MotoGP Silly Season After Le Mans: Mir In, Lorenzo Out?

At the beginning of the year, I predicted that MotoGP's Silly Season this year would change the face of the MotoGP grid beyond recognition. The revolution I predicted looks like it is coming to pass, but as with every prediction, the changes happening are beyond even what I had expected. Young talent is coming into the series - Joan Mir, Miguel Oliveira - big names are changing bikes - Johann Zarco, Andrea Iannone - and a couple of major names face being left without a ride altogether.

A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks. Contracts have been signed with Andrea Dovizioso, Johann Zarco, Aleix Espargaro, Alex Rins, Miguel Oliveira, and Pol Espargaro, adding to the contracts signed earlier in the year with Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales, Marc Marquez, and Pecco Bagnaia. With Cal Crutchlow, Franco Morbidelli, and Xavier Simeon already having a contract, there are thirteen seats officially taken for next year. Ducati have an option on Jack Miller - and look certain to exercise it - making it fourteen riders in a strong position. And Taka Nakagami looks very likely to keep his seat at LCR Honda.

But the big news is what happens at Suzuki, Ducati, and Repsol Honda. Rumors that Joan Mir would sign for Suzuki grew very strong at Le Mans, as I wrote on Friday, and now appear to be taking shape. The reliable Spanish journalist Mela Chercoles is reporting in sports daily AS that Joan Mir has signed a two-year deal with Suzuki, which will see him line up alongside Alex Rins for the next two years.

The choice of Mir over either Jorge Lorenzo or Andrea Iannone is the decision of Suzuki bosses in Japan, rather than the team manager Davide Brivio. After a difficult year with Iannone, where both results and PR efforts had disappointed, Japanese bosses decided to choose youth over experience. The pairing of the 22-year-old Rins with the 20-year-old Mir will make them the youngest factory team on the grid, though 2019 will be Rins' third year in the championship, which should be sufficient experience to build a development program on. Mir is exceptionally highly regarded by MotoGP teams, and had interest from both Honda and Ducati. The arrival of Mir means Iannone will be pushed out to Aprilia.

Mir signing with Suzuki leaves Jorge Lorenzo in a very difficult spot. The paddock had been treating Lorenzo's switch to Suzuki as a done deal, as several sources were indicating that a deal was close throughout testing and the early season. But Suzuki's Japanese bosses decided otherwise, and now Lorenzo's only realistic option is Ducati. 

The problem for Lorenzo is that Ducati's patience with the Spaniard is wearing very thin indeed. Lorenzo was brought in to Ducati as a three-time MotoGP champion, and a rider ready to take Ducati to wins and a world championship, and he was paid accordingly. Yet it has been Dovizioso who did what Lorenzo was expected to do, while Lorenzo has struggled to adapt to the Desmosedici, much as Valentino Rossi did before him (though it bears pointing out that the current Ducati is a far better bike than the one Rossi rode in 2011 and 2012).

The language being used by Ducati management is much more negative about Lorenzo than it has been previously. "If this chemistry doesn’t start to work at the level we expect, which is fighting for winning races, fighting for podiums, then I don’t think it’s a good idea to continue," Ducati Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti told Neil Morrison for Crash.net. And at a presentation of the Ducati Scrambler Food Factory in Bologna, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali echoed that sentiment, adding that Andrea Dovizioso was the rider Ducati regarded as leading the factory effort, and his teammate would be a rider "we are currently talking to and who will come into the team to work in a measured and balanced way."

Where does this leave Jorge Lorenzo? It is looking increasingly like the Spaniard will find himself without a ride for 2019. Lorenzo has offers, but they are financially at a much lower level, with a very large element of reward via bonuses. That is not how Lorenzo regards himself, believing his MotoGP titles mean he has already proven his value. But the racing maxim that you are only ever as good as your last race seems to be holding true at this point.

Could Dorna step in to aid Lorenzo? Possibly. It is not unknown. Dorna commonly helps out riders it wants to keep in the championship, and is believed to have played a role in mediating a place for Valentino Rossi at Yamaha after his time at Ducati. But again, this will only be possible if Lorenzo is willing to take a step down financially, and in terms of status. An entirely hypothetical option is for Lorenzo to take one ride at Marc VDS once they switch to Yamaha next year, as they are expected to do.

If Lorenzo is out at Ducati, the Bologna factory is expected to promote either Danilo Petrucci or Jack Miller. The two Pramac Ducati riders have both been impressive this year, and in an echo of 2016, are engaged in a battle over supremacy in the Pramac team, which would offer promotion to the factory team.

The signing of Joan Mir marks some relief for Dani Pedrosa. Alberto Puig had been keen to get rid of Pedrosa and replace him with a younger rider. But first KTM signed Johann Zarco, and then Suzuki snatched Joan Mir from under his nose. Puig may want to take a risk on Franco Morbidelli, but so far the Italian has struggled with the Honda, as all rookies of recent vintage have done. So keeping Pedrosa for a year may be Honda's best option.

The moves so far bode ill for a number of MotoGP regulars. Scott Redding and Bradley Smith look to be out of MotoGP as of this moment, and Alvaro Bautista may also lose his ride at the Angel Nieto Team unless his results improve, and especially if another young rider comes up from Moto2.

There is one more wildcard which could be added to the Silly Season puzzle, and that is Jonathan Rea. According to the estimable Mat Oxley, his manager Chuck Aksland was present in Le Mans. Rea would very much like to make the jump across to MotoGP, but the man who is dominating in WorldSBK will only do so if the conditions are right. That means a ride on a competitive bike with a factory or factory-backed team, and of those, only the seats at Repsol Honda and Factory Ducati are available, with a possibility at Pramac Ducati if Miller wins the factory seat. Rea's problem is that no matter how much he deserves such a shot, the team bosses do not seem inclined to give him one. That is a tragedy for both MotoGP and WorldSBK.

The list of signings and rumors in MotoGP for 2019 and beyond is below:

Movistar Yamaha    
Valentino Rossi Yamaha M1 2020
Maverick Viñales Yamaha M1 2020
     
Repsol Honda    
Marc Márquez Honda RC213V 2020
Dani Pedrosa? Honda RC213V 2019?
     
Ecstar Suzuki    
Alex Rins Suzuki GSX-RR 2020
Joan Mir? Suzuki GSX-RR 2020?
     
Gresini Aprilia    
Aleix Espargaro Aprilia RS-GP 2020
Andrea Iannone? Aprilia RS-GP 2020?
     
KTM Factory    
Johann Zarco KTM RC16 2020
Pol Espargaro KTM RC16 2020
     
Factory Ducati    
Andrea Dovizioso Ducati GP19 2020
Danilo Petrucci/Jack Miller? Ducati GP19  
     
     
Pramac Ducati    
Pecco Bagnaia Ducati GP19? 2020
Jack Miller? Ducati GP19 2019?
     
LCR Honda    
Cal Crutchlow Honda RC213V 2019
Takaaki Nakagami? Honda RC213V  
     
Tech3 KTM    
Miguel Oliveira KTM RC16 2019
Hafizh Syahrin? KTM RC16  
     
Marc VDS    
Franco Morbidelli Yamaha M1? 2019
?? Yamaha M1?  
     
Angel Nieto Team    
?? Ducati GP18  
?? Ducati GP18  
     
Avintia Ducati    
Xavier Simeon Ducati GP17? 2019
??    

Riders / bikes in italics are rumored, but not officially confirmed yet. Seats marked with question marks are still completely open and unknown at this time.


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Total votes: 32
Total votes: 85

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Comments

So if Ducati picked Miller over Petrucci, could we see Danilo, Iannone and Lorenzo all fighting for the open Aprilia seat? Lorenzo, maybe with Monster money, finishing his career where he won his first world championship? Or are they more desperate to have a fellow Italian on board?

What an incredible situation it is unfolding.

Total votes: 28

I can't see Ducati taking Miller over Petrucci for the factory seat, it seems more likely Miller will inherit Petrucci's 'factory +1' bike if he keeps performing well on the Ducati. Petrux seems to gel with the Desmo pretty nicely, so having two riders that 'get' the bike and happen to be Italians will please Ducati, plus he's a much calmer head than Iannone ever was.

But then I was certain Zarco would end up replacing Pedrosa.

Total votes: 25

Don't weep for Lorenzo...,   I'm sure he would be just fine sitting out unless he gets the $'s he wants. 

Total votes: 19

... Factory ride is utterly bizarre. Who could've seen that coming a year ago? I for one thought there was no way he would suffer as Rossi suffered on the now-winning Ducati. I hope he gets a competitive bike for next year, a Marc VDS M1 sounds ideal all things considered. 

The lack of interest in Rea is indeed a tragedy for two whole championships. His composure and racecraft are amongst the best in any championship, unfortunately those same talents are bringing WSBK to its knees. 

Within reason, could Dorna step-in to facilitate his transition with a viable MotoGP team?

Seems it's an almost critical situation: determental to one championship that he moves on, while hugely beneficial to the other by bringing a fresh face from somewhere that's not Moto2 or 3.

If he does stay in WSBK, Dorna better hope the Ducati V4 is a real contender...

Total votes: 29

Pipe dream I know; however, somebody has to take the fight to Johnny Rea - and seriously push him for Race wins, and his 5th WSBK championship.

Total votes: 19

I would think that he'd rather sit a year and contemplate a retirement playing with his motorsport collection before ridng in WSBK as that is surely "beneath" his ostensible level, no?

Total votes: 24

Lorenzo to take a paycut and sign a one year extension with Ducati makes the most sense. Sucks for Petrucci who deserves the factory seat (no idea why Miller is floating around, a rider almost as overrated as Redding).

Total votes: 50

(though it bears pointing out that the current Ducati is a far better bike than the one Rossi rode in 2011 and 2012)

I wish this platitude would stop being repeated. Rossi and Burgess inherited a race winning bike from Stoner, they had whatever they asked for, new frames, new engines, electronics, Ducati rebuilt the bike from the ground up and they still couldn't make it win. If it really was that bad it's because they built it that way, which is no excuse.

The 2018 bike is certainly better than the 2012 bike, but the 2018 Honda and Yamaha are better then the 2012 models too (although Rossi might not agree), nobody has stood and waited for Ducati.

It's very clear that the Ducatis require the rider to adapt to the bike (and that monstrous engine) and not the other way round. Stoner did it, Iannone, Dovi and Petrucci have done it, Rossi couldn't and tried to force the bike to be adapted to him, Lorenzo looks stuck in the same boat.

With that it's a surprise that nobody seems to want Lorenzo, Rossi hopped back on the Yamaha and was competitive again. It's not like riding a bike that doesn't suit the rider diminishes the rider's ability anymore than trying to dance in shoes that don't fit makes the dancer suddenly talentless.

I can see Yamaha finding an extra bike for him somehow, giving him a Crutchlow or Petrucci like deal. Assuming he can reign in his ego and take the pay cut that will come with it.

Total votes: 80

Stoner left Ducati once he realized they were only so keen to listen to him (he has said as much), by which point the competion had risen to the occasion. Casey's often-absurd top speed advantage had been mitigated, everyone was on Bridgestones and no amount of physics-bending was going to get him around the fact that the chassis was simply too inferior to the M1 and RCV of his final Ducati years. So began his crashes and declineing results.

Yes, once Rossi & Burgess came along and realized how awful it was, Ducati agreed to build him a traditional alum-beam frame. Of which, they had little knowledge about developing, like at all. The relationship predictably (in hindsight) failed to produce returns since Ducati now had a mountain to climb going now from trellis, to frameless, and finally to twin-spar aluminum.

Its pretty clear Ducati only really got their head out of their a** once they hired Gigi to clean house and restructure the program. Jorge is racing in a completely different era of the Italian company compared to Rossi's time there.

Total votes: 57

agent,

does ducati actually create the frame ridden by dovi, et al ?

Total votes: 15

Interesting drama. Strange to so see how fast top riders are bumped away when they do not have the luck to perform a year. It is good in one way, but it also has very bad consequences. In future, no star will be prepared to make such a jump like Lorenzo did since it can be your exit from motogp and racing at all. 

I like to see Jonathan Rea on a Motogp bike again. It is a drama that there is no interest at all. But I can imagine that teamowners do not want to take the risk. Undeniable fast on the superbikes, his riding style looks still a bit lazy and stiff... It is probably what a superbike needs to go fast, but i with all respect I cannot see him dragging elbows on a superlight bike

I think with the amount of talent in moto2 and WSBK spoilt there is room for another prototype class with a higher profile than moto2 and a step up or down from motogp. Maybe electric bikes?

 

Total votes: 21

could jorge be convinced to make a move to the electric series ?

seems a perfect fit to me. 

huge visibility for the series, smooth as glass rider, technical feedback on bike/tires, enough money banked so as to not worry about the future, benchmark for the series to see how fast they REALLY are?

com'n jorge/dorna, make it happen.

Total votes: 19

As Manuel Pecino wrote in his article this week.  Stay at Ducati and ride for bonuses only as Dovi did 2 years ago. Look where Dovi is now. I would hate for Lorenzo to leave the championship.  If he stays, Petrux to Aprilia and Iannone to....Kawasaki WSBK? IDK. 

Rea should slot into Repsol Honda too. 

Total votes: 21

If anyone from Dorna is reading, please pay Kawasaki whatever Jonny Rea's release clause is, and grease the palms of Honda by an equal amount. Both race series' will benefit enormously.

Total votes: 36

Was never a fan to begin with but as the years have passed he has quickly climbed the ranks of my fav riders (yes, I still have favorite riders). Was really worried this will be the year Honda moves on but it just doesn't seem appropriate right now. He's had a few tough breaks early (though I suppose that is most years for him) but he's riding so bravely right now and putting in good results. Secondly he has to be without a doubt the best possible teammate for MM93.

When did this whole Pedrosa-Puig drama start? Aren't they both kind of responsible for the others success?

Total votes: 24

I'd like to see Dani retire and Jorge fail miserably in his spot before leaving for good.  It's time for new stars to come forward and challenge MM.

Total votes: 27

I think I'm right in saying that Jorge's woes began to develop with the switch to Michelin tyres, along withe several others who it looks as though we will be saying goodbye to at the end of this year? It's sad but unfortunately that's the way the sport has been set up over the past few years and if you can't adapt to the control tyre, you are in the wrong paddock!

Total votes: 18

Can you imagine the response from Crutchlow if Rea got a Repsol Ride, not likely, but crazy things can happen.

Total votes: 27

Rea, Rea, Rea... He was too old 4 years ago when he was last talked up. Had to have the best kit or he wouldn't do it then. Same message now. What makes him things have changed? Still only two bike types capable of winning, only now they are honda and ducati instead of honda and yamaha.

Total votes: 25

Wouldnt it be ironic if JL goes to Rossis yamaha squad? or teh old Tech 3 bikes?

Total votes: 25

So, who is going to find true love in MotoGP, and who is going to have their heart broken?

Honda are apparently comfortable having their entire program dependent on a single point of failure (MM). Call them Team Hubris. They had a shot at Mir and let him get away. They did the same with Morbidelli via their Marc VDS break-up (though understandably, as Marc VDS has seemingly transformed from a wholesome Hollandmädel into the crazy redhead with all the tattoos). That leaves them with the skeletal remains of Dani Pedrosa (maybe), the girl who had a curl in the middle of her forehead (Cal), and some likely Japanese lad. At least Cal has heeded the advice, evidently delivered by both Honda management and Luccio Cecchinello, which was: "Cal, please do shut up about a Repsol ride".

Ducati has Dovi and Bagnaia wedded and bedded. That leaves only two bones for three dogs. Ducati's approach to flattering Lorenzo into staying seems to be "gee, for a fat girl, you don't sweat that much". Not exactly a Shakespeare sonnet and a dozen roses. So then what to do with Danilo and Happy Jack? If they promote Miller they lose Petrucci. If they promote Petrucci they keep them both. It would appear to be an easy decision, especially since Jack seems quite content with the Pramac Team (and gets a GP19 next year no matter what), but making it work requires that Danilo performs on an equal basis to Miller over the next few rounds (or at least near as doesn't matter). In any event, there will be at least three GP19's on the track next year between the Factory and Pramac, so Pramac will remain a very nice place to work. If they lose Danilo, then Iannone or Rea would at least be interesting choices for the vacated Pramac seat. But since Iannone is remembered by the Bolognese as the crazy redhead with all the tatoos who then shaved her head bald so she could add some more tattoos, I hope they would take a serious look at Rea instead. But I think it will be Dovi + Petrucci / Miller + Bagnaia.

Yamaha needs to work on their current marriage. Vale is like the Mother-in-Law that lives under the same roof with you, except it is actually Vale's house and he isn't going anywhere. And that means one thing; he isn't going to stop yapping anytime soon about your litany of shortcomings as a provider. Meanwhile Vinales is reduced to either randomly lashing out or sobbing uncontrollably, and "did you just call me Suzuki?" is not something Yamaha wants to keep asking their young Spanish bride every night. And now Yamaha wants more of this bliss by adding a brand new satellite team. But that is also where things get really interesting. If they can close the deal with Marc VDS, then they get Morbidelli. They should then let Lorenzo move back home, even if they make him sleep on the couch. Morbidelli's arrival would make Rossi happy, but looking across the garage at his former team mate and hissing "so...you've come crawling back" would make him deliriously so. Well, at least until he sees Lorenzo's lap times in next winter's testing. The trick is, how do you let Jorge keep his pride, and how do you get four 2019 M1's on the grid next year?

Marc van der Stratten has assured the financial stability of Marc VDS for the next two seasons (in some form, their MotoGP future remains questionable, with more clarity hopefully provided at Mugello). But this may not be a really opportune time to hit him up for the massive budget increase required to supply the satellite team with current-year equipment for two riders and all the additional minions necessary to look after them. He presently seems rather busy ransoming his entire operation back from the team's recently departed manager. So split the difference. Petition the MotoGP Papacy for a dispensation to run three factory bikes, and allow Marc VDS to have a much reduced budget running a single 2019/2020 M1 for Morbidelli (Marc VDS would then bow out of MotoGP in two years to make room for the VR46 squad, a scheduled outcome which I suspect Marc van der Stratten might now readily agree to (in light of the recent troubles). The Big Stage is always exponetially more expensive than Moto2/Moto3, and the tangible rewards in MotoGP have been, at best, a bit slim for Marc VDS. Better to be a Prince in the smaller class than a Pauper in the big one). Use Jorge's Monster Energy Dowery (rumored to be about 2 million Euros per year) to help pay for it. Honda established the precedent by fielding three factory bikes a few years back, and while Jorge's up-front compensation might be limited to having first crack at collecting the empty aluminum cans from the paddock dumpster, he would retain a "Factory" ride, which I think means a great deal to him. Of course there are risks, as the Yamaha garage will not be replacing Disneyland as the happiest place on earth right away, but that is a small price to pay for such a staggering depth of talent. Besides, they will be at each others throats so much they might not have the time or the energy to constantly whinge about their Heathkit level electronics. Or go to plan "B", which is to tell Jorge to piss off and slot Hafizh (on a previous year M1) alongside Morbidelli (on a current year M1)...after collecting a King's ransom from Sayhrin's Malaysian backers (to help Marc VDS to remain viable in the MotoGP class).

Just kidding about Jorge scavenging the empties, because we all know that Suzuki already has that gig locked up. Team Thirty Cents away from having a Quarter, if they have actually inked Mir for two years, have done brilliantly. I never thought the rumors of Rins + Jorge + Marc VDS  (e.g., Morbidelli and Mir on the Satellite Suzuki's) were anything but a fantasy. You would have better luck getting another bowl of gruel from Mr Bumble than getting the Suzuki bosses in Japan to pay for all that. But they have a pretty sweet bike (we know) and two exceptionally talented young riders (we think). You could spend a hell of a lot more and wind up with a hell of a lot less than what Hamamatsu might be lining up on the grid next year. Well played.

But that does mean one Andrea will be seeking gainful employment for next year. So off to Gresini Aprilia with him. And the lads from Noale should be glad to have Iannone. I can't see Lorenzo on that team, as he is a pain in the ass and he is not Italian. Iannone is a pain in the ass but he is Italian. Game, set, match to Andrea. Iannone will at least cure Aprilia of the affliction Oscar Wilde described as "...not being talked about", and people do occasionally grow up. Andrea is overdue for a spurt.

Which leaves KTM with a Factory/Satellite seat open, but they are playing their cards very close to the vest for that last slot. Tech Trois wants another hatchling, but if KTM can pry Dani's remains loose from Repsol I think they would have a great line-up without raising the price of Redbull another 50% ("I'll pay, I'll pay! Gimme gimme gimme!"). Sorry, was that out loud? There is no pressure on them, as KTM has already assembled a very formidable group of riders, and they have an additional advantage: Due to their significant...and sucessful...participation in the lower classes, my belief is that KTM has been creating a very strong brand image in the minds of these young riders of what a great organization should look like. Starting with the Red Bull Rookies Cup and CEV Series, progressing through Moto3, and then Moto2, they have been cultivating talent for years. I think it may come as a surprise to the other factories that when KTM now starts to harvest that crop they are the first choice of some young future stars, not an afterthought. This year what I expect KTM to do is wait...and then cherry pick the best of the rest available.  Besides, right now they are fully engaged trying to make motors turn the wrong way, which is as silly as expecting bumblebees to fly when the math clearly proves they are rubbish at it.

But while KTM might be showing patience, the Reale Avintia and Angel Nieto teams are salivating at the prospect of having the only remaining lifeboats in a sea full of drowning men. Jorge Martinez was almost giddy in the press the other day discussing the possible options available for his team to put some speed in the saddle. The Angel Nieto Team is so enthralled by the talent coming out of Moto2 that they will almost certainly make room in their lifeboat by tossing Abraham and Bautista to the sharks. And Xavier Simeon should be worried lest he be paid off by Reale Avintia and served to the Tiburón who didn't fill up on Karel and Alvaro. Tito Rabat might remain in the Avintia lifeboat another year, but he will have to deliver better results than Jerez and Le Mans if he wants to remain dry. I personally hope Esteve continues in MotoGP.

But however it eventually chums out there should be a considerable upgrade at the back of the grid in both equipment and talent. The GP16 was a fine tool, but only when it had wings up front that looked like someone snuck into Boeing and helped themselves to a few samples. Without the additional downforce (that was always a critical part of its DNA) a GP16 is pretty much, well, gelded. The GP17 can be made to perform more than adequately without all the apendages the GP16 was designed to exploit. The Back of the Grid has to move past being a career killer (or a motorized version of the witness protection program) and become what it always should have been; a valid career path to higher aspirations, including for those riders who take a year or two to sort themselves out on the big stage. But it remains unreasonable to expect Ducati to supply eight bikes, Suzuki and Aprilia need to step up for 2020.

So, how much confidence do I have in this drivel I just typed? Well, outside of the contracts that are already signed, pretty much fuck-all. I do think Danilo moves to the Ducati Factory squad (though perhaps with only a one-year deal), and I am pretty well convinced that Jorge is screwed (but with regards to the latter I really hope I am wrong, or that Yamaha finds a couch for him to call home. He will come back a better rider than when he left, and that should scare everyone on the grid). For the balance I will just have to wait for the other horses to either move into the 2019 starting gate or scratch just like the rest of you. Krop will let us know. Cheers.

Total votes: 67

Is a proper entry in the comments section. 

Total votes: 25

Would only run through 2020 if MM93 falls off the face of the earth, as they can throw the two biggest pots of Euros at the best young riders with expiring contracts (Mir, Bagnaia, Oliveira?) and graduating from Moto2 (Martin, Bezzecchi?).

Total votes: 14

WELL PLAYED SIR

Total votes: 17

For Ducati having JL still there may prove to be a hinderance more than a positive going foward this year. He's riding for a factory seat and shares no need to support Dovi in his pursuit of the championship. Unfortunately for Ducati if they sign someone else soon then JL may just ride for himself, not the team, more so than he may be doing at the moment. Thats potentially going to come at the cost for Dovi this year.

Which seems then that Ducati is a career ending ride? This is a common risk with riders (as changing tire brands has shown) however the Duc has seen few good riders come and go in its recent history. MM, VR, CS, AI, JL?

Total votes: 20

Dorna ... is believed to have played a role in mediating a place for Valentino Rossi at Yamaha after his time at Ducati.

To bulk up his salary? Did Yamaha really need convincing? Viewed through today's lens, they seem to have made some stunning miscalculations (not hiring from Magneti Marelli, not making a better play for Tech3). Dorna's interest is obvious - 46 is responsible for ... 30% of the gate?

@Jinx: Honda are certainly in a hero or zero moment. The day MM stops walking on water might be the day they have their own Casey moment.

Total votes: 13

Don't forget the Kentucky Kid

Total votes: 13

Is a proper entry in the comments section.

Total votes: 16

 the Duc has seen few good riders come and go in its recent history. MM, VR, CS, AI, JL?.........Who's the MM in this list?

Total votes: 20

I've been out of the game for over 30 years and recently had got hooked again. My observations from reading the chatter over the last couple of weeks would lead me to think that Yamaha is stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea as Michael Scott so eloquently put it in his penetrating Cycle News article last week. Lorenzo could well be their road to Damascus if they could find another bike for him. I'm not sure just how they'll slot him into a team but there's enough collective money floating around amongst all parties to come up with a plan. Perhaps with Rea as baby co. Now wouldn't that cap off the silly season. 

Total votes: 20

Several credible Spanish journalists are speculating about a possible third factory Yamaha for Jorge Lorenzo en 2019. Let´s think about that.

Remember the great Eddie Lawson switch-o-change-o of 1989-1990? It was certainly a different situation and a very sinister one if you subscribe to the Evil Empire theory, but after winning his third world title in 1988 with Yamaha, Eddie Lawson and Gary Howard engineered a jump to Honda in spite of the fact that HRC already had 1987 Champion Wayne Gardner and up-and-coming Mick Doohan. Honda broke the "gentleman´s agreement" of not hiring away talent from the enemy by simply stating that they didn´t seek Eddie...Eddie sought them. So, Honda managed to put Eddie "next door" with Erv Kanemoto and George Vukmanovich and the bike rolled out for round one with the Rothmans paint still drying on the fairing. That was, basically, a full factory Honda and a third entry just beyond the garage wall from the actual factory team, like Rossi´s so-called independent 500cc team in 2001. Eddie won the title for Honda and then took the #1 plate back to Yamaha, but lost his brakepads at Laguna, was injured, went fishing for a while, and it was Wayne Rainey who won the next three titles for Yamaha.

But, can we imagine Yamaha adding a third full-factory bike?  If it were to run out of a satellite team, the Lorenzo bike would have to carry the satellite team´s colors...How would that work?  What do the Yamaha contracts with Movistar, Rossi and Viñales say about exclusivity?  

One thing is certain: Jorge Lorenzo on a factory Yamaha running alongside the #1 factory team would create a lot of interest and also some controversy. Given the level of the journalists who have written about this, I don´t think this is just a pipedream, but as something that, at some level other that just among journalists, is being discussed.  It makes me think there is some fire or at least some sparks behnd this smoke. Rossi had the chops to figure a way back home from Ducati, but I don´t know if Jorge does.

 

Total votes: 20

Forgot all about the Lawson episode. We all remember the last Repsol Honda Troika in 2011, with Stoner, Dovi, and Pedrosa all on the factory squad. Dovi was canned at the end of the year after finishing 3rd in the championship, with Pedrosa 4th (Stoner was WC). But in fairness, Dani did miss several races while he was off delivering medical supplies to remote African villages impacted by malaria. Oh, wait, that was someone else. Dani had some help breaking his collarbone at the French round, and tallied a DNF followed by two DNS*.

You are spot-on that three riders was standard practice for Repsol in the mid-90's. And they had four** riders in Repsol colors for a while in the mid-to-late 90's before when they went back to the Troika (following Doohan's retirement). They stayed with three right up to the start of the MotoGP era (except the year you noted when Vale simply rode a horse of a different color, the beautiful Nastro Azzurro bike). For MotoGP they went to the now standard matched pair format (with 2011 the previously noted exception). Geez, now that I look back and remember, there used to be entire herds of Repsol Hondas on the grid. Cheers.

*Sorry, I thought the African Village bit would be a refreshing change of pace from Dani's Hospitals of the World anthology, Volume 13.

**There were bona fide Factory rides..and then there was Factory Lite, as Repsol Honda fielded both the four cylinder and two cylinder varieties of their 500cc bike. On the quad-squads, I believe one or two of the riders always rode the twin. But I recall some of the three rider teams where they all rode the four cylinder 500's.

Total votes: 19

If Puig is that desperate to replace Pedrosa, he should sign Jorge Lorenzo; a 3-times MotoGP world champion. It ain't rocket science.

Alternatively, while Miller or Petrucci is promoted - Lorenzo can be demoted. That is, if his ego is prepared to handle such move.

Total votes: 13

Lorenzos situation reminds of another former MotoGP prima Donna who found to his own chagrin what it is to sit on the sidelines for a year before making a winning return in WSBk.

Personally I think we will see Lorenzo on a works Yamaha at Marc VDS next year but that will surely depend on how much humble pie Jorge is prepared to swallow vs taking a year out fly fishing.

MotoGP is definitely living in interesting times!

Total votes: 14