Duncan Bishop

Worthy champion Lorenzo must end 2012 in style

Duncan Bishop

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There is no arguing with Jorge Lorenzo's record in 2012. Barring that one crash at Assen, for which he can be absolved of any blame, his results would have been title form in any season.

Ok, he had won more races by the midway point of 2010 than he has all year this time around, but there have been no drastic drops in results from the newly crowned MotoGP World Champion and this has been a much smoother ride.

You'll be aware of the stats by now. Lorenzo has not finished lower than second place all year, even when others have taken the spotlight.

The Honda RC213V was talked up as the superior bike this season and, when not battling the chattering issue, has provided the factory riders with better performance and power.

Lorenzo's Yamaha M1 has never been amazingly faster on the straights, nor singled out as a reason for his leading the championship.

The Tech 3 riders have got the satellite version onto the podium, but Ben Spies has had a cursed campaign, and the 1000cc machine has been more or less the same as the 800c: a solid, smooth cornering bike that is able to win races.

We have seen a little of that typical late season fade, however, as he drew closer and closer to the title. Whilst it was hard to take the threat of Dani Pedrosa too seriously as long as Lorenzo had such a significant gap in the overall standings and could afford to finish anywhere reasonably close to his fellow Spaniard, the hard work had undoubtedly been done with that early flurry of wins in France, Catalonia and Great Britain.

Leader of the series from Le Mans onwards -besides when Casey Stoner pulled back level on 140 points at Assen - he might have been given some breathing space when Pedrosa had his slice of bad luck at Misano, but he managed the gap expertly up until sealing the title in Australia this past weekend.

A critic can always find a way to play down a title. Ironically, the bigger the advantage in points, the more holes can be picked in a champion's season. It is simply inconceivable that any rider could pull out a significant gap in such a closely-contested category, so something has to have gone wrong for the rest, is the logic there.

Title wins for Nicky Hayden, Casey Stoner and Lorenzo himself have all been dismissed as being a direct result of a title rival getting injured. This season, at the very least JL99 has had a fully fit Pedrosa to contend with and got the job done.

An outsider would think that Stoner's retirement would play into Lorenzo's hands, but he'll be disappointed to see his rival go. He was ahead of him in the standings when the Australian suffered his ankle injury at Indianapolis, but the return from action for the outgoing champ has shown that the title of 'best rider in MotoGP' isn't indisputable still.

That's what will make Valencia such an important race: Lorenzo hasn't won since Misano and it's his last chance to beat Stoner before No.27 heads off into the sunset.

The focus isn't going to remain on Lorenzo for long, because when the race is over there will be Rossi's return to Yamaha and Márquez' move to Repsol Honda taking centre stage.

The 2012 champion is going to have to assert his authority.

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