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Jorge Lorenzo signs new Yamaha deal
Double MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo has finally put pen to paper on a new Yamaha MotoGP contract.
The 27-year-old Spaniard is the last of the 'big four' to sign, following new two-year deals for Marc Marquez (Honda), Dani Pedrosa (Honda) and Valentino Rossi (Yamaha).
While Lorenzo's decision to remain is no surprise, there were question marks over contract length, with rumours of future interest in Ducati.
If Lorenzo was indeed pushing for a single year extension - to check the effectiveness of Gigi Dall'Igna's redesigned Ducati, or negotiate with Yamaha from a stronger position next year - it has been thwarted. Thursday's announcement states that Lorenzo has signed for two more seasons.
"I am very happy to finally be able to make this announcement," said Lorenzo. "It is a relief to be able to now completely focus on the remainder of the 2014 season in the knowledge that our relationship will continue for the next two seasons.
"It has always been my wish to continue my career with Yamaha; I strongly believe we can fight for a third title together. This season has been very challenging after a difficult start, however we will continue to take it race by race, giving 100% until Valencia.
"I want to thank Yamaha for their continued belief in me and all the Yamaha fans around the world who continue to support me. After the summer break I'm excited to be back at Indy with my team and focused again on riding."
Once the Repsol Honda seats had been confirmed, Lorenzo's most competitive option was always to remain with the Yamaha team he joined as a rookie in 2008. But a worst ever start to a MotoGP season hurt his negotiating powers - salary at one stage proving a sticking point, alongside contract length.
Finishing just four points behind Marquez and a third MotoGP title last season, Lorenzo struggled with the new heat-resistant Bridgestone tyres in winter testing. The nightmare continued when he fell from the lead on the opening lap in Qatar, then made a jump start at round two in Texas.
A podium in Argentina proved a false dawn as far as fixing the tyre issues, but a victory fight with Marquez at Mugello showed what Lorenzo could achieve when comfortable.
However further setbacks followed, including a subdued fourth in front of his home fans in Catalunya, then a 'worst ever' 13th in a wet-dry Assen race. In Holland, Lorenzo even confessed to being scared due to last year's injuries at the circuit - but he bounced back with third place just before the summer break, in Germany.
"I am very happy we have reached an agreement for Jorge to continue as a Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider," said Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing.
"The new agreement extends Jorge's seven-year partnership with Yamaha. He started with us as a rookie back in 2008 and together we achieved many great results including 31 GP victories and two MotoGP Rider World Champion titles in 2010 and 2012.
"The 2014 season has been a tough one for Jorge so far but I am hoping that the confirmation of this new agreement will give him the peace of mind to be able to focus 100% of his energy on the remaining races.
"Last year we saw what he was able to do when the going was tough and he was fighting back from mid-season injuries so we know that the potential is there for a strong second half to the 2014 season.
"For 2015 and beyond we have no doubt that Jorge will be a strong title contender and we will do our very best to provide him with the materials and the support he needs to be able to realize our shared ambitions."
Lorenzo starts the Indianapolis weekend fifth in the world championship, two points behind Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso. Lorenzo is 44 points from team-mate and top M1 rider Rossi - whom Lorenzo outscored by 93 points, despite injury, last year.
The main knock-on effect of Lorenzo's deal is that Moto2 champion Pol Espargaro, currently spending the first year of a two-year Yamaha contract at Tech 3, now knows there will be no Factory Yamaha ride available for him until at least 2017.
Lorenzo's signature leaves Aleix Espargaro, sixth in the world championship, as the highest ranked rider yet to confirm his 2015 plans. Espargaro is tipped to move from Forward Yamaha to Suzuki.
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