MotoGP: Ducati Speaks Jorge Lorenzo Acquisition

Why? What’s the plan? And what happens to the Andreas?

Ducati Team's Paolo Ciabati and current MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo
Ducati Team's Paolo Ciabati and current MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo. Photos: Andrea Wilson©Motorcyclist
The first piece to the MotoGP season is in play with Lorenzo's move to Ducati, but why did they choose Lorenzo, how did it happen, and what's the plan for the future?

Ducati talked to the media on Thursday before the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, but they don’t want to talk about it anymore. That is until the MotoGP season is over and Jorge Lorenzo is riding a Desmosedici instead of an M1. Lorenzo’s big move to Ducati is a big deal, and wrapping it up so early in the year raised a lot of questions.

It's no secret that Ducati wanted to acquire one of "the aliens" – Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa – and with contracts coming to an end after 2016 they were up for grabs. So it was all perfect timing as the Desmosedici is competitive and attractive to riders once again.

“With all due to respect to all the other riders, including the two Andreas [Dovizioso and Iannone], there are a few riders who have been showing their potential They are able to win championships,” Ducati Corse Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti said. “If you look at history in the last six years: three times Lorenzo, twice [Marc] Marquez and once [Casey] Stoner. So to be sure to be in a position to fight for a world title we needed to aim for one of the two riders, which are Lorenzo and Marquez.”

Movistar Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo
Ducati's acquires an alien - Jorge Lorenzo makes the switch to Ducati for 2017-2018. Photo By Andrea Wilson©Motorcyclist

And Ducati did aim for both, but they scented that someone was likely more available.

“Without too many details, obviously there has been a kind of contact – very informal – for some time,” Ciabatti said. “But everything became a little more interesting around Qatar and at that time Yamaha announced that they had renewed the agreement with Valentino Rossi. At that point we thought it was time to see if there was a real chance to make a serious approach and try to sign one of the top riders, and we thought there was a more favorable situation for many reasons with Jorge [Lorenzo] than Marc [Marquez].

“Honda at the moment, with all due respect for Dani [Pedrosa], are counting very much on Marc to win races and challenge for the championship. So we thought for them it is a must to try to keep Marc. On the other side Yamaha announced the signing of Valentino, we thought there was an opportunity to explore and we managed to close the deal.”

Speaking of Rossi… Everyone viewed Rossi’s big switch from Yamaha to Ducati as an albatross, something that potentially could have ended his career. Rossi bounced back with Yamaha, Ducati bounced back with better leadership. Ducati Corse General Manager Gigi Dall’Igna and Ciabatti have righted the ship. If they hadn’t, the switch to Ducati would have been a really tough sell for Lorenzo who suits the Yamaha M1 perfectly. Even so, will the Desmosedici suit Lorenzo’s riding style? Ducati Corse General Manager Dall’Igna has worked with Lorenzo before in the 250s and doesn’t anticipate any problems.

“At the moment I think that our bike is quite good for him,” Dall’Igna said. “I mean I think that we have in mind some evolution to do during this season for next year and I think that as soon as possible, after the Valencia race, we will provide to him the 2017 bike. That we are working on now in Ducati. I’m quite convinced that we don’t have to introduce too many evolutions just for Jorge.”

So what happens to the Andreas – Iannone and Dovizioso?
So what happens to the Andreas – Iannone and Dovizioso? Ducati says that they'd prefer to keep the continuity with one of the two riders, but are not in a hurry to make that decision. Photo Courtesy of Ducati©Motorcyclist

So what happens to the two Andreas – Dovizioso and Iannone? It’s also an answer that everyone’s going to have to wait for. Ducati may have jumped on Lorenzo when the opportunity presented itself, but they are not in a hurry to choose his teammate. They do however see value in continuity and most likely will pick one of the Andreas.

“In our opinion it would be important to keep one of the two current riders because continuity of the work we have been developing for both Andreas,” Ciabatti said. “Both are Ducati MotoGP riders since 2013, Iannone starting with Pramac, Dovizioso only with the factory team, but we have done a lot of development work together. So we think that ideally, if possible, we would like to retain one of the two riders.”

And speaking of teammates, how will it work at Ducati? It’s felt that despite the chance of becoming one of the few to actually win a championship for two different manufacturers, Lorenzo also left Yamaha to be top dog at Ducati. Yamaha is quite open about their 50/50 rule, and feel that it’s the secret to their success. Dall’Igna wasn’t boldly going with the 50/50 rule, but he was not quite comfortable with the number one rider designation on his team either.

Ducati Corse Sporting Director Paolo Ciabati
Ducati Corse Sporting Director smelled blood when Yamaha signed Valentino Rossi before Qatar and Lorenzo opted to wait. Photo By Andrea Wilson©Motorcyclist

“In all my career, I don’t want to give the opportunities to only one rider to win the championship,” Dall’Igna said. “For me I have to think, above all at the beginning of the season, [to give] the best possible material to both of my riders. For sure after, if one of them is able to reach the best results in comparison with the other, for sure I have to help him to reach the target. But for sure at the beginning and first part of the season I don’t want to give any best things to some of our riders.”

If status is paramount, Ducati may not be the place to go. The brand itself is seen as greater than any one rider, but, as it usually does, winning changes everything. If you win with Ducati, you have a chance to be a legend in the eyes of the very loyal Ducatisti.

“Ducati is a special company,” Ciabatti said. “We are quite small in size but we are very much focused on performance and racing and passion. I think that this feeling of passion all surrounding what Ducati does will be one of the factors that Jorge will appreciate very much. Obviously the Ducati fans are really cheering for the brand more than the riders in principle, but the riders that were able to achieve exceptional results for Ducati then they become also heroes for our customers, who are fans.

“Among all the riders – sorry Neil [Hodgson], who is here – the heroes for the Ducati fans are [Carl] Fogarty, [Troy] Bayliss and Stoner. So I think that the opportunity for a rider like Jorge to become a hero or a symbol for a company like Ducati is maybe also one of the reasons that made him think that it was the right time to make a change in his career.”