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GP Week : Issue 158
Jorge Lorenzo has provided an early answer to the first and most important question of next year’s rider merry-go-round, by signing a two-year deal to stay with Yamaha until 2014. This meant rejecting tempting advances from Honda, and left a gaping hole in the factory HRC team after Stoner departs at the end of this season. It was a tough decision, said Lorenzo. “But finally I heard a little bit my heart, and my heart said: Yamaha. Later he enlarged on the matter: “There were three reasons to sign. One – the bike. Two – the feeling with the team, and loyalty. And then the economical side was important also. “The negotiations will not change the mentality of my riding,” he added. This resolves the most important issue for the end of a season in which all factory rider contracts expire, but leaves Honda hunting for a solution. With the Rookie Rule about to be rescinded (see separate News story), Marc Marquez will move directly into the Repsol team. This might jeopardise Dani Pedrosa’s position, with the sponsor possibly preferring not to have two Spanish riders. But Marquez is not yet a lead rider, so who else would Honda choose? Rossi would be the obvious candidate for the best possible title chance, but team chief Shuhei Nakamoto is on record that he would be welcome in a satellite team, but not the factory squad. Rossi left at the end of 2003 on bad terms with the then management. Most probable is that Honda would take Rossi on as a fifth rider, in an independent team with his own crew, on a factory bike. The level of equipment through the year would depend on how well their official Repsol rider is performing. Other positions are equally uncertain, leaving many more possible variations than the following list. • Ben Spies needs some good results to prove he is worthy of renewal at Yamaha. • Andrea Dovizioso is anxious to move from the satellite to the factory Yamaha team, and has so far performed better than Spies. • Cal Crutchlow is enjoying a strong start to his second year on the second satellite Yamaha, but with Bradley Smith guaranteed a place in the squad next year he has said he would consider “taking a chance” with Ducati. • If his strong performance continues, Crutchlow might be an interesting candidate for Honda. • Nicky Hayden wants to stay put at Ducati, and has a strong chance of doing so. • Stefan Bradl has a contract to stay with the satellite LCR Honda team next year: his strong start would also put him on a factory-team short list. LORENZO YAMAHA DEAL LEAVES HONDA HUNTING 11 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> NEWS