MotoGP Silly Season's First Crazy Rumor: Lorenzo Agrees Precontract With Ducati For 2015?

MotoGP silly season this year is expected to be pretty frenetic, with just about all of the riders either out of contract or with escape clauses written into their contracts allowing them to leave at the end of 2014. But even by those standards, the first shot in the battle sounds like madness. According to a report on the Spanish radio station Onda Cero, Ducati have tempted Jorge Lorenzo into agreeing to a precontract to race for the Italian factory from 2015 onwards.

According to the report, Ducati Corse's new boss Gigi Dall'Igna phoned Jorge Lorenzo personally to persuade him to sign for the Italian factory. The contract on offer is reported to be tempting: Onda Cero claim that Ducati offered Lorenzo 15 million euros a season to race for them. Lorenzo is reported to be racing for 9 million a year with Yamaha, plus a 2 million euro bonus if he wins the championship. Both Honda and Yamaha are also chasing Lorenzo's signature for 2015, both claimed to have offered him 12 million euros a year.

How much stock should be placed in this report? It is hard to say. The interest in Jorge Lorenzo comes as no surprise, given that he is one of only three men capable of challenging for the championship. Lorenzo was the only rider to match the pace of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, on what is widely acknowledged to be a lesser bike. HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto has made no secret of his desire to sign Jorge Lorenzo, having already made a major play for Lorenzo the last time his contract was up, at the end of the 2012 season. Likewise, Ducati have also previously made moves for Jorge Lorenzo, having offered the Spaniard some 8 million euros to join Ducati during Casey Stoner's absence through illness in 2009. That move proved at the time to be the catalyst for Stoner's departure to Honda.

What is surprising is the timing of this report. Jorge Lorenzo has only just landed in Jakarta, Indonesia, where he and Valentino Rossi are due to present the 2014 livery of the Yamaha MotoGP team tomorrow. Allowing such news to leak ahead of such an important occasion would not be well received in the Yamaha camp, though it would provide a very useful way of putting pressure on the factory. Yamaha are already struggling to pay the salary currently demanded by Lorenzo, and stretching it much further could put him out of reach of the Japanese factory. Yet Yamaha know they have no choice, as Lorenzo has proven to be the only Yamaha rider currently capable of challenging for the title. If leaking the news is a negotiating tactic, it is a very crude instrument.

The biggest question mark remains what reason Lorenzo would have to go to Ducati, beyond the simple question of money. At the moment, Ducati is a far from promising prospect, the bike still a long way from being competitive. In fact, so far off is the current bike that Ducati look set to switch to becoming an Open entry, racing with the spec Dorna software on the Magneti Marelli ECU. Though the great raft of changes currently being pushed through at Ducati by Gigi Dall'Igna are widely regarded as necessary steps to a return to competitiveness, they will still take a long time to take effect. The Desmosedici will surely be better by the first race of 2015, but whether it is championship material remains to be seen.

The fear must be that Ducati is trying to fix their problems in the same way they did last time: by signing a rider of exceptional talent to ride a bike beset by problems. Such a move could come at the behest of Ducati's main benefactor Philip Morris, who are demanding results after three years of mediocrity following the departure of Casey Stoner. Whether Lorenzo could overcome the problems the current bike has, as Stoner did in the past, is open to question. Lorenzo has a radically different riding style to Stoner, thriving on smoothness and his ability to carry corner speed, rather than bully the bike into doing what he wants, as Stoner did. Corner speed is very much the weakness of the Ducati, as its vicious power delivery, all of which run totally counter to Lorenzo's strongest point, his fluid smoothness.

If anyone can persuade Lorenzo, then it is surely Gigi Dall'Igna. The pair had a strong relationship during Lorenzo's 250cc period, when he won two championships for Aprilia, where Dall'Igna was head of the racing department. Lorenzo knows what Dall'Igna is capable of, but he also knows the challenges which he would face there. All he needs to do is look across at the other side of the garage, at teammate Valentino Rossi. The prospect of spending two years in the wilderness as Rossi did cannot be an attractive one for a man so clearly addicted to winning. Choosing to ride for Ducati would require a massive leap of faith.

~~~ Update ~~~

As might be expected, Ducati has already denied the rumors they have reached an agreement with Jorge Lorenzo. Speaking to GPOne.com, Ducati boss Claudio Domenicali joked sarcastically 'yes, and we've signed Marquez too, it's cheaper than developing the bike.' The focus, Paolo Ciabatti reaffirmed, was on developing the Desmosedici. 'Our riders are not the problem,' Ciabatti told GPOne.com.

MotoGP silly season this year is expected to be pretty frenetic, with just about all of the riders either out of contract or with escape clauses written into their contracts allowing them to leave at the end of 2014. But even by those standards, the first shot in the battle sounds like madness. According to a report on the Spanish radio station Onda Cero, Ducati have tempted Jorge Lorenzo into agreeing to a precontract to race for the Italian factory from 2015 onwards.According to the report, Ducati Corse's new boss Gigi Dall'Igna phoned Jorge Lorenzo personally to persuade him to sign for the Italian factory. The contract on offer is reported to be tempting: Onda Cero claim that Ducati offered Lorenzo 15 million euros a season to race for them. Lorenzo is reported to be racing for 9 million a year with Yamaha, plus a 2 million euro bonus if he wins the championship. Both Honda and Yamaha are also chasing Lorenzo's signature for 2015, both claimed to have offered him 12 million euros a year.

Comments

I don't see that happening

Jorge loves to win, and he's still very much at the top of his game. That won't happen with Ducati, and - as the past few seasons have proven - it doesn't matter who you are. I can see an Italian, Brit or American jumping over to Ducati - either for money or national pride - but not a Spaniard. And definitely not a Spaniard with quite a bit more winning seasons ahead of him.
However, just in case, I better trade in my old Ducati for a new one ASAP. I may have to help pay a champion's salary.

Total votes: 21

Maybe Cal

was holding back. Perhaps it was a new bike/engine combo under that fairing, and he told JL/Gigi that it's the best bike he's ever ridden.
Was that a Gloucester Old Spot that just flew past?
2 years on £10M a year plus sponsorships sounds pretty good though. You could call that 'winning'.

Total votes: 14

Marquez ...

Personally I think Ducati would be better off chasing Marquez.
I genuinely believe he is the the only active racer who could win a race on the Ducati as it stands now, or as it is likely to stand any time soon.

I said half way through 2011 that Ducati would never again win a normal, dry Grand Prix unless they got Stoner back on the bike. I stand by most of that, with the caveat that MM93 could probably do it.

I don't know enough about riding at this level to say his style is similar to CS27, but they both definitely have the ability to wrestle a bike into submission, which is noticeably different to how Lorenzo rides.

I would LOVE to see MM on a Duke.

Total votes: 54

Don't forget that Lorenzo is

Don't forget that Lorenzo is riding the Yamaha the way it needs to be ridden, and that he has the skills to do the same for the Ducati or Honda. Depending on track conditions, or tire situation, etc, I have seen him display all manner of styles this past year. His dominant style may be super smooth, but he can, when necessary, ride in other manners...

Total votes: 46

Don't think so

Lorenzo is a smooth rider, and performs best when he is able to perform his 'butter' trick lap after lap after perfect lap by extracting the most from his well dialled in chassis and electronics. That simply isn't possible on the Ducati if you want to put in competitive lap times. The thing understeers like a bitch and then pumps like a hammer on exits, on a good day. I think Lorenzo would have the same issues Rossi had on the Duc, only more so.

Total votes: 36

haha

'yes, and we've signed Marquez too, it's cheaper than developing the bike.'
That's comedy gold right there!

Total votes: 45

So,if the motorcycle

is inferior,and I believe it clearly is,then why is Vale not considered a contender(given the broad usage here),given the need improvements to the bike that are necessary for either Yamaha rider to win?..... The Yamaha currently fits JL's style perfectly,and is diametrically and dramatically unsuited to Vale's style....clearly Vale can still more than hold his own against those he mixes with. No one running on his limited pace had anything for him last season ,head to head...He and the bike,as configured ,just did not have the pace for the other three....

Total votes: 38

until an credible source say

until an credible source say anything, I'll just file this under silly news/rumors.

Total votes: 18

Ducati's weakness is that it's a piece of crap

& that bike's been regressing every year. It's not even sure CS or anyone could win a race with it anymore, the gap with the top guys/bikes being that big now.
Corner speed is also the weakness of the RCV. Still, I don't believe one second a smart & talented kid like JL wouldn't adapt successfully, because overall the RCV remains an extremely fast & "reliable" bike.

Domenicali summed up perfectly, their bike at the moment, pushed at the limit by a top 3 rider still would be half a second (or something) off the pace. It's a bad bike. Maybe they finally learnt from their mistakes...

Total votes: 29

Except

The Ducati has been in some very capable hands both before and after Stoner was riding it. Stoner was the only consistant winner. Everyone else raced it to the best of their ability. Stoner not only rode the bike the way it needed to be ridden, he said, THIS IS WHAT I AM DOING. I am riding the bike how it needs to be ridden. I am not changing anything about it.

One of the biggest reasons I believe Casey didn't want to "dice" with anyone. He needed to let the bike be on track where it wanted to be. No time for race strategies or blocking moves. Just laying down fast laps.

Total votes: 27

As it is likely that there is

As it is likely that there is a shred of truth leading rise to this I am going to assume that it is closer to Lorenzo's manager and Ducati staff have expressed mutual interest. "Reached an agreement" = extremely unlikely.
If there is a purpose to someone close to Lorenzo leaking this out NOW the goal may be to send a strong message to Yamaha. "I did more than what is humanly possible with this package. More motor and drive out of corners, another few tenths of bike development, or I am going to double the dread you are dealt by MM93." Then he watches the Ducati development and Cal's experience curiously, ponders what the extra $10 million would provide in "hams," knowing all the while that he is doing what he should be right now: lining up Pedrosa's bike and a sweeter deal with THREE factories throwing obscene amounts of money at him.
He realized he can't beat HRC and MM93 on the package he is likely to get in 2014, anticipates a tough season repeating his frustrated struggle to pass the Honda w his 250 like adherence to the main race line, and is stoking the fire to foster change.

Total votes: 31

You think?

". . . . lining up Pedrosa's bike and a sweeter deal with THREE factories throwing obscene amounts of money at him."
Surely not - you really think the Honda suits are looking at Dani and going: "Hmmm . . . . . . "?
Isn't his loyalty worth anything?

Total votes: 19

Honda "loyalty" is a one way street...

Ask Nicky Hayden what his loyalty to Honda got him.

Honda would drop Pedrosa in a heartbeat to get Lorenzo.

Total votes: 44

If Hayden was completely honest...

He would probably say : "A world championship (that I was never otherwise going to get)"

I wonder if any HRC factory rider had so few wins from so many races?

BTW, I agree that Honda would drop Pedrosa. If you want loyalty, get a dog...

Total votes: 25

Conversely what has Honda's 8

Conversely what has Honda's 8 years of loyalty got them from Pedrosa? Not a championship. Let's not cry "Poor Pedrosa!" too loud. Or at all.

Total votes: 20

Thought...

... for sure I somehow woke up on April 1st.

Total votes: 23

Hyperspace jump to Honda?

Will it make sense if he jumps to Ducati for $15mills, Dani Pedrosa signs with Honda for 2015-2017, then JL99 jumps to HRC after DP26 quits?

Total votes: 17

I guarantee this is never

I guarantee this is never gonna happen. Lorenzo admitted to signing too quickly with his current deal, and I believe if this story is true, that it's merely a negotiating tactic.

Total votes: 24

Amusing filler

for the dreary days before the season fires up again. Keep em coming. :)

Total votes: 22

Repsol and HRC

Repsol and HRC should pool their money, offer Lorenzo $25 million, but make him ride in Moto2. Two advantages: their golden boy Marquez can win unimpeded, and they take away Yamaha's best rider.

That's just about as likely to happen as his move to Ducati.

Total votes: 21

Pure Bull

Lorenzo on the Ducati? Only happens when Rossi wins another championship. Only happens when Pedrosa wins the Championship. Only Happens when Hayden wins another Title...

Until then...

Total votes: 19

Lorenzo is a class act

And yes he probably is playing 'politics' with his negotiations, however I think he could ride anything fast, very fast. Stoner has proven to be peerless in terms of finding any bike's 'sweet spot' via throttle control and body weight distribution.

He has said the Duck had 'one line' for going fast, and that he had to find it or he was not competitive. Most riders like a 'forgiving bike', Lorenzo has found a way to make the Yamaha 'fast' via smooth when most others cannot. Perhaps he can also 'find a way' with the Duck, I don't remember Lorenzo being called 'smooth' in the 250s, he was as aggressive as any. Or is my memory flawed (which most certainly could be)?

I think Lorenzo is an amazing rider, one of the true greats, like Rossi, Stoner and the new Marquez will be.

I do feel for poor Danni, so much talent, so many injuries but that's the way it goes. I think he has to be champion this year or he will be asked to find a new mount. Esparago is a knocking, and looking for a works bike, this is bad news for danni or vale.

Total votes: 27

Smooth Lorenzo

Jorge was aggressive as he'll in 250 when it came to overtaking, but that doesn't mean he didn't ride smoothly. Watch his last ever 250 race at Phillip Island if you want to see the absolute definition of smooth riding. Think won by 20 seconds or something.

I'm not so convinced Jorge could ride the Ducati the way it needed to be ridden though.

Total votes: 19

If Lorenzo feels outgunned machine-wise next year,

I think the only place he'll end up is Honda.

I don't think he'd give up 2 years of his career on a Ducati unless they bring out something competitive this year.

Total votes: 14

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