Silly Season Explodes In Austria: Could Jorge Lorenzo Take Jack Miller's Place At Pramac Ducati?

You would think, with only two riders not yet signed up for 2020, and both of those (Jack Miller and Takaaki Nakagami) saying they are just working out the details, that there would not be much drama over contracts in the MotoGP paddock. Things are not quite the same in the WorldSBK paddock, where Alvaro Bautista's reign of terror has come to a very premature end, opening all sorts of speculation for the 2020 season.

Those two strands are starting to come together after Brno, amplified by moves in Moto2 and WorldSBK. The rumors are flying, some more sensible than others. And many of them are very much in the category of insanity.

At the core of these rumors is Jorge Lorenzo, and his extended absence from the MotoGP paddock due to the injuries sustained in his crashes at the Barcelona test and practice at Assen. Since then, the rumor mill has gone into overdrive, with questions over whether Lorenzo will continue with Repsol Honda or try to do something else. Over the summer break, there were rumors he would retire, and the latest rumor has him going back to Ducati in some form or another.

Where it started

The rumors appear to have some basis in truth. They first appeared on the GPOne.com website, where rider manager Carlo Pernat, in conversation with Paolo Scalera and Matteo Aglio of Italian website GPOne.com, noted that Lorenzo's manager had been spotted talking to Ducati management at Brno.

This sparked speculation that Lorenzo could be heading back to Ducati, taking the seat of Jack Miller in the Pramac team. This comes on top of reliable reports that Jorge Lorenzo phoned Gigi Dall'Igna after Barcelona, offering to ride for free.

Speaking to the press at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, Jack Miller confirmed that the rumors had some basis in fact. "I think that there is some truth to the rumors about Lorenzo," the Australian admitted. "For sure, he's looking at something because at the moment he can't ride that Honda. It's easy to tuck your tail between your legs and run back."

"They're adamant they want me"

The Lorenzo rumors would explain why he did not have a signed contract with Ducati. It was certainly a thought which had occurred to Miller. " I think that Pramac love me, want to keep me, most people in Ducati want to keep me," he said. "I've got to make sense of why we're in Austria, quite well into the second half of the season and I still haven't signed a contract with two podiums under my belt."

The hold up was not with Pramac, Miller said. "I've had multiple meetings with Pramac, I was face timing Paolo this morning too and he's adamant that they're keeping me. I'm not stressed but I'll have to wait and see. I think they're pretty adamant they don't want him [Jorge Lorenzo] either."

Terms had already been agreed with Pramac, but the contract was stuck with Ducati, Miller seemed to imply. "Pramac has agreed to everything they've been asked to agree but a contract hasn't arrived yet. We'll wait and see, but all I can do is keep doing my best. This is my first year on the latest material in MotoGP and this is the most competitive era of MotoGP and I've already scored two podiums this year, and been in front of the other guys on multiple occasions. I feel that I've being doing everything I can do in order get myself a job. I'm not stressed at all."

Where was the hold up? "Nearly everybody in Ducati wants to keep me. Some people have fond memories." Miller hinted.

History

Who is it that has fond memories? Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna has a long history of working with Jorge Lorenzo, all the way back to his days at Aprilia and Derbi. It was Dall'Igna who was instrumental in persuading Ducati to sign Lorenzo, though he was unable to persuade Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali to hold on to the Spaniard.

A Lorenzo return to Ducati would come at some personal cost, however. Jorge Lorenzo would have to swallow some pride to go and ride for a satellite team (though a team with full factory support), but it would be much more painful for Claudio Domenicali. The Ducati CEO was opposed to Lorenzo's arrival from the start, and criticized Lorenzo throughout his stay with Ducati. It was comments by Domenicali which eventually convinced Lorenzo that he would not have his contract renewed at Ducati.

Domenicali might be able to reconcile himself to signing Lorenzo if it allowed him to appease Gigi Dall'Igna, though. Dall'Igna believes that Ducati is very close to being able to win a championship, but they need the right rider to be able to beat Marc Márquez. Once Lorenzo mastered the Desmosedici at Mugello last year, he pushed Márquez very hard, winning three races to Márquez' two, and finishing ahead of him four times in seven races. Of all the riders currently in MotoGP, Lorenzo is the only rider with a legitimate claim to being able to beat Marc Márquez.

No to WorldSBK

If Lorenzo were to move to Ducati, where would that leave Jack Miller? There have been some rumors linking Miller to WorldSBK. The Australian was dismissive of that idea, however. "I've not thought about WorldSBK," Miller told us. "It's not crossed my mind. I've started going well here and I've not thought about leaving."

The rumors link Miller to Alvaro Bautista's seat in the factory Aruba.it Ducati team, but that move seems unlikely. Though Bautista is believed to be close to agreeing terms with Honda to race for them in WorldSBK, there are strong indications that Scott Redding is ready to make the move to WorldSBK with Ducati. He had originally been linked to the SMR BMW squad, but was unable to buy his way out of his PBM contract in BSB. Ducati is in a much stronger position to do that, however.

If Miller isn't going to WorldSBK, where could he end up? The obvious answer is Repsol Honda – Jorge Lorenzo's departure would open up a vacancy there, and there were rumors of Miller moving to Repsol Honda for this year, too. Miller underperformed on the Honda originally, but the Australian has made a lot of progress as a rider since then. The Honda is also a considerably easier bike to ride now than the 2016-spec bike he had in 2017.

Going Orange With Red Bull

There is another intriguing option, however. Johann Zarco's continuing struggles on the KTM are also constantly feeding rumors of an imminent split. Zarco seems as unable to get his head around the KTM RC16 as Jorge Lorenzo has been to understand the Honda RC213V. If Zarco were to decide to leave KTM, that would open up a vacancy for a rider with strong Red Bull ties. Jack Miller has been a Red Bull athlete for many years, and would be a natural fit in the factory KTM team.

The question is, of course, whether Repsol Honda would let Jorge Lorenzo go. While Lorenzo has not been competitive on the RC213V, the Japanese factory may not be inclined to allow the Spaniard to leave to a factory he has proven he can win with. However, they might not necessarily be able to prevent him. Though we have no way of knowing what is in Lorenzo's contract, if he has a performance contract in there, there seems every chance he is underperforming the targets set in his contract. That may also include a clause allowing Jorge Lorenzo to cut his losses with his current lot of results.

Filling the void

And if they did let Lorenzo go, who would take his seat in Repsol Honda? Jack Miller is a possible answer. Could they move Cal Crutchlow up from the LCR Honda team? Would they get Alex Márquez in to race alongside his brother (there are rumors that Marc would prefer to have his brother on easy-to-ride Yamaha, seeing the success of Johann Zarco and Fabio Quartararo after jumping on the M1)? Could they just plump for Stefan Bradl for a season, and trust in Marc Márquez to win in 2020 until the market opens up for the 2021 season?

How much of this is just speculation and how much will actually come to pass? There are legitimate grounds to believe that talks are going on behind the scenes which could see Jorge Lorenzo move to Pramac Ducati. Does that mean that any of this will actually happen? It is very hard to say. But we were not expecting to see excitement in the 2020 silly season. And it looks now as if the world has gone crazy.


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Source: 
year: 
2019
Total votes: 21
Total votes: 67

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Comments

Wow.  I think the key point is Lorenzo and Gigi's relationship.   That supercedes anything else in regards to this.  It's either Lorenzo making lots of phone calls and conspiring Big Brother style, or just fodder since there is no silly season bantering as it has in the past during this timeframe.  Very interesting sheot.

Total votes: 11

1st glance at the headline, the thought was "why are we even thinking about this rubbish?!" But then reading a bit and pondering...this could be going on.

Less just a push away from Lorenzo about the Honda bike, and more the other dynamics. Ducati sees Dovisioso's charge having come to a crescendo. Gigi NEEDS an overdog rider, NOW. Who could it possibly be that could come onboard at the end of the season and make their 2020 campaign take pointy shape? For few hams even? That had actually SHOWN that they could win on that bike? And has dominated races in the past? A champion? That is very hungry?

For sure Ducati could very much want Lorenzo now. Gigi gets what he wants within the organization. A solid case can be made.

For Jorge at Honda, he has experienced this bike. It is a pain in the arse that disregards attempts at smoothness, demands rough over-riding, and offers inconsistent vague front end feel. Regardless of particular reasons, he is having a dramatically shite go on it this season. For Lorenzo, he has had plenty taste of the bike, and it is bitter.

Performance clauses are a two way street for top riders changing bikes. A prenuptial agreement. Jorge could well have a "walk away" clause.

Jorge has been in transition for a while, and yet to settle in. What he IS hooked in to? His will to win. His unparalleled lifelong imperative to cultivate skills and method to be the best in racing has a life of its own. That now is his time to get back at the front, he must. Jorge doesn't have a drive to win in MotoGP...it has HIM.

What is Repsol Honda like for Jorge? Built around Marc. Everything about it. Less a personal pride, more a calculation of potential, where is he seeing his chances best? That is where he will go if at all possible. Then pride, yes, at the results and legacy, not the short term personal who said whats.

Does Honda need him? Nope. How much weight does keeping him off of a competitor's bike hold relatively? Not much. Why? It is a horse trade...Miller or Zarco may just plain be much more attractive. Trying to keep a rider inclined to leave is an inherently losing proposition (remember Melandri at Aprilia?).

Has Jorge Lorenzo endeared himself to Honda? Or anyone besides his own parents? He demands respect, and this currency is results. It is an honest and straightforward way of doing things, and he knows no other.

It is very possible.

(Oh how I would LOVE to see him AND Ducati thriving to potential together. And Zarco on the Honda?! And Jack Miller gets his factory ride in Orange, on a bike that suits a style JUST like his rather than all those Yamaha folks? Are you kidding people?!?! Is it Christmas?)

Total votes: 25

I feel bad for Jack Miller.  He is proving his worth on that Ducati, fresh off a deserved podium, considered a contender for the factory seat early in the year (Petrux kept it) and now having to grapple with losing his seat entirely because of a capricious Lorenzo.  It would be a damn shame if Pramac lost such a committed partner due to a veto from the factory and had to manage Lorenzo.  

Total votes: 21

Why would this be good for Ducati?

Because they have, arguably, produced a championship winning bike the last 3 years. Dovi is a great rider and he is very intellectual and analytical, but what Ducati needed was an elite rider to TAKE the championship away from Marquez. 

Dovi lacks that last half tenth in pace, and he won’t stab his competitors in the eye with a foot peg in order to win the way that Marquez, Lorenzo and Rossi would. Lorenzo complains when he gets stood up, but he has never hesitated turn a blind eye and throw his bike wherever he wants to on the track. 

What Dovi has benefited from the last few years is a great bike that on certain tracks, has been dominant. True, the bike doesn’t turn as well as the other bikes, but the fact that it has won so many races with multiple riders...more than any other bike bar the one ridden by Marquez...is testament to what it has been. 

For Lorenzo, that stretch of races when he got hot last year, he was stomping Dovi and he was just starting to gel with the bike, and he had more wins and points than Marquez over that stretch...and then he got hurt. 

I think Ducati should fight hard to get JL99 back. If not, then they will be waiting for either Marquez to make big mistakes or for Honda to completely fluff the bike, in order for Dovi to finish ahead. And there is other competition coming too. 

Listening to Dovi explain how Marquez was able to beat him last weekend, braking later, and how Marquez is able to slide both wheels into the corners while the Ducati just can’t do that...it was great to listen to because not everyone responds to questions with such great detail...but that same ultra deep analysis also gave a sense for where that last half tenth is missing...in his analytical mind that doesn’t disconnect the way some of the others guys do.

I hope Ducati get Lorenzo and make a real run at the championship. Otherwise it could be a waste of a great opportunity for a championship, and while watching Marquez ride a bike never gets boring, watching him dominate another championship in 2020 when it could be prevented certainly would be. 

We need somebody to truly challenge Marquez!!

Total votes: 29

Amen Marc1's
In addition to the content shared by Dovi in the presser was showing that this was it. No more expected. A surrender. At a track Ducati can excell at. Against a far from perfect Honda. The fight has left him. That IS the last several tenths evaporating.

We can't crystal ball a dominant result from Jorge in Red. That he won't suffer from bogey-trackitis. That he can match Marc. We know where he is at and the situation. But we CAN crystal ball that for 2020 it looks like a good thing given options and context. And that a charging Lorenzo is fun, and a stalled Ducati program isn't. More goes on. It could energize and motivate a whole bunch of people in various places.

Excited to watch the musical chairs and possibilities unfold. Little need to make things personal or short term. Even scrappy Jack will be ok (getting either Zarco or Cal's seats would be JUST fine, and we can let go of his deserving the seat that Petrucci grabbed etc). I think it is good.

Total votes: 18

Marquez pulled away from Dovi in Sunday's race by sliding both tires while braking for the turns. He beat Dovi on the brakes and Dovi is considered one of the best on the brakes in Motogp. What would Lorenzo have done differently on a factory spec Ducati if he were racing for Pramac last weekend? Marquez admitted he was risking some on the brakes and while entering the turns, but he was willing to take the risk because of his points advantage. He really knows how to hammer the competition. I saw Dovizioso as matter-of-fact but not resigned in the post race press interviews. He's a realist and would rather finish second than crash.

I do not see Lorenzo winning the championship next year on a factory spec Pramac Ducati. It would be his third team in five seasons. He's leery of mixed conditions. Marquez has been with his team for the better part of a decade and he excells on any track condition. Honda has the budget to give him what he wants. And Marquez' talent is unequalled. He looks to be in the form of his life with incredible support. If anything, Lorenzo on a Ducati may motivate Dovizioso more like it did when Lorenzo was his teammate. At best Lorenzo would come second in the championship next year. He was a crasher when he graduated to the premier class in 2008 and the last 12 months reminded us of this fact. He may very well crash himself into retirement.

Total votes: 16

I have been predicting since early in the season that Lorenzo might go back to Ducati. With that bit of preening out of the way: I would love to see Jack Miller at Repsol Honda. But I think if Lorenzo is to go, Honda would probably bring in some of the newer blood, and there is no shortage of it around. 

There doesn't seem to be any talk that Bagnaia might get elbowed out at Pramac to be replaced by Lorenzo, which would allow Jack to stay. I guess Pecco's contract situation must be pretty secure?

It would be a travesty if Jack couldn't find a decent seat. He deserves it, and the MotoGP following in Australia would suffer a lot. Ducati losing him would be a massive waste for them too.

Crutchlow deserves a shot at the Honda but he's too old and been around too long, unfortunately for him. I get the impression he doesn't mind where he's at anyway, if a little frustrated by the machinery at times. 

Total votes: 4

If Lorenzo stays at Honda I think they should take a leaf out of the past and set up a stand alone works supported team, similar to the one Lawson had with Kanemoto when he swapped from Yamaha. This would take Lorenzo out of the Marquez shadow and allow independent development of the Honda to suit Lorenzo. Some big changes would be required!

Total votes: 7

I imagine that if HRC thinks Lorenzo moving to Ducati could be a threat to Marquez' domination, they won't let him out of his contract. I'd also have to imagine that if there are Lorenzo/Ducati talks then he must have an out clause built into the contract otherwise it's pretty pointless. I do understand Ducati's interest in Lorenzo but it's still a swift kick in the nuts to Miller since he had thought everything was set for next year and was just working on the final details.

Miller deserves a GP ride - right now he's the top independent rider even though he has 1 more DNF than the 2 guys right behind him (Crutchlow & Quartararo) and 2 podiums with another 3 top 5s - he's definitely made a step forward this year. I don't see him wanting to ride the Honda or go to WorldSBK, but if he has no choice I assume he'd choose Honda for a 1 year deal so he could find another ride when  all the contracts are up at the end of 2020. 

Total votes: 10

This makes a certain sort of sense. Lorenzos a potential/proven winner. Dovi, Petrux or Miller aren't champions or look like becoming champions. He'll ride for nothing. What have Ducati, Domenicalli aside got to lose? 

Total votes: 11

If any of this is true:

It's funny, but this reeks of an infatuation between a couple of characters more than any sensible decision making.

Let's assume that JL still has all the earlier capability - noting his last couple of outlings for Repsol this would go down as extraordinarily generous ('rookie mistake...') but still let's try it. Best case scenario, at least going by recent history, is that he reappears at Ducati and then struggles to adapt for, what another 12-18 months? He may in time pull off another stellar result or two - but in so doing the more consistent Ducati riders will only have their competitiveness challenged and, let's be honest, the development program aligned to JL.

If anyone can explain to me the logic of pairing the most corner speed reliant rider on the most corner speed resistant bike, they would be welome to try, but let's not pretend that this combination will ever challenge MM.

From what has been reported and the word of individuals concerned this will mightily annoy Pramac and virtually everybody else concerned. If one favours individuals over the team, beyond the level of rational respect for performance, then one simply buggers up the entire enterprise. Might end up with all three, or will that be four, riders ignoring team orders, before this is over.

 

 

 

Total votes: 10

Don't discount economic/performance pressure from Ducati sponsors Marlboro. Since the implosion of the Mission Winnow bullshit, Marlboro might just be cranking up the pressure for winning now! Executives make desperate moves when they have made bad decisions. Ducati has a history of bad personnel decisions (Melandri?). Who else can take it to MM immediately? Pecco?

Total votes: 5

but it does not repeat. JL can ride the Ducati and his results were not the result of anything but hard work. It would be a crazy move but he was pushed  more than he jumped.

Miller would be the victim but maybe Petrucci will take a big payday and return to Pramac with a factory deal?

Miller could be good at KTM but is HRC ever going to want Zarco? Petronas more likely.

Total votes: 8