When Yamaha announced they would be leasing their M1 engines to ex-CRT teams for 2014, the first wave of reaction was overwhelmingly positive. With 24 liters of fuel allowed, and 12 engines instead of 5, the Yamaha engine package looked like being the best thing on offer to the so-called non-MSMA teams, as CRT is to be called from next year.
Then doubt set in. Looking at the Yamaha M1 package, what you’d want from Yamaha was the chassis rather than the motor. The engine is the least powerful of the MotoGP prototypes, but its chassis was by far the best of the bunch. Both the Honda and the Yamaha non-MSMA packages appeared to be offering the worst part of each bike: Honda offering their chassis (good, but not great) and a dumbed-down version of their superlative engine.
Yamaha offering a full-fat engine (the weakest of the bunch), for teams to have someone build a chassis around without Yamaha’s 20+ years of experience building Deltabox frames. Perhaps the Yamaha M1 lease package – a lot of money, just for some engines – was not the bargain it at first appeared.
It’s the US GP at Laguna Seca, which fans should know by now means a special video from Yamaha Racing that features the tuning-fork brands riders. Instead of the elaborate plots lines, and amazing acting skills from some of MotoGP’s finest, Yamaha has toned it down a bit for 2013, and done a simple Q&A with nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi.
With some help from Uccio, The Doctor got 12 questions, randomly selected from out of a helmet, which he answers in the video. Pretty basic, right? More like hilarious. If you didn’t have an understanding already of why Rossi is loved around the world, you will rapidly understand why with this video. At the very least, you will find out if Valentino is a member of the mile-high club. Yeah…that question happened.
Confirming what we already knew, Nicky Hayden announced today, at the pre-race press conference in Laguna Seca, that he would not be on a Ducati machine in MotoGP next year. “I’m not coming back to Ducati in MotoGP next year. I’m not really sure what I’m going to do — I’ve got some options that are interesting,” said the Kentucky Kid.
The news confirms reports that Ducati had told Hayden in Germany that a seat in the factory team would not be available for him in the 2014 season, which has further fueled rumors that Cal Crutchlow could be riding for Ducati Corse next season. As for Hayden, his options in the premier class appear to be rather limited.
The composition of the MotoGP grid at Laguna Seca remains uncertain at the moment, as injuries sustained at the Sachsenring continue to take their toll. On Tuesday, Andrea Iannone announced that he would not be fit enough to race at Laguna Seca, after a CT scan showed up problems with the shoulder he hurt at the Sachsenring.
Iannone had a massive crash at Turn 1, as he accidentally selected the pit lane mapping while braking for the corner, locking up the rear wheel and being thrown from the bike. The Italian dislocated his right shoulder in the crash, and was forced to withdraw from the race in Germany.
An examination in Italy revealed a large amount of fluid in the joint, making it impossible for him to race in the US GP, the Italian press service ANSA is reporting.
Rumors have been rife over the future of Nicky Hayden in MotoGP, as the former-World Champion and five-time Ducati man is seeing his seat up for grabs at the Italian factory team for yet another silly season. With it being no secret that Cal Crutchlow is looking for a factory ride in the premier class, and Yamaha reportedly not stepping up to the plate in that regard (add more fuel to the fire with Pol Espargaro reportedly coming into the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team next year), Crutchlow has all but officially been seen in Ducati livery for next year.
With Ducati keen to retain the services of the Italian Andrea Dovizioso, Hayden is left as the odd-man-out in this game of MotoGP musical chairs. With his options in MotoGP very grim because of the four prototypes agreement the MSMA has inked with Dorna, the American’s options outside of Ducati Corse are limited really to non-MSMA bikes, unless something radical occurs in the Pramac Racing side of the Ducati camp (Ben Spies has a contract thru 2014, and Iannone is hotly tipped to retain his seat for next year).
Two days, two big highsides, and two championship contenders down and out. Friday and Saturday at the Sachsenring saw both Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa have massive crashes, and forced to withdraw from the race in Germany.
Jorge Lorenzo bent the titanium plate holding together the collarbone which he broke at Assen, while Dani Pedrosa suffered an imcomplete fracture of his collarbone, and had problems with blood pressure and dizziness.
Though both Pedrosa and Lorenzo were ruled out of the Sachsenring race, there was much speculation about whether either of the two would be racing at Laguna Seca next weekend.
With the start of the summer break coming up in ten days’ time, contract negotiations are starting to heat up for the 2013 MotoGP rider market. The two race weekends at the Sachsenring and then Laguna Seca will see a frenzy of meetings, horse trading and secret talks as the few open MotoGP seats for 2014 get closer to be being filled.
The biggest problem facing riders looking to upgrade their seat is the scarcity of good seats available, both for 2014 and beyond. The Repsol Honda and Factory Yamaha teams are fully booked through the 2014 season, and even after that, it is hard to see them changing personnel.
Jorge Lorenzo has shown that he has the potential to win multiple championships for Yamaha, and Marc Marquez looks like doing much the same at Honda. Neither man is showing any intention of going anywhere for the foreseeable future.
Dani Pedrosa is looking stronger than ever, and has to be getting closer to his first ever MotoGP title. Though he considered retiring early after a couple of difficult years with injury, the Spaniard has rediscovered his passion for racing, and is also likely to extend his contract with Honda again once it comes up for renewal at the end of next year.
The only possible candidate to vacate his seat at the end of 2014 is Valentino Rossi. By then, the Italian will be nearly 36, the age at which most Grand Prix racers are in full decline. There had been some speculation that Rossi’s run of mediocre (for a nine-times world champion) results was the first sign of Rossi’s decline, but his convincing victory at Assen seems to have put a stop to such chatter.
More importantly, it appears to have revitalized the Italian and restored the fire of his ambition, which had sometimes seemed to be dying down. There is no doubt that Rossi will complete both years of his two-year deal with the Yamaha factory team, and the odds of him extending beyond that are looking better and better.
That leaves Cal Crutchlow, in particular, with no place to go. The Englishman had been pressuring Yamaha to sign a two-year deal, with a guarantee of a seat in the factory team in the second year of his contract. The problem is, either Lorenzo or Rossi would have to go. Given Lorenzo’s current form, it would be foolish to drop Lorenzo for Crutchlow, as strong as Crutchlow may have proved himself to be.
And dropping Rossi in favor of Crutchlow – no matter how good Crutchlow’s results – simply makes no business sense, as Rossi remains the top draw in the sport, and Yamaha’s biggest sales ace-in-the-hole around the world.
Crutchlow told the venerable British publication MCN that Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis had refused to guarantee him a seat in the factory team for 2015, leaving him to choose between remaining with Tech 3 for the next two years, and fighting on second string equipment, or taking his chances elsewhere.
However, “elsewhere” is a very limited selection of slots indeed. For the LCR Honda seat is taken, with Stefan Bradl set to stay on for another year – though HRC have made it clear that they expect better results from the German, if his pre-contract is to turn into an actual contract.
Alvaro Bautista has a contract with Gresini for 2014, though Bautista’s position is far from certain, given his disappointing results. In a report on Motocuatro, Fausto Gresini expressed his discontent with the results of the Spaniard, and emphasized that Bautista needs to realize just how much effort was going in to ensuring that he had an RC213V at his disposal for 2014.
Even the Tech 3 squad appears to be already full. Bradley Smith has a contract for 2014 with Herve Poncharal, while rumors persist that Yamaha has already signed either a contract or a letter of intent with Pol Espargaro to take the second seat at Tech 3. Even if Cal Crutchlow wanted to stay with the Tech 3 team, it could get very complicated.
And so Ducati finds itself with riders lining up almost around the block. With the Bologna factory the only manufacturer with seats open, there has been a lot of interest expressed in slotting in alongside Andrea Dovizioso, the only factory Ducati rider certain of his seat for 2014.
There are four candidates to take the second Ducati seat, and the places in the satellite team could also be up for grabs, in some combination or other.
Ben Spies’ absence due to his shoulder injury will extend to Laguna Seca. The Texan is still going through physical rehab to get the shoulder he injured at Sepang last year up to strength, and he hopes to be back to full fitness for the final US round of MotoGP at Indianapolis at the end of August.
With Spies still out for two more races, the Ignite Pramac team needs a replacement. Michele Pirro will take Spies’ place at the Sachsenring in just under two weeks’ time, but Ducati’s official test rider is not available for Laguna, as he has more testing scheduled that week at Misano in Italy.
As a result, Pramac has asked Alex De Angelis to step in for the Laguna Seca round, as the lack of a Moto2 round at Laguna means the NGM Forward rider is availabe to take Spies’ seat at the California circuit.
De Angelis already has MotoGP experience, having raced two seasons for the Gresini Honda team in 2008 and 2009, and having replaced Hiroshi Aoyama for three rounds in 2010.