Ducati plot Jorge Lorenzo swoop

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Ducati will turn to Jorge Lorenzo if Casey Stoner drops a bombshell and signs a factory Honda deal for 2011.

Bologna factory management confirmed to MCN that Spaniard Lorenzo has already been approached for next season as speculation intensifies that Stoner will move to the Repsol Honda squad.

Ducati has conceded it faces a monumental fight to keep 2007 world champion Stoner, with Honda launching an aggressive bid for the Australian.

Lorenzo, who currently leads the MotoGP world championship after successive victories in Jerez and Le Mans, turned down Ducati last season when he was the subject of a lucrative offer to quit Yamaha.

But the 23-year-old could be available in 2010 with Yamaha wrestling with how to accommodate Valentino Rossi, Lorenzo and Ben Spies in its star-studded line-up.

Ducati is also cagey on reports that it has already instigated one final daring raid on reigning world champion Rossi.

A Rossi/Ducati partnership is the dream of just about every single racing fan on the planet, but the 31-year-old once again stated his intention last week was to end his career with Yamaha.

So with Rossi’s signature most likely to be unobtainable for Ducati and the prospect of Stoner departing now a real and serious threat, Ducati may launch a concerted effort to lure six-times MotoGP winner Lorenzo.

Ducati boss Filippo Preziosi told MCN: “Maybe it is possible that Lorenzo is available and of course we have contact with his manager.

“At the moment it seems that Valentino is not available and maybe Jorge could be available. Every time there is the possibility to have different riders the first rumours are always related to Valentino because he is a very strong rider and also Italian.

“To be honest I’ve read what Valentino has said about his intention to stay in Yamaha and I’ve read that Yamaha wants to keep Valentino, so I don’t see the possibility for Valentino to change.

“If they are happy to keep him and he is happy to stay there it seems easy they can find an agreement.

Not surprisingly, Ducati and Honda played down intense speculation that Stoner had already inked a deal to ride an RC212V for HRC in 2011.

Stoner’s father and manager Colin Stoner was locked in several lengthy discussions with Ducati and Honda management at the Spanish MotoGP in Jerez earlier this month.

Negotiations between Stoner and Honda are eased somewhat by the fact that former Malboro Ducati team manager Livio Suppo is now chief rider negotiator at HRC.
But a Honda swoop for Stoner is no big shock for Preziosi.

He added: “Speaking with Livio last year it was clear that he would try and sign Casey for next season and it is obvious that he has to speak with him in order to define what could be their proposal.

“As far as we are concerned nothing is signed. It is normal that Honda have contacted Casey. Honda is the main motorcycle manufacturer in the world and it is no surprise that a rider would be interested in what they propose.

“I have a very good relationship with Casey and I’m sure what his and our decision will be, there won’t be any problems.”

Stoner has won 20 races for Ducati and been the only rider to enjoy any semblance of success on the notoriously finicky Desmosedici.

He has been a fundamental element of Ducati’s premier class success and Ducati won’t let him leave without a fight.

Preziosi said: “We are doing our best in order for Casey to be happy to remain with Ducati. We want him to be happy with the team, the bike and the way of working.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt