MotoGP Silly Season: Quo Vadis, Cal Crutchlow?

05/28/2013 @ 2:23 pm, by David Emmett24 COMMENTS


With the recent leaked news of Suzuki’s MotoGP test and Honda’s press release discussing the test of their new Production Racer MotoGP machine, the first speculation of silly season is starting to appear.

With so many seats already tied up – all four Honda seats, three Yamaha seats, and one seat at Ducati – speculation is limited, though the imminent return of Suzuki to the fold opens up more seats for consideration.

One name is on everyone’s lips, however. Cal Crutchlow is the current hot ticket in MotoGP, and rightly so. The best of the riders available, and the only rider so far to get anywhere near the current four MotoGP aliens, with a podium at Le Mans to go with two fifth places and a fourth.

If there is one rider looking capable of breaking the hegemony on wins currently held by the front four, it is surely Cal Crutchlow. So where will Crutchlow be riding in 2014?

The Englishman has made no secret of his desire to be aboard a factory machine. If he is to have a shot at winning races, and even a championship, he must have a factory ride, Crutchlow believes. He came close to one last year, but his dealings with Ducati fell short over a lack of communication.

After Crutchlow gave a verbal commitment to the Italian factory, a contract never appeared for Crutchlow to sign, with Andrea Dovizioso finally picking up the ride. For 2014, he has two more shots at a factory ride, but the question is, will that be his best option for next season?

Crutchlow’s name has already been penciled in for the ride with Suzuki, with new team manager Davide Brivio believed to have the Englishman at the top of his contract list. A ride with Suzuki would give Crutchlow one part of what he wants – a full factory ride, and a hand in development – but given Suzuki’s checkered past in the series, it remains a risky move.

Suzuki’s R&D budget has always been severely limited, and the question is whether that will be any different this time around. Suzuki’s last world championship came from Kenny Roberts Jr, a title he won on consistency and on outstanding performances in the many wet races in 2000.

In the dry, Roberts Jr found it much harder to compete, in no small part because of the limited resources available from the factory.

It is clear that the new Suzuki will need a lot of development. If the times quoted by the German website Speedweek are correctly, test rider Randy de Puniet was 2 seconds off the pole time, and 1.4 seconds off the fastest lap in the race. Those 2 seconds are very expensive to overcome, the cost rising exponentially as the gap gets smaller.

The first second may cost several millions to close, the second could take many tens of millions, as Ducati is currently showing. Does Suzuki have the experience and engineering ability to close the gap? Almost certainly. Do they have the funds to be able to dedicate those skills to actually achieving that? That is where the doubt lies.

The second option for Crutchlow could be an opening at Ducati, and to be honest, 2014 would be a good year to join the Italian factory. Ducati’s new owners, and the new management team which has been installed, are pushing the development program forward aggressively and methodically, with progress being made painstakingly towards getting closer to the leaders.

One major update is expected at the Barcelona test, the second towards the end of the year, possibly at the Misano test in September. The first update improves braking and corner entry, the second is aimed at fixing the understeer which continues to plague the bike. If both work as expected, they could solve a large part of Ducati’s woes.

So with Nicky Hayden on a one-year contract, there could be a space for Crutchlow to fit into the factory Ducati team, alongside his former teammate Andrea Dovizioso. Crutchlow’s style would be a good fit at Ducati, his more aggressive approach more suited to the Italian bike, whereas at the moment, he is having to rein himself in constantly to duplicate the smooth and flowing style used by Jorge Lorenzo.

Lorenzo’s style has been the leading factor in development of the Yamaha, but there is a case to be made that the bike has reached the point where it is getting harder to ride for people who cannot ride like Lorenzo does. Ben Spies struggled to adapt his late-braking style to the flowing Yamaha, and left the factory team at the end of last year.

But Yamaha also remains an option for Crutchlow. Though Yamaha first approached Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal at Qatar over signing Moto2 prodigy Pol Espargaro, the Spaniard has had a very mediocre season since winning that first race. Espargaro is in danger of falling out of favor with Yamaha, who may look elsewhere to fill the seat which will fall empty when Crutchlow’s contract runs out at the end of the year.

Poncharal is very keen to retain his star rider, Crutchlow bringing the team both success on the track and exposure off the track, thanks to his outgoing personality. The Englishman is a big favorite with Dorna, who see him as raising the profile of the sport in the UK, as well as with Tech 3 title sponsor Monster.

In a recent interview with the Belgian site GP Inside, Poncharal said that Monster boss Rodney Sacks was very keen to retain the services of Crutchlow. “He told me and he told Cal that he was 200% behind Cal,” Poncharal said. It was his team, and now that he had a competitive rider in it, the Monster boss had no desire to lose him to another team.

That Crutchlow can ride the Yamaha is quite clear, and at the moment, the bike looks like being his best chance of winning a race. Crutchlow keeps pointing to the structure which HRC uses for its satellite riders, providing Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista with factory bikes and support in return for helping develop brakes and suspension.

A similar role would suit Crutchlow down to the ground, and with both Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez looking set to dominate MotoGP for Honda this year and in the future, backing Crutchlow could be a way forward. However, Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis will not have been impressed with Crutchlow telling the press that the factory was talking to Espargaro, and that breach will be difficult to heal.

All parties will be present at Mugello, and no doubt there will be much to be discussed. Italy is home base for all three factories chasing Crutchlow’s signature, and his manager is likely to be a very busy man this weekend. Perhaps by Sunday, we will know a little more.

Source: GP Inside

Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • Daniel

    Four aliens? Who’s the fourth? E.T.?

  • ctk

    I think Cal’s best move is to stay with Tech3 through 2014. I want more factory bikes in the mix but Suzuki is perpetually non committal, and their mismanagement of their US auto operation kind of shows how stupid senior management is. For example, bringing over the Swift would have saved the company and given them a foothold in the growing US subcompact market. The Kizashi was a great car, but not for the US. It was made for nobody. So Suzuki is out.

    Ducati seems reinvigorated with Audi’s backing, but personally I don’t see the value in being a development rider. If the bike is good and you can ride + are a star, which Cal is, they will develop it around him even after initial development. Nicky Hayden can win on a good bike, so if he starts seeing podiums next year then I think Cal will be wise to make the move. But as is Ducati is a graveyard and IMO should be avoided at all costs until they prove themselves.

    I’m still hoping the spec ECUs will help level the playing field a bit. Honda’s great, Pedrosa’s great, Marquie’s great, but I think JL is just as good but is being hampered by horsepower. We will see what happens next year.

  • Damo



  • Valentino still an Alien??? Sorry but i don’t think so, until he wins again on a regular basis he just another fast rider in MotoGp.

  • Steve Parrish recently suggested that Crutchlow should stop thinking that he needs a full-on factory ride to win races and just get on with the business of winning races. At Le Mans, he totally outrode the other factory Yamahas and proved that on any given day, he can shine with the best of them. I think his biggest power is in believing in himself. His biggest limitation is in doubting his ability to win on his current ride.

  • Grimey Benson


    Safe to say winning 6 world titles gives you permanent Alien status.

  • TexusTim

    So wouldnt it be in yamaha’s best interest to give him all the goodies and every bit of factory support and and let the chips fall were they will?…if he outshines them so be the end of the season his prospects would be much better..right now it’s like there keeping him on a shelf as a quick go to…that really doesnt help him get a factory ride…if he goes to suzuki he may not be as competitive as he is now for years..yamaha would do better to keep him and move him up as soon as the seat is, there no more talking to spainards…lol.. maybe ducatti see’s him as the next hayden with his simular personality..outgoing and fun with a strong work ehthic, I like that about both those guys and my guess is they see that…so like I said there is more than one reason for yamaha to step up and give this guy real factory support in every way they can.

  • Can Cruthlow get a competitive payday from Monster? He deserves it and he can’t wait forever. Whomever offers the most money is where he will definitely go.

    Look, these guys are risking their lives, and he needs to get paid while he can still put out the effort. Whether or not he gets the big contract will be determined by the big question: his appeal with fans of Spanish petroleum, since that single entity seems to drive most of the finance- and the doling out of technology- in MotoGP.

  • FafPak


    Monster is paying around 4 million euros to co-sponsor the Factory team, including 1 million euros that will be going directly into Lorenzo’s bank account, in addition to what they pay Valentino.

    Between Monster Energy and Eneos, the Yamaha factory will rake in around 7 million euros, and that’s not counting the other sponsors. (source: google search “Yamaha buys out Jorge Lorenzo’s Rockstar contract”)

    Though Monster also sponsors Tech3, and they are the primary sponsor as you can tell by the space their logo takes on the bike, combined Factory sponsorship far outweighs that of the Satellite team. Hence the goodies go to Factory team first since they [via their sponsors] fund the most for Yamaha’s R&D. Also, if I’m paying a significant amount more on the A team, they better becoming ahead of the B team…and the B team better be kicking my rival’s B team(s).

    It’s all politics, following the money…as always…whether it be motor-sports or at a national level.

  • SBPilot

    Cal is basically on a factory bike. I see his constant whining about not being on a factory bike pretty old and childish. Lin Jarvis stated very clearly that Cal is using current up to date spec engine yet Cal feels it’s necessary to keep telling press he’s on last years bike. He may get updates a race or two later but he’s on a bloody current bike. Like Emmet said, his limitation is thinking he -must- have a factory ride to win races. No, he must stfu and just ride whats under him and stop bickering to win races. I for one could not care less if he got dropped next year for Espargaro. Cal gets way too much attention for the wrong reasons.

  • TexusTim

    to fafpak and sb pilot…I know the politics, I understand the difference between factory and satalite teams…no matter what is said and done there is a difference not just in equipment… its the entire package and the bike cal is on isnt the same as the one lorenzo’s on… not even by two weekends
    my post is basicaly a hopefull thought that a factory would give a satalite rider the whole gp pakage.
    just what winning would we hear from J.L, if the tables were turned ? my fear is cal like some others talent will be wasted till he becomes a backmarker to fill the grid..there is a couple there right now..repect the hell out of there work ethic but timming and luck isnt enough somtimes and maybe being the “squeking wheel” is all cal can do right now.

  • FYI, that million doesn’t go to JL, it goes to Rockstar.

  • ctk

    Yea I still think the worst thing dude could do is jump on an uncompetitive bike. If for nothing than because then he won’t be able to make any excuses for not winning LMAO. It breaks my heart to hear Nicky apologize for Ducati’s terrible bike race after race. “We had some good laps, we’re making improvements, we will see what happens next race”… these are not the musings of a winner, and that is not the position Cal wants to be in. Big money or not.

  • Alex MacPherson

    The controversial answer: Give Vale’s seat to Cal.

    ***runs and hides***

  • smiler

    Good to see that Cal’s efforts are being rewarded with support from his sponsor at least.
    The bike he is using is not a factory bike. Seems only bods here seem to think it is.
    If the Ducati updates work then by 2014 it will not be a development bike.
    Yamahaha cannot give Rossi’s seat to Cal and Yamahaha need the Italian and Spanish combo, hence their desire to sign another Paella in front of Cal to the factory.
    The sensible thing would be to provide three factory rides next yr. But that would be very expensive and they would have to fins another for Tec 3 – Pol Paella perhaps.
    Suzuki will be a CRT bike for the first season at least. But it would be great to see De Puniet and Cal on a competitive satellite bike. They are both aggressive, committed and eager. But that would not be the Suzuki.

    Prediction: Ducati or Yamahahah will step up with a factory ride for a year until Rossi’s contract is up and sign Pol Paella to Tech 3.

  • @ Grimley Benson . … Rossi is the man and has proven it in the past his all his titles…. But now his ship has landed and unless he is at the front week in and week out challenging for wins that “ALIEN” status is no longer valid. love Rossi but think that seat needs to go to young talent I’m with Alex on this one… Sad how $$$ dictates who rides what in all of motor sports..

  • Westward

    Hayden was on a factory Honda for five years and only managed three victories. The right person on the right bike can do miracles. Ironic that Stoner won his titles both the season of engine changes, and then failed to repeat the following seasons…

    Cal has the right attitude. just give him factory support and regardless of bike, he will make it work…

  • shumy27

    sorry fellas…the suzuki seats are full,it would be RdP and Casey Stoner.
    *rumour I heard :-p

  • Ronald Burgundy

    Jensen, Emmett, could you guys hire some P.I.s and find out what Stoner is doing?

    If Rossi continues to dink around mid-pack he’ll retire after this year. Otherwise, Crutchlow will go to Ducati.

    Hayden only had three victories with Honda, Hmm…and one world championship…during the prime of Rossi’s career. Not too shabby if you’re considering sombody like Pedrosa an alien then Rossi, 9 times world champion, is the undisputed alien god on the muthership.

  • Westward

    Hayden owes his title to Gibernau and Yamaha. Proof that all the skill and talent in the world can’t beat luck…

    Gibernau because he took out his own teammate Capirossi at Catalunya, who also subsequently was hampered at Assen, costing Loris at least the 26 points he would have needed to be the champion. Not to mention he also had more wins than Hayden that year too.

    And Yamaha, because their bike failed Rossi at LeMans on the last turn of the last lap of a race he was dominating. Also, the bike shut down on him at Laguna.

    That is how the third most consistent rider of the season of 2006 becomes a champion. It’s very similar to how Karl Abraham received his sole victory in Moto2 at Valencia.

    As for Suzuki, it should be Crutchlow and De Puniet…

  • Ronald Burgundy

    Oh please. There’s a lot of luck involved, sure. But there’s a season and a final points tally at the end of it for a reason. So, to your point, Nicky Hayden just happened to be really lucky across the span of an entire season. Not talent. Just super lucky. Hmm, I don’t think so. I suppose Pedrosa crashing out Hayden in Portugual was some of Hayden’s great luck too? or should I re-focus on Rossi’s un-assisted crash the final race of the season?

    If you’re the world champion you’re not just the “luckiest” rider on the grid. Sheeze come on. There is no such thing as a world champion who didn’t earn the title.

    Abraham won 1 race and that was due to some lucky breaks. The kid still won the race though, so good on Abraham to take the win. But his lone victory did not make him moto2 champion, so I don’t get your point in comparing that to Nicky Hayden winning the the title in “06.

  • TheSwede


    Stoner bookended the 800cc era, winning the first and last championships. Engine changes had nothing to do with it. Lorenzo won the first 1000cc championship..

  • DareN

    That is why it is called championship – rider with most points from all the races is the World Champion. Nicky had most points at the finish lane – what does it have to do with luck? I guess Pedrosa is not a champion because he is unlucky, despite all his wins..

  • Ronald Burgundy

    @DareN– exactly.

    To the point of this article–the season is still waaay young. That’s why it’s silly to contemplate what happens to anybody next season. But it’s fun.

    A lot more racing to go. There will be heros and goats. Which is why it’s ridiculous to write off Lorenzo or Rossi or pencil in Pedrosa or MM as World Champion. Who the heck knows what might happen between now and Philip Island.

    The season is long and the only sure thing is that anything might happen. At the end of it all, like with every other season before this one, we will have another well deserved World Champion.