World cham­pion on the brink of big-money switch to Du­cati in 2017

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Sport - IN AR­GENTINA MO­TOGP RE­PORTER si­mon.pat­ter­son@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com

Reign­ing Mo­togp world cham­pion Jorge Lorenzo looks odds on to be­come a Du­cati rider for the 2017 and 2018 Mo­togp sea­sons, end­ing a long and lu­cra­tive partnership with Yamaha.

MCN un­der­stands that the move, which has been spec­u­lated about for weeks, is now be­lieved to be a ver­bally done deal and there will be an of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment of the tie up be­tween the three-time Mo­togp cham­pion and the Ital­ian man­u­fac­turer when the cham­pi­onship re­turns to Europe at Jerez in three weeks time.

Lorenzo has been able to see the GP16 spec­i­fi­ca­tion Des­mosedici up close in re­cent weeks and, like the rest of the pad­dock, can only be im­pressed by what he’s seen. His ex­pected switch also comes just weeks af­ter for­mer cham­pion Casey Stoner ad­mit­ted that he now be­lieves that the Du­cati is good enough to win.

Ru­mours in Ar­gentina last week­end claim Du­cati has pre­pared a highly lu­cra­tive of­fer for the Spa­niard, backed by the com­bined fi­nances of long-time spon­sor to­bacco giant Phillip Mor­ris and of own­ers Audi, both of whom are keen to see the team win races and cham­pi­onships.

Re­ports in the Ital­ian press that Lorenzo has been of­fered more than £8.5 mil­lion to make the switch, were given some cre­dence by Grand Prix leg­end Gi­a­como Agos­tini, who says he be­lieves the cham­pion has been of­fered a ‘su­per deal’. If it’s true it would make Lorenzo higher paid than Valentino Rossi, but it’s un­likely that money alone has been the de­cid­ing fac­tor.

De­spite five world ti­tles across two classes, Lorenzo isn’t per­ceived to have achieved the level of great­ness at­tained by some of his peers. A Mo­togp crown rid­ing a Du­cati would go a long way to­wards se­cur­ing his place in the all­time hall of fame.

To make it even sweeter, there’s the pos­si­bil­ity to do some­thing that Rossi couldn’t do – mak­ing a win­ning switch from Yamaha to Du­cati. With ten­sions be­tween the duo as high now as at any point since be­fore Rossi him­self made the ill-fated switch to the Ital­ian man­u­fac­turer, there would be no greater way to rub his neme­sis’ nose in it, than by achiev­ing Du­cati suc­cess.

It will also al­low the 28-year-old to break free of the Ital­ian’s shadow, mov­ing to a team where he would very clearly ex­pect to be the num­ber one rider as op­posed to Yamaha’s cur­rent sys­tem of treat­ing both riders equally.

And while he wouldn’t con­firm the news, Du­cati boss Paulo Ci­a­batti ad- mit­ted to MCN at the Ar­gentina race that the man­u­fac­turer’s in­ten­tions for 2017 were to at­tract one of the sport’s big names to the Du­cati team.

“We’ve made no se­cret about it – we know both Mar­quez and Lorenzo have their con­tracts ex­pir­ing at the end of this sea­son. We’ve been look­ing into the pos­si­bil­ity, and we’ve been talk­ing to the riders. We wouldn’t be do­ing our job prop­erly if we weren’t look­ing into it.”

Lorenzo him­self was equally eva­sive about the news, ad­mit­ting ahead of the week­end’s rac­ing in Ar­gentina that he has had mul­ti­ple of­fers – but also claim­ing that no de­ci­sion has been made by him.

“The situation is the same as it has been for a while. We need to con­cen­trate on the com­ing races, and I don’t want to say more than that – I want to keep it pri­vate with my peo­ple and make a de­ci­sion in the com­ing weeks.”

‘Re­ports claim Lorenzo has been of­fered over £8.5 mil­lion to make the switch’

Du­cati test rider Casey Stoner says the GP16 is a win­ning pack­age

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