Cal Crutchlow & Ducati Team
When Laguna Seca MotoGP got underway last month with the pre-race press conference, Ultimate MotorCycling contributor Ara Ashjian caught the perfect photo.
The shot (first above) shows Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden and Monster Yamaha Tech 3′s Cal Crutchlow when the 2006 MotoGP Champion made his announcement that he would part ways with Ducati at the end of this season.
There’s a look of consternation on Crutchlow’s face, and obviously many thoughts rolling through the Brit’s mind. Why? He’s been chasing a factory ride since joining the premier class in 2011. And though many have struggled lately with Ducati, including nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, Hayden’s vacant seat on Ducati is a good fit for Crutchlow – out of six factory rides (Yamaha, Honda, Ducati), it’s the only one remaining in 2014.
And on Thursday, the BBC reported that Crutchlow, the 2009 World Supersport Champion, had signed a two-year contract with Ducati beginning in 2014 MotoGP. Ducati is expected to make the announcement on Friday.
The 27-year-old Crutchlow has piloted his satellite YZR-M1 with precision this season, finishing on the podium four times and earning his first premier-class pole at Assen MotoGP. His talent had re-caught the eye of Yamaha’s boss Lin Jarvis, who told MotoGP Yamaha was trying to muster up enough money to keep Crutchlow on board. But with Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo signed through 2015, there was no chance of Crutchlow earning a factory ride.
Another incentive for Crutchlow chasing a factory ride was his revealing in May that Yamaha was talking with Moto2′s Pol Espargaro to ride on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team. With Espargaro possibly signing to ride on the satellite team, and Bradley Smith already signed through 2014, Crutchlow would have been left without a ride.
In 2014 MotoGP, Crutchlow will fill the vacancy left by Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden, whose future is uncertain, though many speculate a ride in World Superbike. Crutchlow will join current GP13 rider Andrea Dovizioso, who had signed with the factory team through 2014.
Much work lies ahead for Crutchlow. Ducati has clearly struggled in the past few years. Its last championship came in 2007 with the only rider that appeared capable of riding the Desmo – Casey Stoner. That was the Australian’s rookie year; he remained with Ducati through 2010, the year the now-retired Stoner gave Ducati its last three victories at Aragon, Motegi and Phillip Island, respectively.
Stoner joined Honda for 2011, and took his second MotoGP title. That year, Rossi joined Ducati in what was hyped to be the perfect Italian pairing. But following two years with the brand, Rossi earned only three podiums without a single win.
The Australian could win. The Italian couldn’t. Can the Brit? The 2014 MotoGP Championship is shaping up to be another great one…