LONDON (Reuters) - Spain’s three times MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo will leave Ducati and join compatriot Marc Marquez in a stellar lineup at the works Honda team next season after signing a two-year deal.
Marquez could be a five times MotoGP world champion by then with the 25-year-old currently 23 points clear at the top of standings after six races.
Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) announced the move in a statement on Wednesday.
“From 2019, Lorenzo will become team mate to four-times MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez: two great champions with great talent and high hopes that will make a stronger team and contribute to the development of HRC,” it said.
The pair are the only riders to win the MotoGP championship since Australian Casey Stoner in 2011 — Lorenzo in 2012 and 2015 and Marquez in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017. Lorenzo was also champion in 2010.
Between them, they have 130 wins and 255 podiums in all categories.
Lorenzo, who won his titles with Yamaha but has struggled to find his form since joining Ducati last year, will replace compatriot Dani Pedrosa in the Repsol Honda lineup.
The departure of Pedrosa, who has spent his entire grand prix with the Japanese manufacturer since his 125cc debut in 2001, was announced on Tuesday.
Lorenzo’s Italian Grand Prix victory at Mugello on Sunday was his first win for Ducati but came too late to make any change in his relationship with the team.
“If the pieces that I needed had arrived much earlier, now I would say to you, ‘I stay in Ducati and I have now two or three victories,’” the rider told MotoGP.com after the race.
“But unfortunately, they arrive too late these pieces, and now... I win here, but it’s too late, and the next two years I will be with another bike.”
The 31-year-old, who also has two 250cc titles (now Moto2) to his name, will be replaced at Ducati by Italian Danilo Petrucci on a one-year deal.
Ducati have already extended the contract of works rider and last year’s championship runner-up Andrea Dovizioso.
Chief executive Claudio Domenicali hailed Lorenzo as a great champion and said that “even though it is sad that he took such a long time to find the right feeling with our bike” they would do all they could to help him win more races this year.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Nick Mulvenney and Sudipto Ganguly