Repsol Honda pulled off one of the biggest surprises in recent MotoGP history by signing Jorge Lorenzo to partner Marc Marquez next season.

The Spanish stars have won seven premier-class titles, three for Lorenzo and four for Marquez, including every MotoGP championship since 2011.

Putting two such riders in the same team seemed incredulous until, ironically, Lorenzo's breakthrough victory for Ducati at Mugello, where it became clear it was already 'too late' for the Italian factory to retain the #99.

Overseeing the Lorenzo coup was Alberto Puig. 

The no-nonsense former racer spoke matter-of-factly about assembling one of the most powerful rider line-ups in grand prix history - at the expense of his own former rider Dani Pedrosa - in only his first year as Repsol Honda team manager.

Was he surprised to see Ducati let Lorenzo slip away? Puig shrugged: "Frankly speaking, it's not about surprised. The rider was there and we tried to take it. It’s quite simple. 

"So I don’t know what Ducati was thinking about... and we don't care. There was an opportunity and we took it."

While Lorenzo's name was kept secret until a few days before an official announcement, a long list of other riders had previously been linked to Pedrosa's seat - including Johann Zarco, Joan Mir, Cal Crutchlow, Jack Miller and Jonathan Rea.

"We wanted to see the possibilities and we didn't talk deeply with a lot of people, we just wanted to hear and see how things were going during the season. I mean the results. That's it," said Puig.

"We had some, let's say, casual conversations with other guys but we took the decision we thought was the correct one [to sign Lorenzo].

"Of course, the understanding is that a top team wants to have the best riders, no? This is the principle. For Honda it's important to prepare the best bikes we can and give them to the fastest riders."

The 1995 Jerez 500cc race winner added: "Of course, we informed Marc. Marc is a very important rider for us. We informed him and he answered in the way we expected he would."

Now comes the task of managing Spain's two most successful MotoGP riders as team-mates.

"Of course it's not easy. Racing itself is complicated and it's a difficult environment, but if we want things to be easy probably we would not be running a team at this level. So complicated, but it's a challenge. At Honda, we are always looking for challenges."



'Lorenzo will be fast. How fast? We don’t know'

While all of Marquez's 40 MotoGP race wins have been at Honda, Lorenzo (44 wins with Yamaha and 2, so far, at Ducati) now has the chance to join an elite list of riders that have won premier-class races with three different manufacturers.

"What do we expect? Well, Lorenzo has three world titles in MotoGP, so we believe he has a potential to make good results with our bike," Puig said. "So we expect that he will try to get to the level and he will try to race for wins, as he did in the past. 

"But of course you never know how a rider can adapt to a machine. Sometimes easy, sometimes not. I mean it took him quite a long time to understand the Ducati. But once he understood, he won two races in a row. 

"We expect he will be fast. How fast? We don’t know. When he will be fast? Also we don't know. But we believe that with his potential and his racing career, he is not coming to Honda just to stay out on track."

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