It is looking increasingly likely that energy drink company Monster is to take on a role as co-sponsor of Yamaha's MotoGP team. Spanish website Motocuatro.com is reporting that Yamaha has bought Jorge Lorenzo out of his personal sponsorship by rival energy drink maker Rockstar and that both Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi are to carry Monster sponsorship on their leathers and on the fairings of their Yamaha M1s for 2013 and 2014.
According to Motocuatro, the story started earlier this year, after Lorenzo renewed his contract with Rockstar, and Valentino Rossi announced he would be signing with Yamaha. Both Rockstar and Monster had been in talks with Yamaha to step up their sponsorship of their riders - both men have personal contracts with their respective energy drink brands - to increase exposure for the brand. At first, Motocuatro reports, Monster showed an interest in moving up as co-sponsor on Rossi's bike, gaining the same level of sticker coverage as ENEOS, the Japanese oil brand which also adorns the Yamaha's fairings. In response, Rockstar started negotiations with Yamaha to match Monster's offer, meaning that both Lorenzo and Rossi would have equal levels of energy drink sponsorship on their bikes. Lorenzo would have Rockstar stickers, while Rossi would have Monster badges.
Having two competing brands on the two different bikes was an acceptable solution for all parties, each brand remaining with the rider they are associated with. But according to Motocuatro, at Valencia, Monster decided to make a counter-offer to Yamaha, to assume co-sponsorship for the entire team. Their reasoning, Motocuatro suggests, is that Monster feared being on the least successful of the two factory Yamaha bikes, a reasonable assumption given that Lorenzo has just wrapped up his second world title on the bike, while Rossi returns to Yamaha after two barren years at Ducati.
Accepting the offer left Yamaha facing a problem: if they wanted to have Monster sponsoring both bikes, they would have to invoke the clause in Lorenzo's contract giving them the right to veto his personal sponsor. Such clauses exist in nearly every rider contract; having a competing firm on the cap and leathers of a rider can dissuade companies from sponsoring teams. But getting rid of Rockstar comes at a price for Yamaha. The Japanese factory must buy Lorenzo out of his sponsorship, said to be worth 1 million euros a year. Yamaha would be compensated for their pains, though: Motocuatro reports that Monster upped its offer to Yamaha from 1.5 million euros a season for just space on Rossi's bike, to 4 million euros a year on the bikes of both Rossi and Lorenzo. That, it is believed, is about what Yamaha are paying a year to Rossi to race for them, about a third of the salary he received at Ducati. The Monster sponsorship of the factory Yamaha team would have no effect on the title sponsorship deal with Tech 3, which will continue to remain the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad.
Just how reliable these reports are remains to be seen. No confirmation of the details of this story has yet been forthcoming, and even this week, Lorenzo was making public appearances in full Rockstar Energy regalia. The story does confirm rumors of Monster sponsorship of Yamaha which have been doing the rounds of the paddock for some time now. However, in July, Motocuatro reported that Marlboro would switch its backing from Ducati to Yamaha, following Rossi to the Japanese factory. That story turned out to be false; Marlboro - or rather, Phillip Morris, the tobacco giant behind the Marlboro brand - will continue to sponsor Ducati for 2013. Beyond 2013 is uncertain, sources close to Phillip Morris have suggested the tobacco giant is growing tired of the lack of success, and could decide to pull out altogether at the end of next year.
Any sponsorship deal between Yamaha and Monster would be announced in the first week of January, with a press release to follow. The first hint of a new sponsor for Yamaha could come at Jorge Lorenzo's first public appearance. If he is no longer sporting Rockstar Energy caps and clothing, the Motocuatro's reports will have been vindicated.