In any exciting story, there comes a point where the author is tempted to push the action up another notch, in the hope of making it more exciting still. The danger is that by pushing the envelope, you push the audience from suspending their disbelief into outright incredulity at the improbability of the storyline, and lose them altogether. As an example, think of the sequence in the first Mission Impossible movie, where the scene in which a helicopter is chasing a high-speed train transitions from the exciting to the ridiculous, as the helicopter continues its pursuit by flying into the Channel Tunnel, and does so without crashing due to the incredible turbulence a train generates in a tunnel.
That's just about where we are with the Jorge Lorenzo-to-Ducati story. Rumors started to arise that Ducati had upped their pursuit of Lorenzo during the early part of the Brno MotoGP weekend, and at the time sounded entirely reasonable. With Casey Stoner's health situation unknown, and his return to racing and full fitness for next season uncertain, it made a lot of sense to renew the approach that Ducati had made to Lorenzo earlier in the season. Obviously, to coax him away from both Yamaha and Honda, the early reports of salary offers between 3 and 5 million seemed entirely plausible.
On Monday, the credulity of MotoGP fans was put to the test a little more, when the numbers being bandied around leapt to around the 7 million euro a year mark, for a two year contract. Twice the money reportedly on offer from Yamaha, and a little under double what Casey Stoner is currently paid by Ducati. Though the sums involved seemed a little far fetched, the justification behind the amounts make the offer sound a little more logical. Ducati need someone who can replace Stoner if he doesn't come back, and provide development for the bike if Stoner does come back, but is not fully fit. Lorenzo has a history of doing well on ill-handling machines, and his results showed that he is not afraid to go in search of a bike's limits, and can learn to back off once he reaches them. As a small factory with a very large sponsor, Ducati need to be on the podium as often as possible, to justify the amount of money Philip Morris puts into the Ducati MotoGP program.
Further stretching the credulity of MotoGP fans were reports that Lorenzo is being offered the undisputed number one status at Ducati, with Ducati's focus being switched from proven winner and former World Champion with the Borgo Panigale factory, Casey Stoner, to unproven gamble stepping in where so many have failed, Jorge Lorenzo. And yet even here, some rationalization was possible. Though Stoner brought Ducati and Marlboro the wins - and therefore the publicity - the two brands craved, the Australian was loath to engage in the kind of extra-curricular promotional activity that is the bread and butter of any sponsorship campaign. Ducati and Marlboro had their winner, but it was almost impossible to show that winner off. Making things worse for the Australian was the way in which he reportedly handled the issue of his non-appearance at Brno and the following races. According to Motocuatro.com, Stoner simply informed the team of his condition and his intention not to ride, without first consulting them or being prepared to discuss the situation.
The rumors now starting to emerge in the Italian and Spanish media have become so convoluted and bizarre that the story has reached the point rather quaintly referred to as having jumped the shark. For some of the possibilities surrounding Ducati's predicament sound as if they are exploring the realms of fantasy, despite the fact they are probably still grounded in truth. For example, AS.com is suggesting that Ducati have a backup plan for their backup plan, and if Jorge Lorenzo doesn't sign for Ducati, then the Borgo Panigale factory will try to secure the services of Dani Pedrosa, instead. If Lorenzo does leave Yamaha and join Ducati, the man who he would displace - Nicky Hayden - could easily slot into the seat Lorenzo just vacated, and make a return as Valentino Rossi's team mate, this time at Fiat Yamaha. The plan, according to GPOne.com, already has Rossi's blessing, as Hayden would be competitive, but probably not as competitive as that young upstart Jorge Lorenzo has proven to be.
Whatever the truth of the matter, all is to be revealed soon. Motocuatro reported earlier that Lorenzo's manager, Marcos Hirsch, met with representatives from Ducati in Barcelona earlier today, to discuss the factory's final offer and clear up the details of any such deal. After the meeting, Hirsch was due to put the offer he had received from Ducati to Lorenzo, and Lorenzo would make the final decision on a switch in the next few days.
Lorenzo has had to bring his decision forward due to the pressure being put on him by Yamaha. Tired of being made to wait, and leave their own plans in limbo while Jorge Lorenzo makes up his mind, the Japanese factory has reportedly issued Lorenzo an ultimatum, and he will have to make a decision by the time the MotoGP circus reaches Indianapolis.
At Indy, Lorenzo is due to give a press conference to announce his decision, and put all this wild speculation to bed. In a little over a week's time, we will finally find out how much of all this has been the product of hyperactive journalistic imaginations, and how much has a basis in fact. Whatever the outcome, a lot of people are likely to be relieved that the whole rigmarole is finally over.