Lorenzo to decide future at Indy

Spaniard’s decision may have domino effect on American riders

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Aug. 21, 2009
Jorge Lorenzo is expected to announce his plans for the 2010 MotoGP season at the Indianapolis round, Aug. 28-30.

The 22-year-old’s contract with Fiat Yamaha expires at the end of the season. Currently sitting second in the rider standings behind teammate Valentino Rossi, Lorenzo had been linked with Repsol Honda earlier in the season but is now expected to choose between re-signing with Yamaha or joining Ducati Marlboro.

Lorenzo has been successful in his time with Yamaha, winning rookie of the year honors in 2008 for his fourth place finish. How much longer can Jorge Lorenzo remain in Valentino Rossi's shadow?With soon-to-be nine-time Grand Prix champion Rossi on the team, however, Lorenzo will never be the number one rider in the Fiat Yamaha garage. Rossi and Lorenzo, and to a lesser extent, the Monster Tech 3 duo of Colin Edwards and James Toseland, have demonstrated that the Yamaha M1 is the bike to beat, but as the second-tier rider for the factory team, Lorenzo will remain a step behind Rossi when it comes to receiving technical updates.

Various reports out of Europe say Ducati has offered from 4 to 8 million euros ($5.7 to $11.5 million U.S.) per year on a two-year contract. The offer came after Ducati’s Casey Stoner shut himself down for three rounds to deal with the mystery illness that has affected him for much of the summer.

With Ducati, Lorenzo may have a better chance of moving to the top of the pecking order. Stoner’s health is uncertain, but even if he were healthy, Lorenzo is a more marketable commodity for sponsorships, especially in Europe.

The downside for a move to Ducati? Lorenzo would be leaving the best bike on the grid for a machine that, so far, only Stoner has been able to tame.

Ducati has the option of retaining Nicky Hayden for 2010.
Colin Edwards has been the top satelite rider this season.

Lorenzo’s manager told MotoGP.com that a decision could come during the Indy round. When Lorenzo does make his choice, it is expected to create a domino effect on other rider signings.

If Lorenzo signs with Ducati, the Italian team will likely not pick up the option on Nicky Hayden’s contract. The Kentucky Kid started poorly but improved as the 2009 season progressed. A return to Repsol Honda is unlikely, as Tetsuo Suzuki, president of Honda Racing Corporation, indicated Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso are close to re-signing with the team. Taking Lorenzo’s place on Fiat Yamaha may be Hayden’s only factory option, but Yamaha may instead opt to partner Rossi once more with Edwards.

Would Tech 3 be interested in Hayden’s services? Toseland’s status may be just as tenuous as Hayden’s, but the French team may have its eyes on another American racer. Ben Spies has been impressive racing on Yamaha’s World Superbike team. Many observers expected him to make the jump to MotoGP this season after competing in a few races for Rizla Suzuki in 2008.When Suzuki went with Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen, Spies moved on to WSBK instead.

Spies may want to stay on the WSBK circuit, but if he does switch to MotoGP, his options are more limited. MotoGP rules prevent factory teams from signing rookie riders. Rizla Suzuki could have gotten around the rule since they aren’t officially a factory team, but if Spies makes the switch, Yamaha will want to keep him in its stable.