MotoGP silly season this year is expected to be pretty frenetic, with just about all of the riders either out of contract or with escape clauses written into their contracts allowing them to leave at the end of 2014.

But even by those standards, the first shot in the battle sounds like madness. According to a report on the Spanish radio station Onda Cero, Ducati have tempted Jorge Lorenzo into agreeing to a precontract to race for the Italian factory from 2015 onwards.

According to the report, Ducati Corse’s new boss Gigi Dall’Igna phoned Jorge Lorenzo personally to persuade him to sign for the Italian factory. The contract on offer is reported to be tempting: Onda Cero claim that Ducati offered Lorenzo 15 million euros a season to race for them.

Lorenzo is reported to be racing for 9 million a year with Yamaha, plus a 2 million euro bonus if he wins the championship. Both Honda and Yamaha are also chasing Lorenzo’s signature for 2015, both claimed to have offered him 12 million euros a year.

HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto has made no secret of his desire to sign Jorge Lorenzo, having already made a major play for Lorenzo the last time his contract was up, at the end of the 2012 season.

Likewise, Ducati have also previously made moves for Jorge Lorenzo, having offered the Spaniard some 8 million euros to join Ducati during Casey Stoner’s absence through illness in 2009. That move proved at the time to be the catalyst for Stoner’s departure to Honda.

What is surprising is the timing of this report. Jorge Lorenzo has only just landed in Jakarta, Indonesia, where he and Valentino Rossi are due to present the 2014 livery of the Yamaha MotoGP team tomorrow. Allowing such news to leak ahead of such an important occasion would not be well received in the Yamaha camp, though it would provide a very useful way of putting pressure on the factory.

Yamaha are already struggling to pay the salary currently demanded by Lorenzo, and stretching it much further could put him out of reach of the Japanese factory. Yet Yamaha know they have no choice, as Lorenzo has proven to be the only Yamaha rider currently capable of challenging for the title. If leaking the news is a negotiating tactic, it is a very crude instrument.

The biggest question mark remains what reason Lorenzo would have to go to Ducati, beyond the simple question of money. At the moment, Ducati is a far from promising prospect, the bike still a long way from being competitive. In fact, so far off is the current bike that Ducati looks set to switch to becoming an Open entry, racing with the spec Dorna software on the Magneti Marelli ECU.

Though the great raft of changes currently being pushed through at Ducati by Gigi Dall’Igna are widely regarded as necessary steps to a return to competitiveness, they will still take a long time to take effect. The Desmosedici will surely be better by the first race of 2015, but whether it is championship material remains to be seen.

The fear must be that Ducati is trying to fix their problems in the same way they did last time: by signing a rider of exceptional talent to ride a bike beset by problems. Such a move could come at the behest of Ducati’s main benefactor Philip Morris, who are demanding results after three years of mediocrity following the departure of Casey Stoner.

Whether Lorenzo could overcome the problems the current bike has, as Stoner did in the past, is open to question. Lorenzo has a radically different riding style to Stoner, thriving on smoothness and his ability to carry corner speed, rather than bully the bike into doing what he wants, as Stoner did. Corner speed is very much the weakness of the Ducati, as its vicious power delivery, all of which run totally counter to Lorenzo’s strongest point, his fluid smoothness.

If anyone can persuade Lorenzo, then it is surely Gigi Dall’Igna. The pair had a strong relationship during Lorenzo’s 250cc period, when he won two championships for Aprilia, where Dall’Igna was head of the racing department. Lorenzo knows what Dall’Igna is capable of, but he also knows the challenges which he would face there.

All he needs to do is look across at the other side of the garage, at teammate Valentino Rossi. The prospect of spending two years in the wilderness as Rossi did cannot be an attractive one for a man so clearly addicted to winning. Choosing to ride for Ducati would require a massive leap of faith.

As might be expected, Ducati has already denied the rumors they have reached an agreement with Jorge Lorenzo. Speaking to, Ducati boss Claudio Domenicali joked sarcastically “yes, and we’ve signed Marquez too, it’s cheaper than developing the bike.” The focus, Paolo Ciabatti reaffirmed, was on developing the Desmosedici. “Our riders are not the problem,” Ciabatti told

Source: Onda Cero &; Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • I wish more CEO’s responded like Domenicali did here. Classic.

  • Tanker Man

    I’m still intrigued by what Nicky Hayden said about the Ducati carbon fiber “frame”/steering head/airbox. After he set the unofficial lap record at a track whose name escapes me at the moment.

  • 2ndclass

    The issue with the carbon fibre chassis wasn’t that it was carbon fibre, the problem was that Ducati basically rolled it out at the start of the season, and then really did nothing else. Honda and Yamaha are constantly rolling out new frames, swingarms, forks, clamps and so on, whereas Ducati just seems to just struggle on with what they had at the start of the year.

  • Conrice

    Umm, no.

    Rossi/Burgess chose to ditch the carbon fiber chassis (actually half carbon fiber/half aluminum) in favor for a full traditional twin beam aluminum frame because 1) they had experience with it (Yamaha), 2) Motogp went spec tire which at the time seemed to favor twin beam frames like Honda/Yamaha, 3) figured that it would be cheaper (thus easier and quicker) to modify/develop at Ducati.

  • paulus

    +1 for Dominicali’s comment.

    In Indonesia MotoGP rules the TV and advertising and the riders are Super-stars…. especially Yamaha and Honda. The sponsors and fans deserve to honour the riders and be ready to support them through 2014, not worry they are jumping ship.

    The whole thing seems like a crude hammer to try to negotiate with… Let’s hope it is not, the timing sucks.

  • ZootCadiilac

    This is definitely one for silly season but way earlier than expected. My spies tell me this has nothing to do with Ducati and more to do with GL’s camp putting pressure on Yamaha to come up with a greatly improved contract. History shows that Yamaha don’t buckle under such circumstances, mainly because they simply can not afford to.

    Also the talk about Ducati racing open entries on their machines is a little premature. It’s simply come about as word came out that they will test both options in a combination of last year’s bike and this year’s bike just to see what can be learned. Whilst running open entries always remains a possibility nothing remotely close has been decided.

  • crshnbrn

    “MotoGP Silly Season’s First Crazy Rumor: Lorenzo Agrees to Precontract with Ducati for 2015?”

    That’s not just “Crazy”, that’s Craaazzee.

    Take Yamaha’s 12 million euro offer and keep the 2 million euro bonus clause for winning the championship, then go out and earn 14 million euros.

    @Mr Jensen, I liked Ciabatti’s response also.

  • TexusTim

    I can believe that Ducati made him an offer I dont thhnk he would accept it just yet…but you never know with all the “young guns” in motogp this year if a couple come to the front like Marquez his ride could be in jepardy, might be good for him to have them in his ” back pocket”…man Ducati throws a lot of money around !

  • crshnbrn

    Right now there are four bikes capable of winning the championship. Lorenzo is riding one, and Marquez is riding one. The other two are spoken for. The “young guns” will most likely have to wait until 2015 just come to the front.

  • Jw

    Yamaha had no problem waving goodbye to Rossi a few years ago. Jorge needs to keep all options open , rumor or not.

  • crshnbrn

    That was 2010. Lorenzo went on to win the championship that year. Rossi had won four MotoGP Championships riding for Yamaha, but that was in the past. Lorenzo was their present and future. Rossi wasn’t willing to accept being less than the lead rider. Lorenzo is still in his prime. I don’t see Yamaha letting him go elsewhere easily.

  • paulus

    “man Ducati throws a lot of money around !”

    For Racing, they do… then they go straight to their suppliers and tell them to find price savings because business sucks (strangely enough then posting record performance for that same year). It happened immediately before signing Rossi and will no doubt happen again.

    That’s business I guess.

  • Norm G.

    I’m insulted. this entire story is troll bait. I see what you did here.

  • Norm G.

    re: “According to the report, Ducati Corse’s new boss Gigi Dall’Igna phoned Jorge Lorenzo personally to persuade him to sign for the Italian factory.”

    with this story, every site publishing it oddly leaves out the part where Jay tells Gi to eat it.

  • Norm G.

    re: “History shows that Yamaha don’t buckle under such circumstances”

    History shows the Ducati is CRT grade recalcitrant.

    the only story placing a greater strain on credibility (if that’s even possible?) would be a Ducati PreContract with VR46.

    ya know what…? yeah, let’s run that next… the fans are gullible enough. Sun, Daily Mirror it is.

  • L2C

    Unfounded rumors or not, Ducati knows how to attract top riders. Money and promises, sure, but that doesn’t stop even the most discerning top riders from being tempted by Ducati’s offers. As bad as the factory’s bike is, glory is still an attractive part of the equation. And Domenicali’s answer sounds evasive. He doesn’t have to own up to anything at such an early stage in the recruitment/negotiation process. The only thing he and Ciabatti have to do is protect Ducati’s future business interests, which is exactly what they seem to be doing.

    Pedrosa, Lorenzo, and Rossi are all up for grabs. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Ducati would be in the mix of possible futures for any of these riders. And it also shouldn’t surprise that Ducati would be in there just as early as any of the other factory teams. I don’t doubt that the Big Three have been courting those guys for the whole of last year, up until now. There are compelling reasons why any of the factories would want the services of either of them.

    Given the economic climate and the rare skill sets of Lorenzo, Pedrosa, and Rossi – no factory team in its right mind wouldn’t be clamoring for their services. Either rider would represent a sound investment. Lorenzo and Pedrosa are both championship contenders, unquestionably. What factory isn’t going to compete to contract with either? And the party isn’t over with Rossi.

    Anybody who thinks that Rossi is going to give up his career by Mugello isn’t paying attention. It’s going to take more than the deficit of a couple of tenths to get that man to retire. If his miserable stint with Ducati wasn’t enough to make him to hang up his leathers, being so much closer to the top three acts of the field isn’t going to do the trick either. In addition to that, the factory teams and global sponsors are doing everything to persuade him to stay around a couple more years. Most likely, at least. I don’t know for a fact if that’s what’s happening — but given the state of global economic affairs, and the fact that Dorna sees itself as being in the entertainment business, is there a better assumption to make? Money needs to be made. And bona fide stars need to take center stage.

    Besides, Rossi wants to win more races. He wants to see if he has the ability to compete for another title. That should be clear to everybody. That more than anything else is going to drive him to stay in MotoGP. More than anything, he wants to beat Marquéz and Lorenzo. And that is enough for him to remain in the sport until 2016.

    If there is a bitter pill in Rossi’s future to swallow, he’s going to go to the ends of the earth to do it. And, anyway, he’s done that already with Ducati. So the risk of having to do it again is no big deal. For Rossi, the sweet taste of success is worth the risk.

    On the global stage, high visibility is the one factor that Lorenzo, Pedrosa, and Rossi have in common. And in Asian countries, each has a significant fan base. This is very clear on social networks.

    Budgets are going to be stretched to the absolute maximum this year for the factories. Expect them to go the extra distance to acquire/retain the services of the only three known quantities that have the ability to win, and to sell.

  • L2C

    Grammar, blah blah blah. I hate these tiny boxes.

  • Phil

    That’s a good un’.. for a moment there I thought you said ” Lorenzo Agrees to Precontract with Ducati “.

  • Chaz Michael Michaels

    Pedrosa to Lorenzo, “do it, do it!”
    Rossi to Lorenzo, “do it! do it!”
    Marquez to Lorenzo, “do it! do it!”

    Lorenzo to Ducati would be a boon for every rider not on a Ducati.

  • L2C

    At this very moment, all four of them are on the slopes of a mountain somewhere urging each other to “Do it, do it!” LOL…