi from that Valencia test showed an “Oh, sh*t” ghost-like mask of horror and disgust, as the Ducati requires a riding style different than any of the Japanese bikes Rossi rode during the first nine years of his premier-class career.
Three-time MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo made a similar high-profile move from Yamaha to Ducati this season, and he has struggled to come to grips with the deep-braking riding style the GP17 demands. Like Rossi, Lorenzo spent the first nine seasons of his top-level career on a Japanese bike, a Yamaha, which rewarded his geometrically perfect lines and style of early braking and carrying increasing speed through corners.
Lorenzo struggled earlier this month at the first preseason test of 2017 at Sepang, and he appears even more lost during the test at Phillip Island. Lorenzo was 11th quickest overall during the first day Wednesday, 1.134 seconds behind the Honda of leader Marc Marquez.
The second day was worse. Lorenzo dropped to 15th overall out of 22 riders, 1.350 seconds behind leader Maverick Vinales, who continued to show his strength – on Lorenzo’s old bike.
Photos of Lorenzo in the Ducati garage from Wednesday at Phillip Island showed the same visage as Rossi in 2010 at the Valencia test and during all preseason tests in 2011.
It’s the face of a man searching for answers and understanding already that none may come. It’s the face of fear. It’s the face of panic. It’s red alert time for Lorenzo, and he knows it.