Some say it is for money, he says it is for the challenge, and others think he may simply be crazy – but one way or the other, reigning MotoGP champ Jorge Lorenzo is headed from the safe confines of Movistar Yamaha to the unknown world of Ducati Corse for the 2017 MotoGP season.
Rather than rehash what everyone else has said regarding Lorenzo’s move and what may or may not have led up to it (otherwise known as dragging the Sepang mess back and forth through the mud a few dozen times), I’ll attempt to be a bit more practical and tell you why I think he is really shifting over to the Desmo scene…because, seriously – however slighted he may have felt in the Rossi-Marquez feud, it would be ridiculous for Lorenzo to make that the primary reason to bail on the best bike in the paddock. Instead, I think there are far better reasons why Jorge is packing his bags. Three, in fact:
1. If you want to be a legend, you have to do what the legends do: What do Stoner, Rossi, Agostini, and Lawson all have in common? In addition to being recognizable to MotoGP fans simply by their last names, all of those legendary riders accomplished the same feat – they won the World Championship for two different manufacturers. Lorenzo already has three MotoGP titles with Yamaha – plenty enough to get him a quaint MotoGP Legends ceremony before one of the Spanish rounds after he retires. But Jorge wants more than that – he wants fans years from now to argue whether he, Rossi or Ago are the greatest of all time; and to be in that conversation, he has to do what those riders did – win for a second manufacturer. If he can do it with the bike that Rossi failed on, all the better. Trust me – this is the reason for the move. Everything beyond it is icing on the cake.
2. Ducati made an offer Jorge couldn’t refuse: Even Yamaha admits that Ducati meant business when they approached Lorenzo. The Ducati of old may not have been able to play with the same bankroll as the Japanese manufacturers, but now that Audi owns them (well, actually – Ducati was bought by Lamborghini, who is owned by Audi, who is owned by Volkswagen), there is a lot more money at their disposal. And if there is one thing Audi has learned from their racing history (read – their dominance at LeMans), it is that you need the best equipment and the best talent – so, with Marc Marquez unattainable, Lorenzo was the guy they knew they needed to loosen the purse strings for. Money isn’t the main motivator here for Jorge, but I’m sure he’s not complaining about the cash.
3. The Red bikes aren’t that bad anymore: We’ve all noticed – today’s Ducati isn’t the same impossible-to-ride machine that frustrated so many in the past, Rossi included. Not only has Bologna produced a bike that is much closer to Japanese manufacturer’s offerings, but they were also smart enough to run Open Class last year – getting a full season to adjust to the standardized Magneti Marelli software all teams now have to run. So not only does Lorenzo have the chance to win a championship on a Ducati – he’ll have a much easier time of it than those who came before. 100% of the prestige of winning on a Duc with 75% of the effort Stoner had to put in – what’s not to like if you’re Lorenzo?
So that’s why Jorge is leaving. And I’d imagine Andrea Ianonne is the rider he will replace; not only would the younger Andrea want to compete for top billing with Lorenzo where Andrea Dovisiozo would be more willing to play second chair, but letting Ianonne go would lessen the chances of Lorenzo being taken out by his own teammate on the final corner of a race (see Argentina, 2016…).
The only question left, then, is who replaces Lorenzo at Yamaha, and honestly – I’m not 100 percent certain. I’m sure Yamaha would love Maverick Vinales to be the heir-apparent, but everyone in the paddock has reportedly made him an offer at this point, so it is not a sure-thing at this point. Personally, I’d like to see what Vinales could do on the Suzuki as that bike gets better, but I think there’s a very good chance he is headed to Yamaha and Ianonne will shift over to Suzuki, which would be fun to see, as well. If Maverick stays put…well, then Pol Espargaro or Ianonne could have a chance at the seat…or maybe even someone else. Of course, Dani Pedrosa could throw a monkey wrench in the works if he decides to move somewhere and opens up a seat at Honda.
So even though the reasons for Lorenzo’s move are pretty obvious, everything that happens as a result of his shift to the Italian bike will keep things just as interesting off the track as they are on it when the lights go out – so let he Silly Season continue.