After news broke yesterday that Dani Pedrosa was leaving Honda, we knew it would be just the first in a series of MotoGP contract news to come. Pedrosa has had his seat with the Repsol Honda team for 13 years, and his departure created an opening the team immediately filled by signing three-time MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo.
Honda Racing Corporation signed Lorenzo to a two-year contract to race along fellow Spaniard and four-time champion Marc Marquez. For those of you keeping count, Marquez and Lorenzo have combined to win seven of the last eight MotoGP titles (with Casey Stoner’s 2011 championship standing out).
The Lorenzo signing comes after he finally won his first Grand Prix with the factory Ducati team. Lorenzo joined Ducati in 2017 after nine seasons with Yamaha, finishing seventh on the Desmosedici. That’s not too bad for most riders, but it was still Lorenzo’s worst season since entering the premier class, and the first season he was held winless since 2005 when he first entered the 250 GP class. Despite his struggles, Lorenzo’s stock remains high, hence HRC’s quick decision to sign the Malorcan.
Ducati Corse also acted quickly, immediately announcing the signing of Danilo Petrucci to race for the factory team alongside Andrea Dovizioso for the 2019 season. Petrucci has been a stalwart of the Pramac Ducati team for four years, earning six podiums with the satellite squad.
“First of all I’d like to thank Jorge Lorenzo for all the efforts and commitment that he has made during his time as a Ducati rider and in particular for his outstanding victory last Sunday at Mugello, which will go down in history as one of our company’s legendary racing achievements,” says Claudio Domenicali, Ducati chief executive officer. “Jorge is a great champion, capable of incredible feats, and even though it is sad that he took such a long time to find the right feeling with our bike, we will continue to do everything possible to put him in a position to achieve further victories in the remaining rounds of the season and fight for the world title together with his team-mate Andrea Dovizioso. I wish to give a warm welcome to Danilo, whom we look forward to seeing in Ducati Team colours next year, together with Andrea, and who we feel sure will continue his rapid rise to success.”
In other contract news, Hafizh Syahrin has signed a one-year contract extension with Tech3, following the team as they switch from Yamaha machines to the KTM RC16 next season. Syahrin was a late addition to Tech3 this season as a replacement for Jonas Folger who announced he was taking the year off for health reasons. Even though he signed with the team less than a month before the season started, he has done enough to impress Tech3 boss Herve Poncharal and is currently tied with Franco Morbidelli as the top rookie this season.
Syahrin will race with Miguel Oliviera on the Tech3 KTM squad, which joins the Factory KTM duo of Johann Zarco and Pol Espargaro.
There still remains a few spots left for riders for the 2019 season. Pedrosa hasn’t announced what he will do next season. The only factory seats remaining are with Suzuki and Aprilia, but there are rumors linking Pedrosa to a new satellite Yamaha team backed by Malaysian oil company Petronas. Petrucci’s Pramac teammate, Jack Miller is also looking for a new contract, as is current Suzuki rider Andrea Iannone. We expect more 2019 MotoGP rider contract news to come in the weeks ahead.
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