Lorenzo, Zarco, Redding, Bautista – Who goes where in 2020?

Jorge Lorenzo, Alvaro Bautista, Scott Redding, Johann Zarco... we consider who goes where in MotoGP and WorldSBK for 2020

Jack Miller - Pramac Ducati

HAVING entered the Austrian MotoGP weekend with a 2020 MotoGP grid that looked all but signed, sealed and delivered, it has taken only three days for myriad of questions to emerge about both it and the WorldSBK series following a flurry of movements behind the scenes.

Here is a round up to the rumours doing the rounds – realistic or otherwise – and we weigh up the various permutations of what may be coming…

Jorge Lorenzo to Ducati… or Yamaha… or honour his contract

Such is the pace this story seemed to move at this weekend, this could be old news within hours of us posting this article (and just like that... see below)

The facts remain that Lorenzo (and his management) have used the time away from the paddock to scope out potential options for 2020 with the caveat of a big fat ‘0’ of a wage bill, but with Ducati distancing itself from a slightly embarrassing scenario with Miller and Petronas SRT probably unwilling to get into the Rossi-Vinales motivated Yamaha spat that would emerge if they took him on, Lorenzo looks set to remain at Honda.

It’s worth noting that Lorenzo’s surreptitious actions are unlikely to have enamoured him with Honda management, who won’t appreciate the perceived lack of loyalty (aligned with his hefty wage bill) and it could wonder whether it would even want an unmotivated Lorenzo in its midst… 

Then again, as the only rider – on his day and on the right package – capable of taking the fight to Marc Marquez, keeping him at Honda at least keeps him out of his rivals’ hands.

In fact – consider this conspiracy theory – keeping Lorenzo out of Marquez’s range was the plan all along…

Jack Miller to stay at Ducati after all (see above)

Based on the latest information coming out of the MotoGP paddock, it seems Miller’s revelation about Jorge Lorenzo sniffing about his Ducati looks to have had the desired effect of rushing his Pramac deal through the post.

Strictly speaking it seems a tiny minority saw the upside of getting Lorenzo onto the Pramac Ducati at the expense of Miller, but that minority is said to exert a major influence on proceedings at a boardroom – rather than pit garage – level. 

Trouble is, having stirred the pot and put Ducati in the firing line for some questionable contractual quibbles, Miller’s power play may have worked in getting him that deal sorted once and for all, but he may have just added a huge amount of pressure onto his shoulders to perform. His crash in Austria isn’t a great start…

KTM to promote from within for 2020 MotoGP

Such was Zarco’s barely registered form on the KTM, it’s easy to forget that his exit offers up a fully-fledged factory ride with a big budget team on a bike that is measuring improvements in leaps rather than steps (with the right riding style, anyway…).

The expensive Zarco failure suggests it is unlikely KTM will look far outside its own fold for the rider to replace him. Miguel Oliveira’s timely top eight finish in Austria will have impressed management, but it is a swift promotion for a rider that hasn’t otherwise sparkled as yet.

Shuffling the factory-satellite riders also doesn’t solve the problem of sourcing a new rider. Proven MotoGP winner Dani Pedrosa is also an option, but the Spaniard has made repeated reference to being satisfied in his current testing role.

As such, Mika Kallio – who has a wealth of MotoGP experience, conducted the lion’s share of the RC16’s development and was impressive on handful of wild-cards in 2018 – is surely the favourite to succeed Zarco. The fact there is a possible Finnish MotoGP in 2020 would make Kallio a popular choice for Dorna too.

Alvaro Bautista quits Ducati for Honda WorldSBK

The term ‘season of two halves’ has never felt more appropriate than Alvaro Bautista’s 2019 WorldSBK season. Heading into the (long) summer break, Bautista was needing a hard reset but his version of this may be leaving Ducati altogether.

On paper this seems to be an extreme reaction to his rollercoaster form of late and the notion it’s machine-orientated factors at play – such as the rev limit change as suggested by a WorldSBK legend recently – but on the other hand HRC coming into WorldSBK presents a few interesting options.

The Honda project may be ‘transitionary’ at the moment and the development of an all-new CBR1000RR Fireblade not ‘official’ from Honda’s mouth (though confirmed by many others) but Bautista’s eagerness to get back into the MotoGP fold seems far more likely to see him succeed by using the Honda angle rather than the Ducati one – especially given the wrangling at Borgo Panigale the last few days.

Johann Zarco to WorldSBK… with Honda too?

Unless another team sees an opportunity to poach Zarco at the behest of one of their contracted riders, the Frenchman looks set for a year on the sidelines or in WorldSBK.

Like Bautista, the ambitious (and well-funded) HRC WorldSBK project has presented its ideas to Zarco already this year, long before the most recent revelations. Despite calling ‘bullshit’ on the prospect of moving at the time, it’s believable that those calls have since been returned. 

After all, Zarco’s smooth style – like Jonathan Rea’s at Kawasaki – is better suited to Superbikes and he’ll still get a decent wage too. Which sets up the prospect of a Zarco-Bautista super team…

After all, Zarco – like Bautista – will see a potential ‘in’ at Honda at MotoGP level, though much like the Spaniard he will want it in written into his contract for 2021. HRC may be open to the prospect of assuring the path for one of its riders, but will it want to provide a commitment to both? 

As tempting as it may be to have a Zarco-Bautista riding together in WorldSBK, it might just be a bit more than HRC can chew for now.

Ducati lining up Scott Redding to replace Bautista

Bautista’s interest in the HRC project has prompted Ducati to consider its future without its star rider and it seems Scott Redding is both the logical and likely replacement.

Redding has been on the factory’s radar ever since he reeled off a trio of British Superbike wins at Donington Park earlier in the year. Though an electronics-laden Panigale V4R is likely to be a different beast to the PBM one he races right now, Redding is evidently a quick learner and as much as he ‘f***ing hates electronics’ he has spent a large portion of his career riding with them in MotoGP.

As much as Redding is enjoying his time in BSB, his instant success means it is unlikely he’ll want to stay UK-bound when the factory (and its cheque book) comes calling…