Ducati's Offer To Lorenzo: Is It 3.5? 5 Million? 7 Million?

The MotoGP paddock resembles a battlefield in many ways, but perhaps its most striking resemblance is that the truth is a very hard commodity to come by. The fog of war envelops the paddock, and stories which emerge always come out spun in one way or another, depending on which party is leaking a story, and which side of the argument a journalist is on.

So it has been hard to make sense of the stories emerging from the paddock recently of the offer Ducati has made to Jorge Lorenzo. Depending on which source you believe, the amount involved is either a suspiciously precise 3.52 million euros a year, 6.5 million euros a year rising to 8 million, or 7 million euros a year, and by the time you read this, doubtless a new figure will have emerged from somewhere. The numbers being given smell of a mixture of propaganda, sensationalism and guesswork, and all parties involved planting stories in the press to serve their own ends. Riders' salaries are always swathed in secrecy, and contract offers are far worse, with a healthy dose of subterfuge and misdirection thrown in for good measure.

However reliable - or more likely, unreliable - the numbers, they reveal an underlying truth: Casey Stoner's absence has opened a can of worms that his previous success had kept firmly shut. For the stories doing the rounds speak of Ducati offering Lorenzo extremely generous terms, but in truth, it isn't Ducati but their sponsor, Marlboro which is behind the move. Marlboro provide a sizable chunk of Ducati Corse's MotoGP budget, and have both the money and the influence to decide on rider choice.

With one extremely successful rider already at Ducati, why would Marlboro want to secure the services of another, and risk upsetting the only man who has so far brought them a world title? The answer is simple: Casey Stoner may appear on the podium regularly, but as far as appearances off the bike, he is extremely unwilling to play ball. Rider appearances, corporate entertaining, all the boring stuff that persuades sponsors to keep paying the bills, Stoner loathes it and keeps his commitments to a minimum. Even something as simple as a publicity shot is impossible to organize, with body doubles in leathers posing for glamour shots while Stoner's face is photoshopped in afterwards.

Jorge Lorenzo, on the other hand, is reckoned to have both the rider talent and the marketing knowhow to be able to both win races and sell product. He understands that to pursue his dream of becoming world champion, he has to help persuade sponsors to keep filling his team's war chest, and is willing to do his part to keep the money coming in. It is this ability, above all, that Marlboro is believed to cherish, and the tobacco company is prepared to chase Lorenzo hard to obtain his services.

Rumors that Lorenzo could be moved into the Marlboro Ducati team as the undisputed number one rider have been fed by the presence of Francesco Calvo, head of marketing for Philip Morris, in the paddock at Brno. The presence of the driving force behind Marlboro's sponsorship of Ducati when their star rider is at home with a mystery ailment, and about to miss the next three races was bound to set tongues wagging. This was only made worse when representatives of Marlboro, Ducati and Jorge Lorenzo were seen in intense discussions in the Ducati hospitality over the weekend, raising speculation almost to fever pitch.

That there is more to it than speculation has been confirmed in various places, with both Livio Suppo and Lorenzo's manager Marcos Hirsch confirming the interest that Ducati has shown in Lorenzo. Whatever the actual numbers involved, there is no doubt that Ducati will offer way above what Yamaha are offering Lorenzo, to try and tempt him to come ride the machine that is so hard to tame. The deal would give Lorenzo what he wants in terms of influence, undisputed number one status and the machine development entirely in his hands, as well as a tidy pile of cash to start a retirement fund with. But whatever the offer on the table, the elephant in the room remains: No one has so far been able to tame the Ducati other than Casey Stoner, and switching to Ducati is a huge risk.

The judgement call that Jorge Lorenzo must make is whether he thinks that he has a better chance of achieving his goal of becoming World Champion with the number one status at Ducati, or with number two status at Yamaha. The Ducati remains an evil beast to ride, only really comfortable once inside its working zone, a place that only Casey Stoner has been able to find. Lorenzo has previous experience with ill-handling bikes, taking the Derbi 125 that former world champion Emilio Alzamora could only barely score points on and scoring a win, a podium and a pole in 2003. And in 2005, he took a second-string Honda 250 ride and made it competitive against a fleet of Aprilias and the factory-backed effort of Dani Pedrosa.

Right now, though, Jorge Lorenzo is clearly on the best bike in the paddock. The top two positions in the title, the top of the manufacturers standings, the team standings, the first satellite rider and the first satellite team - ahead of a factory effort - amply prove that assertion. Staying at Yamaha would leave Jorge Lorenzo with only his team mate to beat, and though he may be handicapped by being second in line for development parts, at least he knows that the bike is capable of winning a championship; after all, his team mate is doing just that. All he has to do is beat his team mate next year, and the title will be his.

The decision leaves Lorenzo caught between a rock and a hard place, between the Devil Desmosedici and the deep blue Fiat Yamaha sea. Time is running out, and a decision is expected to be taken some time this week, and announced at Indianapolis a week later. Whether they announce any salary numbers at the time remains to be seen, but Jorge Lorenzo will surely have one fact foremost in his mind: Money won't buy you a title.

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Comments

The comments regarding Marlboro are interesting as while watching the pre-race crap on the BBC, I noticed that Marlboro, even without the actual logo were getting several times more air time than they would normally. This was largely down to Kallio being the new guy and a novelty but even so, it appear that he was way more willing to stand in front of the camera than Stoner has ever been. I had always wondered why Hayden often got more camera time but this explains it.

If this is Marlboro's goal, Lorenzo is the man since you have to believe he is more of a camera whore (I mean that in the most respectful way) than Kallio.

Total votes: 191

When the rumours emerged for the first time, it was largely due to the possibility of Stoner maybe not coming back after all and Ducati having a position to fill, because without Stoner it looks like everyone feared it - they are nowhere. So they might need a new guy as their star in case Stoner really doesn't come back, which by the way still remains to be seen.

Anyhow, I find your underlying assumption that Marlboro are trying to get Lorenzo mainly because of his better media appeal rather far-fetched. Even if there really is anything believable about all those rumours, nobody knows how Lorenzo would fare on the bike and even the most media-seeking rider ever would not be worth much for a company like Marlboro when he's not bringing the results.
Even if we leave the fact aside that Casey has already signed a contract for 2010 and both Marlboro and Ducati would make themselves look silly by replacing their only MotoGP world champion with someone who potentially can't get them the same results, but gets double the money; what Marlboro and Ducati mainly advertise with is their world champion status.
Weren't those the guys who once said that they wouldn't want to sign Valentino anyway, because he's not along the "serious line" of professional sports that they go? Getting Lorenzo just because of his eternal need for media attention would go pretty much the opposite way of that earlier statement.

I guess that's all just a very long-winded way of saying that I don't believe in the sponsor-just-wants-mediafriendly-rider theory. Especially not for that kind of money.

Total votes: 180

,,, utterly embarrassing for Yamaha. For every other rider on the grid and especially for those on the outside looking in, and for the sake of getting the best seat on that same grid for the best chance challenging for a title, Most would kill for the privilege of using that machine. The BIKE is a PROVEN winner.

Please Yamaha, pull your offer off of the table.. End this circus.

Total votes: 162

This is all getting very exciting! haha
It would be pretty interesting to see Yamaha pull their offer now.

I hope Casey does come back. I love the fact that he just goes out, does his thing and does it well. It upsets so many people who dislike him :)

Total votes: 186

re: stv21

I had to work for a few years in the advertising world and yes, they are THAT tight and obnoxious. Having a superstar that doesn't represent them the way they want , or having the sponsored person being difficult is exactly what they hate once it all goes bad.

They can do with a "pest" if the "pest" is winning, but the minute it doesn't blow the way they want and it becomes what they see as an embarassment, they can be pretty nasty and lawyers get into play.

So, i'm not surprised Marlboro is having a bit of a panic right now. This is the worst: an non-smiling but terryfying on the track Casey was ok, a sick and absent Casey is a no-go.

Total votes: 196

Perhaps Jorge will have a chance of besting (championship) Vale if he signs with Ducati. If not, at least he'll have made his fortune.

Total votes: 166

I think if Lorenzo went to Ducati that their team would appear much like the Fiat team this year. What we have seen is that two of four top riders are on the same bike. This situation is nearly unavoidable given the choices. People like to claim the M1 is the best bike on the grid but besides the top two riders being on it, there's little evidence that it's the main reason they are at the front. Edwards is in the same position he's been in for 5 years and Toseland is surely not doing any better this year. The best riders go fastest. If any of the four 'aliens' switched bikes and had the same amount of time to adjust to the bike, they'd all probably be finishing in the same spot. The Ducati seems to be harder to tame but if you look who's been riding the bike and where they've been finishing over the last few years the only big surprise would be Melandri. And one could hardly call him predictable when he was with Gresini. If my opinion mattered I'd tell Lorenzo to follow the money and go to Ducati to annoy Stoner. Then Yamaha can boot Toseland and pick up Elias and Hayden until Pasini moves up and Spies comes over in 2011. Worst case scenario they poach Kalio (is he on a two year deal?) and that's not all that bad of an option.

Total votes: 159

... that excelling on underpowered 1/8- and 1/4-liter bikes in the past automatically translates to success on the Red Beasts.  I'm not necessarily convinced that he will fare significantly better than Hayden is at this point (remember when many of us thought the common dirt-track background was a good indicator of potential for Hayden?).  But I think it is safe to say that Lorenzo would represent the best talent to hop aboard the bike.  If he doesn't perform better than Stoner, that logic will be out the window, too.

As others have said, it seems more than a little odd (and even unlikely) that Marlboro and Ducati would offer more money to Lorenzo to partner with Stoner.  So, are both Stoner and Hayden already out?

I am concerned about what all of this is causing inside the Ducati garage on their way to the U.S., but I have to admit that I'm a bit attracted to some of the more aggressive "musical chairs" opportunities presented with this move than I would be of the institutional domination of Rossi and Lorenzo as team mates.

Total votes: 172

"The judgement call that Jorge Lorenzo must make is whether he thinks that he has a better chance of achieving his goal of becoming World Champion with the number one status at Ducati, or with number two status at Yamaha."

That would be a fair statement if Ducati did not already have a number one rider in its factory team. Until we have confirmation that Stoner will leave Ducati/MotoGP, Lorenzo will remain a number two rider, whether with Yamaha or Ducati, and as long as Stoner and Rossi are around, Jorge simply has to suck it up and get on with the job of *earning* number one rider status.

Which he is making a fair fist of, despite his offs. Rossi is going to be digging pretty deep by the end of the year to keep Lorenzo behind him, if he can even continue to do so.

Total votes: 170

"The decision leaves Lorenzo caught between a rock and a hard place, between the Devil Desmosedici and the deep blue Fiat Yamaha sea."

Love it!

Poor Lorenzo, to be faced with such a terrible choice haha

Total votes: 179

I don't recall seing anywhere statements or facts about Ducati having a real politic on rider #1 or rider #2 and that was pretty obvious when Capirex and Bayliss were teamates. All the datas were available to both riders and a wall was never build between the teams. Same with Casey and Nicky now. Even the satellite Pramac has access to all datas, as explained once again by Kallio this week-end. Jorge wouldn't be considered a number two rider and both would be helped and considered equally altho Stoner will always remain the first rider that brought them a World title.

Now, it's obvious that the rider being in front in the championship has a slight edge on the second rider but here we're talking available parts, new engine developments or updates here, wall and secrecy, (like it's done with Rossi or the HRC)

Total votes: 165

Agree with Stav, that was a wonderful poetic ending ;)
Poor Jorge, spoilt for choice. And in doing so, holding up an entire silly season.

I'm not surprised that Ducati/Malboro put the offer out on the table. If Stoner does have viral or chronic fatigue syndrome, which sadly looks likely, he'll be out of action for a lot longer, possibly forever. It is incredibly nasty and takes more than 3 months to get over.

I do think Hayden will keep the 2nd bike. Ducati have made statements over the past 2 weeks about wanting to keep him, if anything because unlike Casey the man is a PR dream. The 848 has already sold out and he meets his sponsorship obligations. (anybody remember that bad but funny but bad Michelin marigold ad?). It is up to Hayden to decide. If he does, he would have more input in the development of the 2010 bike.

Total votes: 183

In the Greek classics (the few that I remember anyway) it is the daring and the clever who succeed. And it is those who over estimate their abilities who fail. I wonder where Lorenzo falls in the spectrum of Greek drama.

When he was in the 250s, people disliked him because he was (simply stated) an arrogant bastard. I seem to recall reading right here on Moto GP Matters that Yamaha had sent him to a head shrinker before his rookie season so that he might learn some self control and humility. That seemed to work, but I wonder if the old Lorenzo is making a return.

Negociating for more money is nothing new. But the way Lorenzo's negociations have played so publicly is bad form. How much of the public over-exposure is created by media and how much is courted by Lorenzo? It's obvious that other teams are interested in Lorenzo. He doesn't need get his name in the headlines and then drop a stack of newspapers on Yamaha's desk.

Then again it may be that he is simply trying to keep up with Rossi in terms of media spectacle. He wants money more comparable to Rossi, so he probably wants similar attention, too.

But it all could blow up in his face. Yamaha have already stated publicly that they are not going to offer any more money. That means Lorenzo will have to publicly accept less than he wanted, or he'll have to go to Ducati. I suspect he'll go to Ducati. But then he'll have to beat Stoner on Stoner's bike.

Even if he can do that, he'll still have to beat Rossi.

Total votes: 195

and that is why I think Lorenzo will sign with Ducati.

"The decision leaves Lorenzo caught between a rock and a hard place, between the Devil Desmosedici and the deep blue Fiat Yamaha sea . . . . . . Money won't buy you a title."

Poetry that talks truth. I also believe that Jorge will be surprised when he can't just jump on the Ducati and start winning races. I truly believe that Casey has something that melds him with the current incarnation of the Ducati GP bike. That's fairly obvious when you look at the talented riders that have thrown a leg over it and struggled to get in and stay in the top 10 consistently. The Ducati will be be transformed into a race & championship winning bike but it won't happen quickly.

If Lorenzo goes to Ducati, Nicky will be on the Yamahammer in 2010. Spies will announce soon that he's coming to Tech3 next year and will team with Colin, a true Texas two-step for podium positions for Poncharal.

Total votes: 156

Ooh, it sure would be fun to watch Nicky on the M1 banging handlebars with Pedrosa.

Total votes: 175