autoevolution
Car video reviews:
 

Lorenzo at Ducati, Finally?

We are a couple of days ahead of the pre-race press conference at the Circuit of the Americas where the latest paddock rumors say that Jorge Lorenzo is expected to announce his move to Ducati from 2017.
Sources in the Spanish motorsport media have already weaved an entire complex scenario based on the rumors they claim they received from people who are close to the MotoGP paddock. According to them, Jorge Lorenzo has already told Yamaha that he would be riding a Ducati Desmosedici from 2017, and Lin Jarvis, Iwata's MotoGP boss is putting pressure on him to make things official as soon as possible.

That is, at the upcoming US round at the COTA in Austin, Texas. Jarvis' reasons for such a demand are easy to figure out, because he would then be free to announce the rider that will replace Lorenzo.

All the journalists seem to agree in saying that, in case Lorenzo indeed leaves team Movistar Yamaha, Maverick Vinales would be his replacement. Behind such a move, several aspects make a whole lot of sense.

He is young and will benefit from the huge racing experience of Rossi, who would act as his mentor over the next two seasons. At the same time, Vinales would be more likely to agree to play "second fiddle" in the team and help Rossi win, not unlike things happen with the lieutenants/wingmen of the top Dakar motorcycle riders.

Even more, Vinales is, unquestionably, the most promising rider on the entire grid, showing both innate talent and a very good understanding of the very new Suzuki motorbike he's using. Having him on a Yamaha, arguably the best bike on the track now, could change the game seriously next year. Finally, Vinales is sponsored by Red Bull, and so is the US round, making the Circuit of the Americas the perfect scenario for such an announcement, albeit a brief and nonspectacular one.

Back to Lorenzo, ducatinoticias reports that his representative Albert Valera has flown on a very short notice to Austin. It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to infer that his alleged rushed departure for the US might be to be by Lorenzo's side when perfecting the final details of the rumored deal with Ducati.

We reported last week that Giacomo Agostini mentioned that Ducati, with strong backing from Audi, made Lorenzo a "super-offer." The mentioned Spanish media now throws some more fuel on the (rumor) fire and says that they also found out some figures that revolve around Lorenzo.

According to the mentioned source, Yamaha pays Lorenzo a salary just under €7 million per season, and would be willing to offer him as much as €10 million annually. Ducati reportedly offers Lorenzo a wage that reaches €12 million per season, for a two-year contract. Other benefits might be included, but no rumors about them surfaced.

Some say that Lorenzo's presence aboard the Ducati ship is too much of a gamble, most likely because no one, with the exception of Casey Stoner, was able to take these bikes past the finish line first too often. Rossi failed miserably as a Ducati rider for two seasons before returning to Yamaha, and only now are factory riders Dovizioso and Iannone starting to make a solid progress. At least when they don't take each other out.

However, things have changed very much since Stoner's days. Ducati fired Preziosi and brought Aprilia's former engineer Gigi Dall'Igna as the supreme boss of Ducati Corse, answering only to CE Claudio Domenicali and benefiting from substantial funding thanks to Audi's "umbrella."

Dall'Igna built a new machine and improved the old ones, and results were not late. The factory bike is now the fastest in a straight line and has a tremendous acceleration almost anywhere across the rev range. Even more, cornering was improved dramatically and, with one of the top riders at the helm, it may very well start winning races.

Ducati doesn't seem to be affected too much by the lost privileges (tires, testing, engines and all) and is behaving like any established factory team would. Focused on finally returning once more to the first step of the rostrum, Ducati looks like they are more than willing to walk the extra mile to reach their goals.

There's always the possibility that Lorenzo doesn't shine aboard the Ducati. The chances are rather slim, considering the current Desmosedici GP, but they are here.

Still, Lorenzo and Dall'Igna collaborated in the past, back in the day when JL99 was a 250cc Aprilia rider. With Dall'Igna, Lorenzo became world champion in 2006 and 2007, and this may be just the kind of background they need to make things great once more.Who leaves from Ducati?
If they have any chance to get Lorenzo in their boat, there will be a swift decision as to which of their current factory riders will be sacked. On the one hand, Andrea Dovizioso's poor performance last year might make him a candidate for job-seeking, despite the fact that he got a podium this year.

On the other hand, Andrea Iannone is rumored to be with one foot out of Ducati after his mistake denied Ducati a 2-3 podium one turn before the end of the Argentinian round last week (April 3, 2016).

If anything, over the past 20 races, Iannone looked better than Dovizioso, even though Dovizioso seems to have a more constant riding style. Each rider has their own pros and cons, and which ones will weigh more for Ducati is a total mystery right now.

We're not even sure that some Ducati official will bother to provide us with explanations of some sort. If Lorenzo dons the red Borgo Panigale leathers, then we're positive that Ducati's highest goal would be to do whatever is humanly possible to have him winning races in the shortest time, and making sure that his teammate doesn't get in the way, if he can't help.Fans still have hopes for the Stoner-Lorenzo dream-team
Going deeper into this territory of suppositions and rumors, it looks like the fans of both Stoner and Ducati are still dreaming about the Aussie returning to MotoGP, even though he doesn't seem too eager to make such a move.

Their hopes lie with the Ducati motorcycle becoming highly competitive with help from Stoner as a test rider, to the point where he will start to enjoy riding it and think about races once more. The truth is that Stoner (and Ducati) have become less drastic in their declaration denying the possibility of the MotoGP Legend making wildcard appearances, and this might be a thing...

We know that Stoner is not fit to race right now - he and Ducati admitted this. But at the same time, the Italian maker says that maybe after the first half of the season, things will be different, so again, there might be something brewing at Borgo Panigale.

If you ask us, Stoner will only return to the track when he feels that he can make it in style - a podium or even a victory. This means he must train, get on most friendly terms with the bike, and have the right attitude; nothing that can't be done, obviously. Still, from a strong wildcard race to a return as a factory rider, the road is long, maybe too long.

With the COTA press conference around the corner and the rumor mill spinning faster than ever, grabbing one more coffee and playing the waiting game is the only thing we can do.

 
 
 
 
 

Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories