The news that Cal Crutchlow has signed a two-year deal with Ducati led to howls of despair from MotoGP fans, especially among those in the UK. Why, they asked, would Crutchlow willingly leave the Tech 3 Yamaha team and the as-near-factory-as-possible M1 to take on the miserable task of taming the Ducati?
Why throw away another year on a bike which he knows he can score podiums, and perhaps even wins on, in exchange for riding a bike which has been a proven failure since Casey Stoner last climbed off it and headed next door to the Repsol Honda garage?
If Valentino Rossi, the biggest name and most politically powerful rider in motorcycle racing couldn’t make the bike competitive, what chance does Crutchlow stand?
Though only Crutchlow himself fully understands the motives behind his choice, he has left plenty of evidence offering some insight into why he has signed for Ducati. Though fans around the world have tried to point to a single reason – usually either money or having a factory bike – the decision-making process is far, far more complex than that.
It is a case study of the complex thought process that lies behind the decisions a rider must make when steering his career. With so little time spent at their peak, and so many factors outside of their control, the decisions a rider makes are not as clear-cut and simple as the fans would like them to be.
With Cal Crutchlow now confirmed to go to Ducati Corse (the team’s press release came in this morning), Pol Espargaro is now free to replace the Briton at the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 satellite MotoGP team.
Signing a two-year contract with Yamaha Racing, Espargaro will move up from Moto2 into the premier-class, and will campaign a Yamaha YZR-M1 alongside former Moto2 rider Bradley Smith.
Investing in the 22-year-old, the contract with Espargaro marks a clear signal from Yamaha Racing to develop young talent in the MotoGP series through the Tech 3 satellite team, and to have an ongoing chain of top riders on its factory teams for the considerable future.
The news also deals an end to the speculation about the Tech 3 team’s rider line-up, as Crutchlow, Smith, and Espargaro have been engaged in a game of musical chairs thru media reports. The terse announcement from Yamaha Racing is after the jump, along with the more lengthy press release from Tech 3.
After months of intrigue as to where the British rider would land for the 2014 MotoGP Championship, Cal Crutchlow has reportedly signed a two-year deal with Ducati Corse.
Taking the seat of the departing Nicky Hayden, Cal Crutchlow has finally bagged the factory position that he has been adamant about for the past season and a half. The official announcement is expected Friday of this week.
Just when it looked like the MotoGP silly season was getting ready to wrap up, a few new developments threw a spanner or two in the works. A week ago, most MotoGP pundits were convinced that Cal Crutchlow would be going to Ducati, Scott Redding would be moving up with his Marc VDS Racing team, and there was next to no interest in Yamaha’s leased engines.
At the Sachsenring, many things changed, in part at the instigation of Honda, and in part because of Yamaha.
Honda has made the biggest move in the market. At the Sachsenring, credible rumors emerged of Honda attempting to secure both Redding and Crutchlow, in two different moves. HRC’s approach to Crutchlow could cause the biggest upset. The Japanese factory is known to be very impressed by Crutchlow, but their dilemma is that all four Honda prototype seats are ostensibly taken for 2014.
While both Marquez and Pedrosa have contracts for next year, and Bautista is locked in at Gresini for 2014, Stefan Bradl’s seat at LCR Honda could possibly be available. While Bradl is locked in to a two-year deal with HRC, Honda hold the option to decide not to take the second year, potentially freeing up Bradl’s bike, and that seat could then be taken by Cal Crutchlow.
Cal Crutchlow has not taken the customary route into MotoGP. No racing 125’s in the Spanish Championship, before the inevitable climb up through the Grand Prix support classes to MotoGP. Instead, he took a very sideways path, through BSB, World Supersport, and World Superbike, before encountering a very tough first year in MotoGP.
That circuitous path has stood him in good stead, however. Crutchlow is now on the brink of breaking into the elite circle of riders who have won a MotoGP race in the dry, and his services are in demand. It is surely just a matter of time.
I sat down with Crutchlow at Assen, with the intention of trying to extract the secret of his riding from him. I had a whole line of questions lined up on the technicalities of braking, the mechanics of cornering and how to race a MotoGP bike, but I got distracted by a long and philosophical chat before my recorder was turned on.
By the time we started the interview proper, it went off in a different, but just as fascinating direction. Cal Crutchlow talks about his love for the sport of motorcycle racing, how he got started, how he arrived in MotoGP, and why it is so important to be a factory rider. And why it is so very, very difficult to win a race in MotoGP.
With three podiums and a pole position this year, Cal Crutchlow’s stock continues to rise. As the only top rider out of contract, there is much speculation about where the talented Englishman could end up.
All three factories have expressed an interest in Crutchlow, with Ducati and Yamaha the frontrunners to secure his services for next year. Crutchlow has made his preference clear: to remain at Yamaha, either in the factory team or at Tech 3, with the kind of factory support given to Stefan Bradl in the LCR Honda team by HRC.
For Yamaha, the situation is more complicated. With reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo on the books, as well as nine-time former champ Valentino Rossi, Yamaha currently has no room in the factory team.
And with Bradley Smith on a two-year contract, the factory faces a dilemma: hang on to Cal Crutchlow for another year in the satellite team, or go for a young talent like Pol Espargaro, in the hope that they can develop into a rider to take on Marc Marquez for the next few years.