Tension was high between Movistar Yamaha teammates Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo leading up to and during the showdown for the title at the MotoGP season finale in Valencia, Spain. It was palpable. It wasn’t the elephant in the room, it was the elephant in your face, figuratively; literally if you were Rossi or Lorenzo.
The newly crowned champ qualified the season as a “very hard championship in general. And probably one of the hardest racing in all my life. A lot of pressure on the grid, a lot of pressure on the start, a lot of tension on the bike,” Lorenzo said.
But he has a method for the madness – meditation.
“Today, especially, I had to do it so much because the tension of course and the pressure was very high,” Lorenzo said. “So it was very important to save as much as possible the energy. When you are nervous you are throwing away a little energy. Today I meditate so much and breathe very deeply.”
Because it is a team sport, that tension is felt throughout the team as well. Someone has to manage that to make sure the wheels don’t come off and everything goes horribly wrong. In spite of the fact that on one hand it was great to have the triple crown in the premier class of the World Championship – Rider, Team and Manufacturer title – locked up before the season finale, the build up and tension was so high that it could have wreaked major havoc amongst the Yamaha team, especially with the added controversy from Rossi’s clash with Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez at Sepang.
Yamaha Motor Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis spoke of the contrast—an immensely successful season for the tuning fork brand and the difficult few weeks between Sepang and the finale in Valencia.
“In general, obviously, it’s been an awesome year for us, having won in total 11 races this year and leading the championship basically from the beginning until the end,” Jarvis said. “It’s been a fabulous, fabulous year to do that as well in our 60th anniversary. Tsuji (Koichi Tsuji, the General Manager of Motor Sports Development Division, Yamaha Motor Company, Ltd.) said yesterday that [before the season started] he got an order from the boss in Japan that ‘It’s our 60th anniversary – you must win the triple crown.’ So for us, of course, it’s pretty rewarding to finally get there.
“The last 10 days have been a little bit tough. It’s never easy to manage any champion, any single champion, and it’s even more difficult to manage two. So it’s been hard, but we’ve managed. We’re very happy to be here and I congratulate Jorge on achieving this third Moto GP championship with us.”
So how did he do it? Especially when it was turning into an Italian-Spanish conflict that threatened to tear the paddock apart, much less a single team.
“I think one thing that helps is not being either Italian or Spanish,” Jarvis said. “And that’s said as a joke, but it’s also not a joke because if you are able to be neutral, remain neutral, it’s very, very important. There’s a lot of nationalistic influence that can come because if you’re Spanish then you should support the Spaniard. If you’re Italian you should support the Italian perhaps.
“Also I have a lot of experience in this game. I’ve had many positive and some negative experiences over the years as well, so this is stuff that you learn and that comes on board. It helps that you also stay calm in situations that are perhaps very, very stressful. I don’t have meditation, but I really like gin and tonic, so that’s something that also helps a lot at the end of the day. It’s a matter of being true to yourself and also just not panicking, and trying to find solutions. The solution for each person in a problem is different as well. So it’s very important to search for their solutions.”
Unfortunately, the drama didn’t end once the title chase ended. Rossi had some harsh words for Marquez and accused the young Spaniard and his teammate Dani Pedrosa of not making an effort to win the race to help their compatriot win the championship. With all the vitriol, will Jarvis be able to manage the situation next year?
“You will see,” he said.