Reigning MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo has made the biggest decision of his career, with official confirmation that he is leaving Yamaha to join Ducati next season.

Lorenzo has been a Yamaha rider since his 2008 premier-class debut, winning 41 races and three world titles.

Ducati has not won a race since Casey Stoner's departure at the end of 2010, with the Australian claiming Ducati's only title back in 2007.

Shortly after an announcement from Yamaha confirming Lorenzo's departure, heavily rumoured in recent weeks, Ducati duly issued the following statement:

"Ducati announces that it has reached an agreement with Jorge Lorenzo thanks to which the Spanish rider will take part in the MotoGP World Championship in 2017 and 2018 aboard the Ducati Desmosedici GP of the Ducati Team.

"Lorenzo, born in Palma de Mallorca on 4 May 1987, has won five world championship titles throughout his racing career (250cc in 2006 and 2007 and MotoGP in 2010, 2012 and 2015)."

Ducati has been pursuing Lorenzo since Stoner's sickness in 2009, being turned down on multiple occasions. But in our opinion there are several reasons why now is the right time for Lorenzo to join Ducati, starting with the 'pull' factors:

After plenty of soul searching and restructuring in the aftermath of Valentino Rossi's miserable Ducati tenure, the Desmosedici is now considered by many - including senior figures inside the Italian factory and star test rider Stoner - as capable of winning.

Present riders Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone have both claimed podiums and poles for the team, but lack the multi race-winning 'alien' record of Lorenzo, Rossi, Marc Marquez or Dani Pedrosa.

Gigi Dall'Igna's arrival from Aprilia has been a pivotal factor in Ducati's revival and, having previously helped Lorenzo to a pair of 250cc crowns, they already know how to win together.

Despite being fourth on the all-time 500cc/MotoGP victory list, Spain's most successful premier-class rider and the only person to win the title for Yamaha since Rossi in 2009 - Lorenzo has never been perceived with the greatness to match his results.

That would all change if the 28-year-old were to return Ducati to the top step of the podium (assuming Iannone, Dovizioso, or perhaps even Stoner don't do so in the remaining 2016 rounds).

Winning on a Ducati was something Rossi was unable to do, while a premier-class title for two different manufacturers would put Lorenzo into an elite group that currently includes only Stoner, Rossi, Lawson, Agostini and Duke.

And, just as when Sebastian Vettel's moved from Red Bull to Ferrari, Lorenzo may also find that many of those who currently boo him will be quick to celebrate his success in red.

Oh, and Lorenzo is sure to pick up his biggest ever pay cheque.

In terms of the 'push' factors, aside from the diminishing credit for his track success on the M1, there is also a perception that Rossi - the most popular rider the sport has ever seen - is of greater importance to Yamaha.

The nine-time world champion re-signed for Yamaha at the Qatar season-opener, shortly after the Japanese factory announced a partnership with Rossi's VR46 Riders Academy.

Yamaha insisted there was no intention to slight Lorenzo by announcing Rossi's new contract first, pointing out that both received new offers at the same time and, while Lorenzo chose to wait, the Italian accepted instantly.

The famously frosty relationship between Rossi and Lorenzo had thawed somewhat following The Doctor's return from Ducati in 2013, but went into deep freeze again by the end of last year - Rossi claiming Marc Marquez helped Lorenzo claim the crown.

After an on-track altercation in Qatar this year, Rossi made the quip that 'changing bikes takes balls, so Lorenzo will remain at Yamaha'. Rossi thus either misjudged Lorenzo, or his ploy to poke the Spaniard into leaving has worked perfectly...

Yamaha are yet to name Lorenzo's replacement, and admit no-one can instantly replicate the #99's results, but young Suzuki star Maverick Vinales is tipped as favourite.

It is also not yet clear which of the present Ducati riders will remain to join Lorenzo.

Iannone has the edge in terms of age, but did himself no favours by knocking himself and Dovizioso off the podium with just metres to go in Argentina.

Many saw the move as further proof that the pair already knew they were fighting over one remaining seat for 2017.

With little between the Andreas in terms of speed at present, the more mild-tempered Dovizioso may be seen as a safer bet - not least by Lorenzo, who could have a say in the decision.

Both of today's statements were without any quotes and Lorenzo is unlikely to be allowed to speak publicly about Ducati until the end of the season.

Instead, Lorenzo and Yamaha racing managing director Lin Jarvis are likely to reflect on what they have achieved together when they both attend the Jerez pre-event press conference on Thursday.

In return for his co-operation, Yamaha will be expected to let Lorenzo make his Ducati debut in November's post-season test at Valencia.

Lorenzo is the only rider to beat Honda's Marquez so far in 2016, courtesy of victory in the Qatar season opener. Although second in the standings, a DNF in Argentina means Lorenzo is 21 points behind the title leader.

In a recent poll, 74% of fans felt Lorenzo should move to Ducati rather than stay at Yamaha.

Lorenzo's Ducati deal means there is even less chance of Marquez leaving Honda.

By Peter McLaren



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