Lorenzo Postpones Yamaha Decision A Few Weeks

Silly season for the MotoGP class is in a strange, almost schizophrenic state. The paddock is swirling with rumors - though admittedly, this is its usual state -  yet few moves or announcements are forthcoming. Normally, we would be in the middle of rider announcements, but one man has been holding up all progress in the annual rider merry-go-round.

Jorge Lorenzo's contract with Yamaha is up at the end of the 2009 season, and the Spanish sensation is dragging his feet over a contract renewal and trawling the market to test his value. He has an offer on the table from Yamaha, but has been openly flirting with Honda, with talk of the Repsol Honda team being divided into two separate teams, along similar lines to the Fiat Yamaha garage now.

Jorge Lorenzo at Donington

First, though, Lorenzo must decide whether his future lies with Yamaha or not. The Spaniard had a meeting with senior Yamaha executives Lin Jarvis and Masao Furusawa at Donington last night, where Yamaha and Lorenzo, together with his manager Marcos Hirsch, discussed the situation at great length.

According to the Spanish sports daily AS.com, the main outcome of the meeting was that both sides should go away and consider the situation carefully. However, the good news for Yamaha is that Lorenzo seems to be more inclined to stay with the Japanese factory than to go elsewhere. "The best option for Lorenzo continues to be that he renews his contract with Yamaha, and for the manufacturer, to continue with Jorge in their garage."

The news will come as a frustration and a relief to the rest of the paddock. The relief will be felt most keenly for Dani Pedrosa and his manager Alberto Puig. AS says it has been told that if Lorenzo joins Repsol Honda, Pedrosa will leave, and with the Honda just starting to come good, that would be a less attractive option. The frustration will be felt most keenly among the rest of the riders; Lorenzo is the key to the rest of the rider reshuffle, once Lorenzo decides where his future lies, then the rest of the pieces can be rearranged accordingly.

And so Yamaha, the riders, MotoGP fans and especially the Spanish press are left to wait, for several more weeks. This story, as they say, is set to run and run.


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One name that's not been mentioned much with all the talks of Lorenzo going to Honda is Dovizioso - after all if Lorenzo is to go to Repsol alongside Pedrosa surely he'd be taking Dovi's place? With contract talk filling the air it's fitting that this is the weekend that Dovizioso gets his maiden win - talk about great timing! It was interesting that Honda gave him a 1 year contract instead of the usual two - was this on his behalf or was it a probational term for HRC to assess Dovi (ie did they get scared by Melandri's experience on the Ducati!)
Whilst Lorenzo's quality is beyond doubt, I'm glad that Dovizioso has got that elusive rostrum finish to back up his case for staying at HRC. It's the least he deserves after winning the 125cc championship for the factory and then pushing Lorenzo all the way in the 250s on a (then) underperforming, under-developed bike.

Let me provide some context for my question. I am not a PC person; tell-it-like-it-is is more my style. This has not helped my career but it has earned me the respect of some peers and supervisors (asking the questions that everyone has but are afraid to voice).

Why does MotoGP need to have a British rider? I think that Toseland is better than some back markers but I also think that he doesn’t deserve a factory ride (including first-tier satellite teams). He has talked about going back to WSBK. So why does Dorna NEED to have him in MotoGP? If he was not there for 2010, do you really think that British fans would tune out? I doubt so. And there are a bunch of British riders in WSBK and the 125 and 250 classes that could be ready to step up in 2011.

For that matter, does every major country need to have a national rider in MotoGP? I know that some are in the class because of the money they bring; I can respect that even if I do not like it. And some riders are also magnets for sponsorship; I get that too. But the rider nationality mix should be based on talent and skill. If Spain and Italy and Australia and the US are putting out the best riders, then you would expect them to be most of the riders in MotoGP. Just because someone is from the UK or Japan does not give them the “right” to be in the class. (MotoGP ahs raced in Turkey and Malaysia and Qatar; you do not see those countries insisting on having a native rider). And I have to believe that it would only be a year or two that the series would be without a national rider before a new one comes along.

Am I being naïve? Do others share the same sentiments?

I don't think your opinion is out of line at all, mbccohen. I also share your manner of speaking the truth, unpopular as it usually is.

As a disclaimer of sorts, I am an American--no, make that a TEXAN--, but my wife is English (so I really love England), and one of my other absolute favorite places in the world is Japan, so I have a HUGE soft spot for both places. That said, I love good racing even more than sentimental feelings toward ANY country. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that Colin and Ben are from here--I live just a few minutes from Colin's house--but if they were crappy riders, I'd admit it and move on.

I'm thoroughly aware that Colin is a great rider, yet isn't right at the top of likely winners. Be that as it may, he's almost always scrapping it out, firmly in the top 10. I acknowledge that it was a bit odd with him keeping a top spot at Yamaha for so long, though it did make a bit of sense. He was a solid finisher, a great support for Rossi, and hugely likeable. He also brought honesty and candor, which is also often sorely missing in professional sports. I don't think anyone expected him to be world champion, but they also don't just expect him to suck and to take up space at the back of the pack. He's one who can justify his position most of the time.

I remember hearing of other riders getting and keeping their rides because of their nationality (Nakano and Tamada come quickly to mind). It makes me think that some teams have NO aspirations of goodness, let alone GREATness. I'm under NO delusions that everyone has a great chance of winning, and I think there IS some value to bringing in a rider that brings money with him, BUT that should be weighed against their ability to stay close enough to the front that they at least get some camera time during the races, or it's not much use to the sponsors.

It just seems like certain teams take an attitude of "We'll never win. EVER. Let's just put a rider in that the sponsors like, and we'll call it a day." I know that the sponsors need to be happy, but where do you balance that with talent? I know the whole industry is spoiled to a greater or lesser degree with Rossi being arguably the most talented, the least arrogant, most fun, most consistent, most victorious, one of the nicest, and best all-around packages and best values for money--even with his astronomical fees--for advertisers and manufacturers. There are some riders--who shall remain nameless--who are proven winners, yet have NO people skills, and there are guys who are the nicest alive, yet ride at the back.

Sponsors/manufacturers usually want camera time, good brand ambassadors, charismatic representation, etc. and/or proven winners, but then there are some who just want a person who is from a certain country, I guess.

I guess I understand it, but then again, it doesn't make for the best racing. If teams just want to please sponsors, then it makes sense, but I find the whole idea of retaining a rider because of nationality to be a tacit admission of not wanting to have the best rider or the best chance of success...like running a racing team is just for fun or for a hobby, and that always losing it OK and expected. Maybe it's just me, (or maybe it's just being a Texan) but setting up shop and putting your life and money on the line just for the purpose of losing...is not my idea of a good usage of your resources.

Tamada, Nakano, Takahashi, Guintoli, Hofmann, De Angelis, and oftentimes De Puniet--who is, I admit, having a MUCH better year this year--have baffled me as to why they kept their rides. Tamada and Nakano baffled me for years, and I think I remember hearing that one or both of them kept their rides because of their nationality. I also thought I heard that being a factor in Takahashi's promotion. For years, Tamada and Nakano were at the back, along with Hofmann and Guintoli. Sometimes, the bikes were also bad, but I found it odd that teams would stick with proven losers, at least in terms of Moto GP. I guess the reason a couple riders stood out to me as a "poor allocation of resources" is that they were always at the back, and they had the freakin' RC211V, so it's hard to say that they were down on power...

I don't agree with just knowingly keeping a guaranteed back marker based solely on nationality, though I understand the reason behind doing it. It would be a shame to drop Colin, even though he is almost always ahead of Toseland. I suppose Yamaha may be looking to the future, but how long do they want to pay for Guintoli/Hofmann/Tamada results? He IS charismatic, much more photogenic that most, can play a mean piano piece or two, can sing tolerably, and is a nice guy, but you'd think results would be more important. Maybe they just aren't. I know a lot of race fans in England, and the ones I know like Rossi more than Toseland anyway, and I don't think they'd be exactly offended by Toseland being back in WSBK. Spies' place will have to be made by moving someone, but whether or not it'll be at the expense of letting go of a proven and popular--but aging--Colin, or a reasonably popular--but struggling--Toseland remains to be seen.

All that is to say that I'm with you, mbccohen. I think they should go for the best results, and let fans cheer for the champions more so than just for birthplace. Then again, it's not my money being spent...

And as always, I'm not afraid of being wrong and I LOVE to learn something new, so if I am wrong, show me why, and I'll admit it.

The reason that Dorna wants a British rider in MotoGP is because the BBC pay a very large sum for the broadcast rights to MotoGP, and the BBC believe that they need a British rider in MotoGP.

Japanese riders are down to the manufacturers. The Japanese factories believe it is important for them to have a Japanese rider in the series.

Whether this is right or wrong is a different matter entirely. However, Toseland is not as out of his depth in the series as, say, Takahashi was, or Canepa. Once you get past the top 5 or 6 riders, there are probably 20 riders who deserve to be in MotoGP. Who gets in and who doesn't is then down to sponsorship and perceived value to the series. In other words, money.

Excellent explanation, David. A fantastic example of my not quiiiiiiiiite knowing everything juuuuust yet. (HA!)

It makes perfect sense, although I guess I'm just finding myself a bit...hmm...sentimental, I suppose. I think it would be truly awesome to have three SERIOUS title contenders on Yamahas. I am, of course, making the assumption that Spies will be coming to Moto GP...sooner or later. I want to see Yamaha retain him, and I obviously think there should be a place ready for him.

And then...the final piece would be that I would miss Colin.

As usual, "that said", I completely understand your point, and it makes all the sense in the world. I guess there's the "right" way to do something, the "wrong" way, and the "sponsors/manufacturers" way.

I do have one further question. Before I ask, I want to say that it might seem laughable to some, but it IS my question, and I'm not afraid to divulge my lack of knowledge on certain issues...

I'll preface this question with saying that here in America, there's prize money at each race. I recently read an article about a racing team in an American series that starts a race, runs a few laps, then pits, shuts it down, then packs up to leave. For that, they make around $50,000 USD per race, without any intention of winning. Sure, it's a defeatist attitude, but if you know you're not gonna win, then it sure is a way to cash in on a hopeless situation.

Let me make it abundantly clear that I'm not directly likening that to Moto GP, but the basic profit/loss question applies. Obviously, I've never understood the whole money issue in Europe, where I'm not aware of any purse being given out to all finishers after each race. In America, teams make money, or they don't stay in existence.

This question applies MUCH MORE to the 800cc era, so in light of that:

How do you think the goals, opinions, and wishes of the small team owners fit into things?

Are they just participants in an exercise of hubris on the part of the manufacturers, or are they there to make money advertising for sponsors, or are they there to just develop new riders, with little to no hope of ever winning?

I know that when you are a satellite team, your odds aren't as good (unless you have a bike with WAY more horsepower potential than is usable--as in the 990s--so that there's no need for spending to the moon for 1 more HP--as in the 800s) as the factory bikes, so team owners are realistic, but do teams just spend--and lose--vast quantities of cash just for the experience of having a team? I can't say I've ever figured out why the small, hopeless teams do it.

To my tiny little mind/understanding, it just seems like they go out there to partake in something they love, but at the expense of losing a HUGE amount of money, with not much hope of success in the races. Am I just dense, or is that just the accepted practice of operating a small satellite team?

Back in the 990cc era, Honda Gresini, for example, was a fine place to race, since even the customer bikes were effectively as powerful as the factory bikes because of the surplus of power beyond the rear tire's capability. A rider with them had a very real chance of winning. Now, it just seems unlikely at best for any of the satellite teams to win. Obviously, there are exceptions like this weekend, but they are the rare aberration...

Do the satellite teams just swallow their pride and accept that they won't win and that they'll lose a TON of money? I only ask because I think of the teams who never get any recognition, success, or results. I've often wondered what keeps them going, or why they started in the first place, knowing that the deck was stacked against them ever succeeding.

Am I some sort of blinkered, philistine, pig-ignorant fool for wondering?

(p.s. if you can guess where the "blinkered, philistine, pig-ignorant" reference comes from, I'll be mightily impressed...)