Spanish media reported this morning that Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo has signed a "pre-contract" with Ducati for 2015.
Ex-world champion Lorenzo is contracted to Yamaha through the end of the 2014 season.
Ducati denies that they have a "pre-contract" (letter of intent) with Lorenzo, suggesting that their main focus now is on the technical issues with their MotoGP bike and the downtrodden mood of the team after multiple years of poor results.
The foundation that the structure of Ducati's MotoGP team is built upon is, of course, sponsor Marlboro. Marlboro's contract with Ducati ends in 2014 and while it seems unlikely that Marlboro would leave Ducati for another MotoGP team, Marlboro did leave Yamaha for Ducati, so there is some precedent.
Insiders say that Marlboro wants solid proof that the Ducati MotoGP bike has turned the corner and will be competitive before they will open talks to renew the sponsorship contract with Ducati.
While some feel that this Lorenzo/Ducati story is one designed to extract more salary money from Yamaha or to set the bar higher if Lorenzo really does sign with Honda, there is solid precedent for a relationship between Jorge Lorenzo and Ducati--and it's not just that he raced for Aprilia for two seasons and won the 250 world championship both times--2006 and 2007. (Ducati Corse's new General Manager is former Aprilia man Gigi Dall'Igna.)
In 2009, when Casey Stoner became ill mid-season with what was (much) later diagnosed as severe lactose intolerance, Ducati made a serious run at Jorge Lorenzo to replace Stoner on the Marlboro Ducati team. They reportedly offered Lorenzo substantially more money than they were paying Stoner and Lorenzo, again reportedly, had difficulty turning them down.
Lorenzo is in Jakarta for the Yamaha MotoGP team introduction and has offered no comment as yet.