Lorenzo Signs With Yamaha - So Who Goes To Ducati?

So it's finally done. Jorge Lorenzo has made up his mind, and decided to stay with Yamaha for 2010. The deal was announced early on Tuesday morning, European time - just as your humble correspondent boarded a plane to fly to the US for the Indianapolis Grand Prix, as it happens - in a press release issued by Yamaha. As keen observers will come to expect, none of the important details of the deal were announced - how much money was involved and whether Lorenzo got the assurances he craved of equal treatment with team mate Valentino Rossi - all we know is that Lorenzo will be riding for Yamaha for at least one more season. 

Despite the lack of details announced, there is much that can be concluded by Lorenzo's - in the eyes of most observers, extremely wise - decision to step back from the abyss and stay with Yamaha. As attractive as the 6-8 million euros a year that Ducati was reportedly offering him must have appeared, Lorenzo must have understood that the risks outweighed the potential rewards.

The biggest and most immediate problem Lorenzo would have faced is the drastic reduction in the amount of preseason testing. The Ducati is a notoriously difficult beast to tame, indeed, many would argue that only Casey Stoner has managed that feat successfully, and the only route to mastering the Desmosedici lies in seat time. With testing slashed to just 3 two-day tests prior to the start of next season, plus two more days directly after the final race of the season at Valencia, Lorenzo would have had very little time to acclimatize.

What's more, the test schedule for next year will be incredibly spread out. After the two-day test at Valencia, the next test would probably be on back-to-back weekends at Phillip Island and Sepang sometime in February, to minimize the amount of travel to be done. After that, a night test at Qatar on the weekend prior to the season opener there on April 11th is the last test before getting down to racing. With several months between the tests, the riders will need to spend at least the first hour of testing just getting their heads back around the incredible speeds involved in riding a MotoGP bike at speed, further cutting into actual testing and development time. Add in the potential for rain - though admittedly, Phillip Island is the place where that is most likely to happen - and the risks of taking on a new bike are just too great.

Which begs the question, is it still possible to switch manufacturers if you have championship aspirations? In years past, you had as many as six or seven two- and even three-day tests, and by the time the season started, the riders and teams had a pretty solid base setting from which to start. Now, with well under half that testing time, you are doomed to spend the first half of the season just getting up to speed. Any bike switch would have to be part of a two-year campaign, in which you basically sacrifice the first season, using it as the testing which you missed during the preseason, before mounting an assault on the championship the following year. With testing the way that it is, a repeat of Valentino Rossi's and Eddie Lawson's incredible feat of back-to-back titles on different bikes is effectively impossible.

With Lorenzo now firmly back with Yamaha, the question is what is Ducati's next step. With clear indications coming from Australia of a growing rift between the factory and Casey Stoner, and Nicky Hayden still well off the pace of the front runners, despite his recent improvement, Ducati need a backup plan. If Stoner leaves, either walking away from the sport or leaving Ducati at the end of 2010, or possibly even before the start of next season, Ducati has a huge problem. They need to find someone who can keep the bike at the front of the pack. But with Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo tied up through 2010, the Borgo Panigale factory is left with Dani Pedrosa as their only proven - and available - option.

Despite HRC pronouncements that they have reached a basic agreement with Pedrosa for next season, an actual contract remains resolutely unsigned, the stumbling block rumored to be the status of Pedrosa's mentor Alberto Puig. Pedrosa won't sign without his friend and advisor, HRC won't sign any contract with a formal role for Puig. If Ducati has to come begging, they would have no option but to accept any demands Pedrosa may have about the role Puig is to play. And, irony of ironies, if Pedrosa signed with Ducati, the deal would see the Spaniard and Puig reunited with their former team mate Nicky Hayden, with whom they had an occasionally acrimonious relationship.

Of course, all this is just speculation. As far as we know, Ducati have made no approach to Pedrosa, nor has the Spaniard been talking to Ducati. But after their spectacular approach to Lorenzo, an offer to Pedrosa would seem the logical thing to do.

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... if Dani tried to fill the shoes of his former 250 nemesis and failed? Ouch!

Imagine not getting the Red Devil to perform and STILL having to share the garage with the last guy to win a championship at your last place of employment? Ouchied-Ouch!

They wouldn't try to lure Bayliss out of retirement, would they? For a brief period, he showed he could ride that bike in its previous form.

Mr. Bayliss is planning to race the V8 Supercar series in Oz. And if someone mentions Mladin, I'm going to toss my virtual cookies. :D


Mat back in GP on a red Italian bike... LOLZ!

I wonder if they'd ask him to wrench on it and change the tires himself...

That would be too funny, I want it to happen now... although there is precisely a 0.0% chance.

Lorenzo again is showing some maturity by not just jumping after a bigger paycheck.

I think if he were to have this sort of level-headedness in the races, he might be beating Rossi a little more often.

Rossi is a man-witch, though. He'll just keep working his black magic.

Casey said somewhere that he'll do the same when he quits bike racing.

What are and where are these 'clear' indications? Everyone talks about them, yet all they seem to be is Spanish and Italian press rumours and plain guesswork from the rest. Or is the silence from Stoner what's causing it?

There has been a lot of press today about Rossi's intent to switch to the Ferrari F1 team at the end of the 2010 season. From where I'm sitting, Lorenzo's banking on only having one more season as the #2 rider at Yamaha before Rossi goes, leaving Lorenzo with the his much-desired #1 spot on the best bike with the best team in MotoGP. By waiting one year, Lorenzo seems to be in line to receive an offer not even Ducati's fat check could match.

Rossi will just have to figure out whether going for more all-time MotoGP records trumps his desire to try and be an F1 champion.

I personally see him staying in MotoGP as long as he can keep being competitive.

Dr. K, you have stated the existence of rumours of a rift between Stoner and Ducati coming out of Australia in several articles, but if it is so, there's nothing to substantiate it in the press down here - absolutely, stubbornly, deafeningly nothing.

I have little confidence in the neutrality or objectivity of particularly the Spanish motorsports press and I can't comment on the Italian. Some of the reports in Motogp.com show a lack of understanding of Stoner's 'Aussie' english with fairly obviously problems in translating the nuances of his expressions firstly into Spanish and then back again, though I take it you read Spanish fluently so there's only one step rather than two in that tango. About the only thing missing from some of the Spanish stuff has been 'Stoner claims aliens stole his throttle cable'.

That said, in general Australians consider loyalty to their employer to be a two-way street. Right now, Ducati would be silly to be not looking for a positively obese calf in preparation for Stoner's return to action..

Oscar, it also has to be said that Motogp.com has as their director of communications, Gavin Emmett and he most certainly speaks English, Spanish and Italian. This looks more to me just pure scuttlebutt from someone or somewhere. And guess what, all we're doing is perpetuating it.

Having said all that, the cliche about 'no smoke without fire' normally holds true too.

cejay - both very fair points. Stoner was fairly obviously pissed off by Ducati releasing the 'gastritus and mild anemia' news, though his own reaction may well have been exacerbated by frustration with his condition and not objective about Ducati's position, especially vis-a-vis Marlboro - they may have been trying to win some breathing space from P.M. which Stoner certainly did not appreciate.

But Gavin Emmett obviously doesn't do all the motoGp.com releases - some of the language used is just not colloquial English. Who in the English as first language world uses the term 'fabricants' in place on manufacturers ( as in: 'Michelin, the French tire fabricant'..)? The other problem, as I see it, is the truncation of interviews, press conferences etc. to a few paragraphs when a full transcript shows that the interviewee has qualified his leading remarks substantially, but it is the juicy text-grab which makes it to the world. Stoner is chronically incapable of understanding that and weighing his statements whereas Rossi plays the press like a lute...

Another request for an indication of where in the Oz media are any stories about this.
The various daily newspapers sometimes, rarely, have a small article about a race result, only if space permits. Otherwise there is a deafening silence.
The motorcycle magazines have deadlines that mean what they publish is usually a re-hash of what's appeared here and elsewhere.

So please, point us in the direction of these articles in the Australian media.

If you take a look at the article above what David Emmett says is: "With clear indications coming from Australia of a growing rift between the factory and Casey Stoner".

Note that he doesn't actually mention the Australia media.

Rats, I understand, but when someone says 'clear indications', then that surely should be qualified, either as an 'un-named source' or 'Fairfax media reports....'. Currently, much as I enjoy a good rumour, these stories really do sound like nothing more than idle gossip.

Again, I qualify all of this with the smoke and fire routine and whilst disappointed, I wouldn't be surprised if there is an element of real truth in this. Suppo would, as a natural course always look for the best riders and, with his #1 rider currently incapacitated with an undiagnosed and debilitating illness, who wouldn't be looking at a Plan B? None of that means of course that his Plan A (rider #1) won't eventuate.

This is nothing but idle gossip. I think even Emmett would agree that there are no facts to support any conclusion and I don't think that he is trying to imply otherwise. If you have followed silly season before you should know that until signatures are on paper nothing is fact and it is all conjecture. However, there is often a certain amount of truth behind the rumors. THink of the Hayden/Ducati deal last year. Everyone believed it was done long before it was actually announced but that was nothing more than rumor and conjecture.

Rats, your point is taken. If there is one 'net site that has evidently earned respect from the 'industry' as fair and reasonable it is this one as we have seen now with the HP and LC interviews, so it is not unreasonable to accept that 'sources' might talk to Dr.K whereas they might be disinclined to talk to other arms (or perhaps tentacles) of the media.

Ah, for the good old days when the sight of several reporter's bloodied hides hanging on the wall outside Doohan's pit box told the Press all they needed to know, which was 'leave the man alone.' Some times the simple approach works the best.