It looks like Movistar is on the verge of a return to MotoGP. Italian site GPOne.com is reporting that the Spanish telecoms giant is close to signing a deal with Yamaha to sponsor the Japanese factory's MotoGP team of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. According to the report, the sponsorship deal is set to be announced at the first Sepang test, at a press conference to be held there.
Just how accurate this report is remains to be seen, but there are many indications that the deal could happen. Movistar was a major supporter of motorcycle racing in the past, having backed teams at many levels of racing. Movistar sponsored the junior cup competition in Spain run by Alberto Puig, which unearthed the talents of Casey Stoner, Chaz Davies, Leon Camier, Joan Lascorz and many more. Through Puig, they also backed Dani Pedrosa through his years in the 125 and 250 classes. Movistar was also active in the MotoGP class, backing the Suzuki team of Kenny Roberts Jr, and the Gresini Honda squad of Sete Gibernau at the start of the century.
Movistar (and Telefonica, the telecoms giant which owns the Movistar brand) eventually pulled out of racing over a disagreement with Honda and Repsol. When Honda signed Dani Pedrosa, Telefonica had wanted to continue their backing of the Spaniard, having funded his way through the junior classes. Petroleum giant Repsol insisted that if Pedrosa was to be in the factory team, he should be racing in Repsol colors, not in Telefonica colors. Seeing their investment in Pedrosa going to waste, Telefonica pulled out of Grand Prix motorcycle racing altogether.
They have been biding their time for a return, however. Rumors emerged two years ago that Telefonica had been in talks with Yamaha, but had decided against backing the factory after market research indicated limited return on investment. With MotoGP going to South America - a key market for the Spanish telecoms giant - the sponsorship equation may now make more financial sense. At the presentation of the MotoGP in Jakarta earlier this month, Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis told Indonesian blog TMCBlog that more sponsors would be announced before the season started. We shall see at Sepang whether Movistar is among them.