Jorge Lorenzo returning to Ducati? “They haven’t called, but…”

He may not be racing anymore but Jorge Lorenzo's name remains firmly in the headlines, this  time over links to a shock return in 2021 with Ducati

Jorge Lorenzo has dismissed growing speculation that Ducati has discussed the potential of him returning to both the team and the MotoGP grid in 2021 to replace Andrea Dovizioso.

Earlier this week Ducati’s Gigi Dall’Igna confirmed the manufacturer had reached a ‘stalemate’ with Dovizioso – triple runner-up to Marc Marquez for the past three years – over a disagreement on the financial side. To date, Ducati has only confirmed one seat – Jack Miller - between its factory set-up and the satellite Pramac Racing team.

While Dovizioso appears to be in a strong bargaining position as a number of high-profile riders assure their futures elsewhere, there is talk Ducati could consider bringing back Lorenzo, who raced with the team in 2017 and 2018.

Though the relationship yielded mixed success – with a trio of wins in 2018 coming after it was confirmed he won’t be retained for 2019 – he was linked to a shock return as recently as last year as he sought a way out of his Repsol Honda deal.

For now, Lorenzo remains on the sidelines after exiting his two-year Honda deal and returned to Yamaha as a test rider, insisting he is happy with his current retired state. However, he has more recently suggested he would return for the right deal, such as one with Ducati.

However, in an interview with the official MotoGP website, Lorenzo says he has held no formal discussions with Ducati but admitted he would be interested.

"It's not true,” he answered when asked about the speculation. “It's true that, for example, I have a very good relationship with Gigi [Dall’Igna] from when we worked together in 125. We believe in each other a lot, as a rider and a technician, and we have a human relationship.

"So he called me on my birthday and we spoke about our lives and families, but nothing professional. For the moment I'm very happy, enjoying a lot things I couldn't do when I was a professional racer. But I cannot tell you I don't miss the winning feeling and celebrations with the team.

"That's why if the opportunity or the call to [try and ] win the championship came, I would listen and study it. Because for me, the thing that wakes me up and makes me be motivated is winning.

"If I have this chance, this opportunity, I will study it. Because I still believe at 33-years-old I am capable, with the right tools, to win the championship. For the moment this call didn’t arrive so I cannot study this situation, but if it happens I will listen."

"For the moment there's only two possibilities for me to have the right tools to win. Yamaha, who have already more-or-less signed their four riders, and Ducati," he said.

"But if it [a return to MotoGP] doesn't happen, I will be very happy with my life. I will have another kind of life. I would like also to keep working with Yamaha, because I think we could make good work. Now with the COVID, I could only do two days [at Sepang] and it was not enough for me to help the team to improve the bike."

Yamaha return has an 'ulterior motive' for Jorge Lorenzo

While Lorenzo himself has been keen to stress his decision to retire at the end of the 2019 MotoGP season - in so doing getting him out of his debilitating Honda contract with a year left to run - was down to him wanting to slow down his pace of life, he has arguably been one of the most active figures in MotoGP over these past few months. 

Quickly sourcing a new test rider deal with Yamaha, raising eyebrows among everyone (except perhaps, oddly enough, Honda) Lorenzo would have been back on the race grid in 2020 had COVID-19 not scuppered his wild-card plans. Indeed, though Yamaha ultimately benefited from Lorenzo's availabilty, even Lin Jarvis is aware of the Spaniard's probable 'ulterior motive' of getting back on the bike he earned three world titles on.

"Jorge wanted to do tests and a race this year," Jarvis told Speedweek. "But I think he had an ulterior motive. He also wanted to find out if he was still interested enough to return to racing,

"I think he had a very strong interest in finding out if he would still be fast enough, comfortable and competitive and if he could regain his old confidence with the Yamaha."

As it stands, Lorenzo is only likely to ever rejoin Yamaha or Ducati if he does return. However, with Yamaha's factory options limited to wild-cards, Ducati looks the more plausible destination albeit one that isn't a guranteed success.

Indeed, if Lorenzo is Ducati's bargaining chip to get Dovizioso to agree to its terms, it could be a powerful - if risky - move for the team to get him back on side having witnessed all flavours of Lorenzo during his two years there from desperately off the pace to unbeatable on occasion. Quite the opposite of the metronomically consistent Dovizioso...


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