MotoGP Silly Season: Has Jorge Lorenzo Signed with Ducati?

That this Silly Season – the (bi)annual round of rider contract negotiations – was going to be remarkable has been obvious for a very long time. Only very rarely have the contracts of nearly every rider on the grid ended at the same time, leading to a frenzy of speculation and rumor about who could and will be going where for the 2017 season. That this year is special was made obvious at Qatar, where both Valentino Rossi and Bradley Smith announced they had already signed two-year deals for 2017 and 2018 before the flag had even dropped for the first race.

Jorge Lorenzo has been the key figure in this year's Silly Season, however. Of the four current MotoGP Aliens, he is the most likely to move, and to be offered big money to do so. Valentino Rossi is nearing his retirement, and his long-term future is tied up with Yamaha, so re-signing with the Japanese factory was a no-brainer. Marc Márquez may leave Honda at some point in his career, but at the moment, he has too many ties binding him to HRC. Dani Pedrosa may be a proven winner, but he is the only one of the four not to have won a championship. It is Lorenzo who is attracting all of the interest.

It now appears that Lorenzo's future may already be settled. Well-informed sources inside the paddock have told MotoMatters.com that Jorge Lorenzo has already signed a deal with Ducati, and perhaps at a record price. Certainly at a price which Yamaha would be unwilling – and probably unable – to match.

The numbers game

There is reason to be cautious about this information, however. The numbers involved vary between sources, with one telling Jensen Beeler over at Asphalt & Rubber that the money on offer was a little over €11 million a season. A different source insists that the number is much higher, Lorenzo's salary being somewhere between €15 and €20 million. With MotoGP riders' salaries a notoriously secretive affair, the numbers should be treated with a pinch of salt, but what makes these reports so interesting is that they agree that the deal has already been signed, and that they come from sources which are in a position to be privy to such information.

There is plenty of reason to give credence to this information. It is an open secret that Ducati is interested in Lorenzo, Gigi Dall'Igna having been impressed with the Spaniard when they worked together in 250s, when Jorge Lorenzo won two titles for Aprilia, where Dall'Igna was boss. Then, last week, in an interview with the Italian website Quotidiano.net, former world champion Giacomo Agostini said that he was certain that Ducati, with backing from owners Audi, had made Lorenzo a "super offer". Whether it is €11 million, €15 million or €17 million, that would indeed qualify as a "super offer".

There is also good reason to believe that the money involved may well be €16 or €17 million. When Valentino Rossi signed with Ducati, his salary was rumored to be €15 million, paid for by tobacco giant Philip Morris. As part of the battle of egos – to creatures as competitive as MotoGP racers, what matters is not the precise size of the salary on offer, but rather whether it is larger or smaller than that of their rivals – it is entirely plausible that Lorenzo would want to be paid more than Rossi was.

It is certainly much more than Yamaha offered Lorenzo. Both Lorenzo and Lin Jarvis, boss of Yamaha Racing, described it as "the best offer of his career". An educated guess would put that in the region of €10 million, though that number is based on an increase over his current salary, rather than on information on sources. (Again, a word of warning on rider salaries is in order: even for well-informed paddock insiders, finding out actual salary figures is almost impossible. At best, we can make guesstimates based on rumors and reports from sources who can have their own, ulterior motives for supplying a particular number. Caveat emptor. And definitely do not trust lists of rider salaries which pop up on websites you have never heard of before.)

But can he win on it?

Money is all very well, of course, but as Valentino Rossi found out to his cost, it will not buy you a championship. The situation at Ducati is very different than when Rossi signed for the Italian factory. Rossi's failure to win a race on the Ducati resulted in new owners Audi bringing in new management to shake up the racing department, with former Aprilia Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna eventually being appointed.

Dall'Igna unleashed an internal revolution on the organization, which has vastly improved the functioning of Ducati Corse, which in turn has created a truly competitive Ducati Desmosedici MotoGP machine. Both Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso have been able to consistently put the bike on the podium, and run at the front. With one of the most successful racers of all time on board, the bike should be capable of winning races and championships. Test rider and former champion Casey Stoner certainly believes the bike is capable of winning, now that he has ridden the bike.

Lorenzo himself was cagey in the press conference in Argentina. "The situation is more or less the same," he said. "I think we have to concentrate on the next two races that are very important. And to be honest, I don't want to talk about it, I want to keep it private, and to decide in the next weeks." Whether he has signed a contract or not (we believe he has done, but we cannot know for certain), it is unlikely to be announced until the MotoGP circus returns to Europe. The publicity value of announcing a major signing at Jerez, for example, is immeasurably greater than it would be at either Termas de Rio Hondo or Austin. TV news crews are much more likely to travel to Jerez or Barcelona than they are to Argentina.

If Lorenzo departs Yamaha for Ducati, that opens up the most attractive seat on the grid to a younger rider. Yamaha's top target is almost certainly likely to be Maverick Viñales, and with the money freed up from Lorenzo's salary, they should easily be able to offer the young Spaniard a better package than Suzuki, in terms of both money and equipment. If they could then also persuade Alex Rins to take Pol Espargaro's seat in the Tech 3 team, then they would have double insurance for the future, with two riders who may have the potential to grow into race winners and champions.

Pons' scheme?

As for Pol Espargaro, there have been reports in recent days that he is to return to the bosom of the Pons team. German-language website Speedweek has reported that Sito Pons has been offered the last open grid slot in MotoGP for the 2017 season and beyond, bringing the grid back up to 24 riders in 2017, with KTM joining as a factory squad with Bradley Smith and another rider. (This is a change from their original plan, but then the series has changed since their decision to build a MotoGP machine, their idea to sell a production bike to Open Class teams obsolete.)

Which bike Pons might use is yet to be decided, but the rule changes, forcing each factory to make at least two bikes available to satellite teams, should they ask for them. The most obvious candidate to supply a bike to Pons would be Suzuki. Suzuki boss Davide Brivio has already spoken about the budget constraints of supplying a full two-bike satellite team, but having to support a single extra bike would be much more affordable. In addition, having the two Espargaro brothers on the Suzuki would be a huge boon, both in terms of publicity for Suzuki, and in terms of development. The two brothers, Pol and Aleix, are very close, and would work together very well, despite being in different teams.

For Sito Pons, a return to MotoGP is something which has been a long time in the making. Before the end of tobacco sponsorship, Pons was one of the top teams in the paddock, fielding such huge names as Alex Barros, Alex Crivillé, Carlos Checa and Loris Capirossi, and regularly winning races. Since his departure from MotoGP, the Pons team has been one of the top two or three Moto2 teams, winning a championship with Pol Espargaro, and hiring upcoming young talent like Alex Rins and Maverick Viñales. Pons is capable of putting together an exceptionally competent and competitive package, and should be a very strong force in the premier class.


Gathering the background information for long articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, buying the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2016 racing calendar, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.

Total votes: 133
Total votes: 148

Back to top

Comments

Will be very interesting if he moves, it would trigger some other movements as well. Although I don't these days particularly care for any of the riders personalities (besides the ever-modest but not quite there Pedrosa) I really hope Lorenzo does move and goes on to win his 5th premier class championship on it. That would be most entertaining! Looks like the new site is up David, well done.

Total votes: 142

If Jorge does go to Ducati that could be a pretty big ding in his aspirations for a title this year, especially if it comes down to another 46 vs 99 fight.  With the fully spec electronics that takes one out aspect of potential developments he could lose out on but with Michelin tires being an unknown throughout the year a new shock linkage, swingarm or chassis here and there would not be surprising for a contracted rider but maybe not for someone jumping ship.

Chris

Total votes: 131

The only way this would happen is if Yamaha had both first and second in the championship tied up like last year.  As much as Rossi is Yamaha's golden child, winning the championship is the most important thing tp Yamaha, and winning it with Rossi is a second.  Even then, they know that Rossi's years are numbered.  Whoever replaces JL will be given a lot of help, because they need to prove that any rider can win on their bike.

Total votes: 132

If true it'd be a little surprising that Lorenzo would make such a big decision so early in a major spec change year... You'd think he'd want to wait a few more races to see how the Ducati averages out.

Anyway, I hope it's true, I'd love to see him on a Ducati.

Total votes: 121

After Qatar I asked myself what might have happened if Lorenzo had been on a Ducati and Dovi on a Yamaha. The answer I gave myself is that Jorge would still have won... but by 20 seconds rtather than 2. Perhaps what Ducati is really missing is having an alien on top of their bike.

Total votes: 132

To wake up on Friday morning to this news. Even though Lorenzo has always flirted with Ducati whenever it's been time for his renewal, I always thought there could be more substance to it this time round. Reason being he is a 3 time world champion at Yamaha and yet he doesn't get the kind of respect or credit he deserves. When he crossed the flag at Valencia, all the talk was about how Rossi wasn't World Champion 2015 rather than Lorenzo was. Relationship was always going to become toxic when he was paired with Rossi back in 2013, it was only a matter of time. Also Yamaha's stance hasn't been of someone who is too bothered about losing arguably fastest rider on the grid, they made their offer, left the choice to Lorenzo to take it or leave it, then proceeded to re-sign an experienced veteran in Rossi who can aid development of M1.

For Lorenzo, Ducati is an opportunity to prove that he is the fastest rider in the world and not one trick pony who can only win on M1. He'll be endeared and respected at Ducati unlike at Yamaha where while he is respected he'll always remain in the shadows of Rossi. He's shown great mental resolve having competed for championships alongside such a popular rider but by now he must be sick of playing the pantomime villian and get unwarranted stick race after race. Even though bikes are completely different, switching to an Italian manufacturer who haven't won a race for 5 years (at this point of time) is a brave move. Rossi couldn't do it but it's a chance for Lorenzo to make his own legend to not only break the streak and win on it but while doing so have Italians rooting for him..... Oh how I love the silly season :-)

 
Total votes: 140

You sound a bit biased in your comment. It seems as though Yamaha mistreated Lorenzo... on the contrary! Look at the bigger picture : since the beginning they treated them equally... too equally to Valentino 's taste in fact he left for Ducati (I will not go into how JL behaved in those two years leading to VR departure IMO it was very disrespectful...) and when VR tail between the legs came back Yamaha did ask Lorenzo. And that's when the problem started: JL never ever thought that Valentino was going to be competitive again. That's why he accepted the deal. And then VR proved to be competitive.... very! That some of the people in the garage cheer for VR has nothing to do with Yamaha management. Both riders were treated equally. But I think they disliked Lorenzo involvement in last year's feud between MM and VR the rage and the self-righteousness shown in public by JL was bad. It's like in a family you do not wash your dirty laundry in public. Yes JL is very fast and they gave him the best offer they could but I don't think Yamaha will get on their knees to keep him if he wants to leave. They are preparing the future. From past experience they've learned that they cannot keep two top dogs in the same garage. The best bet is to bring a very promising "puppy" next to the very old dog .

Total votes: 141

It's that day of the year that I simply cannot believe in anything from this site. I felt victim too many times already...

Total votes: 124

I can't say I have been enamoured by Jorge the personality but if he has indeed signed for Ducati that will most definitly change! A move well worthy of respect.

It would be ironic however, if after spending all that money, it was one of the Andre's that won the championship for Ducati.

Total votes: 128

Truly David, this time, this year, you've truly outdone yourself.

Total votes: 122

I always wanted to see Marc go to ducati. He lost his chance to win on the old uncompetetive ducati like stoner. I think Marc could have been the only other rider to win big with ducati pre GP15. Now that the ducati is likely the best bike on the grid, whoever wins on it next won't get the same legendary status that Stoner rightfully earned. 

Total votes: 129

The concept of Lorenzo on a Ducati developed with the serious and recognised development input of Stoner - two of the only three riders who have denied Rossi a WC since 2009 - is just too amazing to not comment upon.  Rossi's paranoia would go thermonuclear.

Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Stoner had a noticeably sportsmanlike and mutual respect;  Parc Ferme in the years 2009 - 2011 were sometimes criticised as a 'love-in' between those three. The wins were shared;  the mutual respect at the end of a race - where most often, they were the three on the podium - was a credit to the sport.  Even when Stoner passed Lorenzo on the outside at Turn 1 at Laguna Seca 2011, which obviously rattled Lorenzo very considerably, he had no complaints - said it was 'dangerous', but not to imply Stoner had endangered him. 

2012: Pedrosa desperately needing a win to keep him in the chance for his first motoGp championship, Stoner not in contention due to his injuries,  Pedrosa goes down trying to keep ahead of Stoner.  His championship chances ended, right there.  Stoner was 65 points behind Pedrosa - impossible to fight for the WC - but did Pedrosa whinge about 'influencing the WC - should have backed off and let me by' etc.'? -NO he did not.

Only one of the five recognised 'aliens', (including Marquez) has a 'droit de signeur' mentality.  IF Lorenzo joins Ducati, I think there will be NO friction between Lorenzo and Stoner - and if Stoner rides a wildcard  with Lorenzo as Ducati #1 and ends up on the podium - expect a Tango in Parc Ferme.

 

 

 

 

Total votes: 129

"Pedrosa goes down trying to keep ahead of Stoner.  His championship chances ended, right there.  Stoner was 65 points behind Pedrosa - impossible to fight for the WC - but did Pedrosa whinge about 'influencing the WC - should have backed off and let me by' etc.'? -NO he did not."

It's pretty clear what you're trying to imply there: that Pedrosa handled a "situation" better than Rossi at the end of last year. As if that poor dead horse hasn't been beaten enough already.

But even worse than that, no one -- least of all Rossi -- was saying anyone should slow down and let him by. In fact, the accusation was always that "other riders" (MM specifically) should ride at the pace they are capable of, not slower. No matter which side of that argument you're on, the fact is you got your comparison with Pedrosa exactly 100% backwards.

Total votes: 128

No mention of Rossi was made.  The implication was in your mind.

As to last year, lots of people, especially Rossi fans, to include some of the commentators were coming right out and saying that it would be wrong to contest Rossi for positions.

From Rossi's performance this year at Qatar, it is clearly possible to be able to hang with a faster rider while being unable to pass or even challenge for position.

So, if you'll let the horse alone, the rest of us won't bother it.  We have the rest of the season ahead of us to enjoy.

Total votes: 116

This is an April Fool

Total votes: 119

Just noticed the date and time....  to quote the late and very much lamented Rick Mayall, you utter, utter, utter barstard.

Best one ever.

Total votes: 142

April fools or not, I can imagine Lorenzo meeting up with Stoner at a supercross round or up in the hills in Switzerland and a bit of talk about what you think of that bike.  

There's a strong mutual respect between these riders, while I'd be shocked if Lorenzo does move, Stoner's role to ride the bike and tell the world what he thinks of it, is to bait the hook.

Its the difference between any offers being promptly dismissed and attracting serious consideration. Stoner loves fishing, and part of his role here is to help land a big fish for Ducati, I guess the other way to describe it is 'brand ambassador'.

 

Total votes: 139

the ducati is NOT proven by any means. It has so far not bettered it's previous results since Stoner left and to say it's a real contender is just a way to play down any results that Lorenzo might get, just the usual ploy from fans of his biggest enemy, nothing new here.
And by the way, make no mistake Jorge is DEFINITELY going to ducati, he a principled guy who would never accept the gift of a Porsche Cayenne (owned by VW who also own Ducati remember!) if he didn't intend to accept the rest of the Italians offer.
I hope he kicks ass!

Total votes: 126

Not sure this is an April fool - see the "spec winglets" story for that one....

I would love to see Jorge on a Ducati, fingers crossed it happens.

Total votes: 130

agree, but that story was published later...

part of me is searching for the April Fools joke/section

I wasn't sure seen most April fools were quite obvious by the end, this one still was believable

 

Total votes: 130

This story was posted Thursday 31st March - I'm sure David wouldn't post an April Fool too early....

Total votes: 116

ehm, it wasn't to me: "Submitted by David Emmett on Fri, 2016-04-01 01:30". Where are you located? :)

Total votes: 119

For me - "Submitted by David Emmett on Thu, 2016-03-31 23:30". I am located in Sweden. We are in the CEST time zone (currently UTC+2), the same time zone as the Netherlands, where David Emmett lives.

Total votes: 130

I think I've figured out the source of this temporal confusion. Go to your account settings at <https://motomatters.com/user>, then click on "Edit" and scroll to the bottom of the page. There you will find "Locale settings", containing a time zone selector. My selection there is "+0200", corresponding to CEST. That's why I have "01:30" for publication time.

The default setting is probably UTC (aka GMT), which would make the publication time "23:30". Mystery solved. cool

Total votes: 122

This isn't the April Fool's story :)

This has been on the cards for a while - The friction between Rossi and Lorenzo is probably cuttable with a knife at the moment and the verbal snipes have been great (Rossi "It will take balls to swtich to Ducati, so he will stay with Yamaha")

:)

Total votes: 122

Could this early silly season be because of Maverick?

Yamaha wants to sign him, but not more than they want to sign Rossi (competitive, multiple world champion, strong branding) or Lorenzo (multiple, and current, world champion).
Ducati wants to sign him, but not more than they want to sign Lorenzo (same reasons as above) or one of the Andreas (probably Iannone - italian, competitive, hopefully hasn't reached peak).

The first obstacle to signing Maverick, for those teams, is knowing where Lorenzo ends up, and this could be the reason why contracts have already been offered to Lorenzo (as well as Rossi and perhaps Iannone too).

Btw, this shouldn't be an april fool's joke, as the article was posted on the 31st.

Total votes: 130

Maybe it's an 01/04 joke, maybe not.... Iirc Crash ran the Agostini story that David mentioned...

But joke or not... Maybe...

If JL is considering a move, I guess it has to be Ducati... He perhaps has a repsol honda offer to consider too, but the bike is probably not such an attractive package...

I guess it comes down to what JL wants...  to be a rider with a lot of championships Vs a rider who perhaps won with different manufactures

PERSONALLY I don't see that much of a 'Rossi angle' to his decision... Anyone except the most blinkered Rossi fans can see JL is at the time of writing, the faster rider, winning 3 titles during a period that VR won none.

If JL tuly cares about 'sticking it to VR' (and I doubt he is, I'd speculate that he considers he's already nailed than one) then it makes far more sense to stay at Yamaha and keep beating VR on the same bike, or even stay with Yamaha into his 30s are try and win more titles than VR (which is really quite doable for him)

We will have to wait and see... But whether he stays or goes, either way... Everything's coming up Millhouse (sic) for the bloke :-)

FWIW IMO... The most credible part of this rumour is that VR seems to have developed a sudden interest in Vinales.. Starting the mind games early or just covering off the possibility...?

Total votes: 133

The best April fools joke has a grain of truth. Clever link to viable rumors, and it has a air of a late night of drinking to come up with this idea.

Total votes: 132

he was very cagey during the press con when asked about the Ducati offer.

I think he's gonna change marques

Total votes: 127

You mentioned in the case of Lorenzo going and Vinales taking his spot that Rins would offered Pol's seat, not Smith's which is already vacant for 2017. Do you think Tech 3/Yamaha already have someone lined up for Smith's bike?

Total votes: 136

The reason I differentiate between Pol's bike and Smith's bike is because of who gets to choose a rider. As part of Tech 3's deal with Yamaha, the factory has the right to put a rider on one of the bikes. They did so with Ben Spies, and they did so with Pol Espargaro, and with Cal Crutchlow as well, I believe. If Alex Rins goes to Tech 3, it will be as a factory Yamaha rider with a factory contract. That means that Rins will take the seat now held by Espargaro, who also has a factory Yamaha contract for this year.

Hervé Poncharal gets to choose one rider, and with Bradley Smith gone, that means he is looking for a rider to fill that vacancy. Every time I speak to Poncharal, he mentions Jonas Folger's name repeatedly. There is a good chance Folger will be at Tech 3. 

Total votes: 140

Factory:

Vale/Vinales

Tech3: 

Rins/Folger

Thought this was the story for the fool on the hill.  Still putting my bet that he stays.  Just to stick it to VR.

Total votes: 128

Isi it really an April Fool joke? David wrothe the article in March 31st. It it's right then you got our heart beating really fast, and if it's true then I will be somehow disappointed. I am hoping that Lorenzo stays, it'll be really good to see someone beating Rossi on the same machinery (again). I also hope that Maverick stays to prove what he and the Zuzuki are capable of

Total votes: 132

I  always thought that the silly season was very much like the jokes on All Fools Day. So really it does not matter. What I like best is Sir David is sitting and reading these comments about is it or is it not but not showing any inclination to clarify what it really is. The fact that he has put links to Asphalt and Rubber Jensen Beeler wrote that on 30-3-2016 and Speedweek did it on 29-3-2016 so it's all not balderdash. Considering that the Reverend Emmett was changing to the Drupal platform and announced that he will resume normal service by Thursday which happened to be the 31st of March (the time of writing could possibly have something to do with the things that Lord David Emmet does on a daily basis), I think the Ist of April is probably just a huge coincidence.

Total votes: 113