After HRC President Tetsuo Suzuki announced that Honda had reached a "basic agreement" with Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso, and at the same time ruled out any role for current Fiat Yamaha star Jorge Lorenzo, it looked as if Lorenzo's options had run out. Now that his flirtation with Honda was over, Jorge Lorenzo would surely have no other option than to accept the rumored 3.5 million euro deal to re-sign with the Fiat Yamaha squad.
Not according to the authoritative Spanish motorcycling magazine Solo Moto. With Ducati's vulnerability painfully exposed by Casey Stoner's mystery illness, the Borgo Panigale factory is turning to Jorge Lorenzo for assistance. With executives from Philip Morris, Ducati's main sponsor, present at Brno, Solo Moto is reporting that the tobacco firm has supported Ducati in putting in a bid for Lorenzo's services. Money will not be an issue in this case, as both Marlboro and Ducati are aware that with none of the other Ducati riders looking able to get the Desmosedici on the box, the extensive investment by both companies is likely to go to waste.
As long as Casey Stoner's condition remains undiagnosed, and therefore the probability of his returning to racing remains unknown, both Philip Morris and Ducati face a difficult gamble. There is a very good chance that Stoner's condition will turn out to be relatively straightforward and easy to treat, and the Australian can make his scheduled return at Estoril. But the worst case scenario - however unlikely - is that the Australian is suffering a more serious condition, taking him out of circulation for the remainder of the season, and possibly even longer.
That is not a chance the factory and Marlboro are keen on taking, and so according to Solo Moto, they have made signing Jorge Lorenzo their number one priority, and presented him with a suitable - and therefore probably extremely generous - financial offer. Of course, signing Lorenzo is itself not without risks. So many riders have failed to be reliably competitive on the Desmosedici - including a string of former world champions - that the possibility must exist that Lorenzo will similarly fail to manage the Ducati. But Lorenzo's history of success on difficult bikes - on both the Derbi, scoring regular podiums while others were nowhere, and on the Honda - has apparently convinced Ducati that Lorenzo could be the rider who could follow in Casey Stoner's footsteps.
This presents Jorge Lorenzo with an interesting proposition. His goal is to beat Valentino Rossi and become world champion, and establish his place in the pantheon of riders. If he stays at Yamaha and does it on the same bike as the 8-time world champion, there will be no doubt that he did it on ability alone. On the other hand, if he goes to Ducati and tames the Desmosedici, which is taking on a reputation of being difficult to ride of almost mythical proportions, he will also have established his ability as an exceptional talent, in the same way that Casey Stoner has. By beating Rossi on the Ducati, he may even gain greater fame and glory than by doing so on the same bike.
So far, reports have put Jorge Lorenzo as being close to announcing he has signed a new contract with Yamaha. But Casey Stoner's mystery illness may just have thrown the situation completely up in the air, by opening up new avenues that need to be explored. The Lorenzo situation is apparently not yet at an end.