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STM: Crutchlow at Ducati – Why the Surprise?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Cal Crutchlows move to to Ducati for 2014 came as no surprise considering the variety of circumstances pointing to such a decision.
Cal Crutchlow's move to to Ducati for 2014 came as no surprise considering the variety of circumstances pointing to such a decision.
The only surprising thing about the news that Cal Crutchlow is currently shopping for a pair of nice, new, red leathers is that anyone is surprised.

In the May edition of Single Track Mind I predicted that this would occur and it did because of the crushing inevitability of circumstances. Here’s what happened and why.

First, Cal isn’t getting any younger. In October he will be 28 years old – and at the absolute physical, mental and emotional peak of his riding ability.

However, four seasons from now he will be 32 years old and time will tell. He might well be winning – or he might be badly injured or war weary or there might be a contracted GP series with much less money available to pay riders.

So far in his career, Cal has earned good money by the standards of ordinary people – but not a lot if one wants to live well and avoid having a real job after racing!

The only riders earning seriously good money are the six factory riders in MotoGP. These are Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi, Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso.

In fact, the situation is slightly more complex than this. The really serious money goes to Pedrosa, Dovizioso and, most of all, Lorenzo. Nicky will not be in the top bracket because, lovely though he is, the amiable American will never win a World Championship unless an outbreak of Ebola virus sweeps the paddock and the Kentucky Kid is the only one spared.

Andrea Dovizioso makes a reported  3 million a year with Ducati  a fact that makes a strong monetary case for Crutchlows move to the team in 2014.
Andrea Dovizioso makes a reported $3 million a year with Ducati, a fact that makes a strong monetary case for Crutchlow's move to the team in 2014 should a similar paycheck be in store for the British rider.
Dovi got the money Cal was supposed to have got last year – the wrinkly gossip grapevine has this at around $3 million a year – but Andrea will never win a World Championship either. Podiums yes. The occasional win – okay, but rarely. Champion du Monde: no chance.

As a rookie, Marc came at a discount this year – but wasn’t cheap – and Valentino, as I have discussed before, had literally no choice where he went. He either rode for Yamaha at a bargain basement price – or didn’t ride in MotoGP at all.

Honda put $15 million on the table for the blessed Saint Casey to ride for them in 2014 and, if the Australian MotoGod had taken the money then Dani would have been riding for a satellite team because, good as Pedrosa is, he will not win a World Championship.

Yes, on the right day he is supremely talented but to become World Champion the rider needs to be brilliant week in, week out – in the rain, dry, cold and heat, injured or fit. Dani has had the best bikes in the world for a long time and just can’t manage the last few yards to the summit.

This brings us to Lorenzo who is currently earning the top money in MotoGP and for a very good reason: he is the best rider. Not only is he a gifted racer but the team works well around him. In every way, he meets the criteria of a rider who will win for you at every race.

Jorge and Cal get on very well but this was not going to help Crutchlow get the ride he wanted, and needed, which was a well-paid slot in a good factory team with fully competitive machinery.

The wrinkly gossip suggests that Cal’s first choice was a full factory Yamaha ride – but in Tech 3 colors. The Tech 3 team has been well supported by Yamaha factory staff this year as Cal’s increasingly good results have piled up. The Japanese factory also opened their corporate racing wallet – albeit not very far – to top up Cal’s wages from Tech 3. However, even with the top up the final package was not top shelf.

Having lots of Yamaha technicians in your garage is not the same as a full factory ride.
Having lots of Yamaha technicians in your garage is not the same as a full factory ride.
There was another problem. Having lots of Yamaha technicians in your garage is not the same as a full factory ride. It’s not far off – but Cal isn’t far off winning every GP in which he rides.

Just how fine the difference is needs to be understood. If Dovizioso had been a fraction over one second a lap faster at Laguna Seca he would have won instead of finishing 9th. No wonder then that Cal has been chasing a full, no holds barred, factory ride.

The problem he faced was that Yamaha had all the bases covered. Jorge is currently World Champion – and has the potential to win many more World titles.

In terms of a marketing icon, Vale is still biggest fish in the pond. It is absolute nonsense to suggest that Rossi will ever win another World MotoGP Championship but in terms of brand recognition he is the best there is.

Across in the Tech 3 garage, rookie Bradley Smith has a watertight two-year contract, so it was going to cost a lot of money to move him down the pit lane to a CRT team. For some bizarre reason, Yamaha have got the real hot and heavies for Pol Espargaro who is seen by them as the MkII Marquez: except that he isn’t.

There is a gaggle of riders at Espargaro’s level whereas Marquez is a once in a generation phenomenon.

As for Cal riding a factory Honda, this was never going to happen either. The satellite Hondas are much nearer to factory machines than the Tech 3 Yamahas but, even so, they are not the Repsol bikes.

If Cal had moved to a satellite Honda he would have been no better off than riding a Tech 3 machine – and probably worse since he is clearly the lead rider in the French satellite squad.

Casey Stoner during the first day of testing at Motegi  where hell provide input on the 2014 prototype.
We had a productive day in general and thankfully the test plan wasnt too hectic  so we were able to get most of it done today  after yesterdays washout  said Stoner after his second day of testing at Motegi.
Casey Stoner is already bored with retirement and has recently been "testing" the 2014 RCV with HRC at Motegi. Don't be surprised to see him back for the 2014 season.
A further factor is that there is only one rider for whom Honda will re-arrange the earth, the sky and the very heavens and that is Casey Stoner – not Cal.

As I predicted, Casey is already bored with retirement. It is difficult to articulate what a strange, alternative universe is the MotoGP paddock. I have never actively worked in this environment although I did spend five seasons being professionally involved in GP racing in the olden days.

It was a bizarre experience and I look back with some surprise at how much I got sucked into this alien world. A person to whom, in the ordinary universe, you wouldn’t normally give more than a passing nod, becomes a thing of wonder from which all good things emanate because he can win for you. He might be semi-literate, have little knowledge of anything except motorcycle racing, yet his word becomes law because he holds the magic key which opens the door of sponsorship, manufacturer support – and your job.

Goodness knows how much the situation I was in has escalated now where the MotoGP paddock is such a place of intense holiness that it is even isolated even from the rest of the GP classes. Without doubt, being worshipped is what Casey is missing. $15 million also helps anyone feel loved.

Casey is already “testing” the 2014 RCV, or would have been except that rain stopped play, and the production bike which Honda is selling to wealthy teams. This is ironic since he is the GP rider least likely to make any cogent development comments. Casey’s idea of testing is to sit in the pit box looking suicidally depressed and then get straight on the bike and set pole. Supremely talented he is – a meticulous test rider he isn’t.

What will happen is that Casey will return to Philip Island, one of his favorite tracks, wipe the floor with everyone, and then reluctantly return to MotoGP for 2014 filling Pedrosa’s place alongside Marquez. When he does, all the “aliens” have a problem because I still maintain that Stoner is hugely the most naturally talented rider of his generation.

Pedrosa is in a uniquely vulnerable position both failing to deliver in terms of outright results and also having his manager, Alberto Puig, and Honda’s boss, Livio Suppo, not exactly on each other’s birthday party invitation lists.

This brings us back to Cal and Ducati. For both parties, the deal had to be done: there was no choice. For the reasons I have explained, Cal wants – and needs – a full factory deal. With Stoner not available at any price, there was, and is, only one available rider capable of challenging for a World Championship and this is Crutchlow.

At this point I have to say that I always respect the opinions of MCUSA readers and I am very grateful for them. However, when I have tipped Cal for top on many occasions in the past my comments have elicited comments along the lines that I am merely showing patriotic bias because Crutchlow is English.

I would refute these criticisms entirely because the facts show that Cal is not only one of the best riders in GPs but is getting better by the minute. To come from the Aprilia Superteen cup in England, and then on to BSB and a World Championship in World Supersport as a route to MotoGP is a hard, rocky path to walk.

Crutchlow has lacked the contacts and experience which these days normally come with being groomed for MotoGP at an early age. In fact, his non-standard career path meant that he didn’t even have a manager/mentor until recently.

He is not as PR savvy as he might, perhaps even should, have been nor has he been as protected as he needed to be.
Cal Crutchlows titanium tough mentality is one of the many talents that sets him apart from many in the MotoGP grid.
Cal Crutchlow's titanium tough mentality is one of the many talents that sets him apart from many in the MotoGP grid.
These factors have militated against his success – but Cal does have one key card and it is the reason why Ducati are paying him a rumored $6m a year. Cal’s special talent? He is titanium tough mentally.

In order to understand how important this trait is at the top level it is vital to remember that every single rider in MotoGP, even the ones on the CRT bikes rolling in last, is incredibly, mind-numbingly talented.

I once did a PR event with Cal. He was riding a standard, road going Yamaha R1 and waving to the crowd – while I rode my manly parts off on a classic Grand Prix bike trying to keep him in sight.

The best way to imagine the difference between a competent road rider, or even a decent club racer, and a MotoGP rider is this: look at a three-year-old on his electric bike, obviously with stabilizers, and imagine how much better we are at riding with our full-blown motorcycles. That’s the gap between a MotoGP rider and a normal motorcycling human being.

It’s nothing to do with physical courage either. When you see the TV shots of some “minor” MotoGP accident where the rider has slid into the gravel at 100 mph – and then runs to his bike in the faint hope that he can ride again – imagine sliding down I-95 on the way to Daytona Beach at 100 mph and immediately leaping back on to the bike instead of lying in a heap whimpering. Or how about having a major operation on your collarbone and then flying back to race still full of anesthetic?

Cal Crutchlows race weekend at Sachsenring started with a few tough crashes  but he came back and finished second in the race.
Cal Crutchlow's race weekend at Sachsenring started with a few tough crashes, but he came back and finished second in the race. Just one example of his ability to leave aside frustration and pain to focus solely on racing.
So, if Cal is completely normal, or abnormal depending on your point of view, compared with many other supremely talented MotoGP riders what does make him special? The answer lies in a mental toughness of a Shaolin Monk. Yes, he gets upset and disappointed and frustrated but he has the iron will to concentrate on racing to a degree which belongs to another species. In short, nothing puts him off his job of riding a motorcycle quickly.

He will approach the Ducati ride completely and utterly certain that he will be the first rider to master the bike since Stoner. He will look at the list of riders who have failed with Ducati and dismiss them as an utter irrelevance, confident in his own ability to succeed.

This state of mind is not arrogance but simply the way World Champions are wired – and I have worked with many. They can’t conceive of not winning except for circumstances completely beyond their control. This is why they succeed and other equally talented riders don’t. Truly, World Championships are won in the mind.

This is the trait which Ducati have recognized in Cal. The Italians might well play at racial politics, and did, but with Germans in control only winning will count. I will discuss the finer points of the industrial politics behind the Volkswagen Group’s (who own Audi, who own Lamborghini, who own Ducati) purchase of the Bologna bike firm in depth on another occasion. However, suffice to say that Audi spent $150 million winning the Le Mans car race and so Ducati’s total GP budget is probably what Audi spend on fire proof overalls for their race car team mechanics.

Further, the Germans are not burdened by nostalgia, or reputation or history. Who did what to whom and when means nothing at Ducati now. With Cal, they will start from ground zero and I am completely confident that they will give him a bike which can win races. I am just as confident that Crutchlow is at the perfect time in his riding career to make the best use of the machinery he is given and I have no hesitation in saying that Cal will be the first Englishman to be seen on the top step of the MotoGP podium.
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GrayFox117   August 24, 2013 02:34 PM
Cal is more competitive on the Tech3 Yama. He's already finishing well ahead of the factory Ducati's last year and this during races. I'm 99.9% sure Ducati is gonna pay better the Tech3 Yamaha, but it's at a sacrifice for results in races.....unless Ducati catches lightning in a bottle like they did when Stoner was winning for them.
Not   August 21, 2013 12:31 AM
Hey, Melling said that Crutchlow will win on the Ducati. Good enough for me. I'm already planning how I'm going to spend my winnings.
GhostRider11   August 13, 2013 05:01 PM
Cal IS NOT winning a MotoGP race when he rides the Ducati unless all the other frontrunners stay home that weekend... including his teammate Dovi! Cal needs to focus on finishing out the 2nd half of the season which starts now by-the-way. There are many points available but this is the time Dani usually comes on strong. It will come down to Dani VS Marquez for the championship. With Cal being the hot-ticket for 2014, contracts were being put on the table even for other riders. Contracts are made to be broken and/or should I say bought out! The public does not know what each riders' contract actually stipulates especially for either the rider or the factory to break it. Alvaro and Bradl were both on the hot-seat at HRC to make room for Cal. So we, the public, will never know all the details regarding 'contracts' and why riders do what they do. 2014 will be the year of team rivalries... Dani/Stoner VS Marquez, Jorge VS Rossi, and Dovi VS Cal!
khan   August 11, 2013 01:53 AM
Firstly sorry to all for the provocative lines i have written, but really it was anger which made it happen and i apologise for it but yeah i truly stand by my words that stoner can't win on that desmosedici. For my dear rufi000000 my reply to you is that everyone knows how stoner took the world by storm in 07 beating all fair and square and i've not mentioned that coz i've not talked of the past. I meant present but may i remind u that it was on a bike far more powerful than the powerless yamaha of rossi, honda and suzuki. In 07 ducati was way better than anyone but now it does not stand anywhere near honda or yamaha despite its power. Just like M1 was a poor middle grid positioned bike in 03 so with time bike changes my friend. And thanks for reminding me of my wordings but u know i used u, ur and u r to just make words and comment a little short. The world knows that but i think u said that coz u till now know not what they're used for and that is laughable. I'm not learning english from u or "you" whatever. Now this article stated many things expressed from a personal point of view so i stated mine. If cal wins on the ducati from next year it will be the most unexpected thing ever coz its not the same as 07 and though it has improved its rivals have improved far more from them. As for dani i still think he could win this yaer's title and the same goes for jorge. If casey comes back then still dani has a 2 year contract.
Rufi000000   August 10, 2013 08:55 AM
I see a lot of comments along the lines of "I've been on a motorcycle", "I've done a track day", "I've seen MotoGP on TV", "I've crashed a bike or two before", followed by some grand statement of disagreement with the author of the article. The internet is a funny place, a place where crashing a few times, at training wheels level speeds compared to a GP rider, gives you the experience necessary to naysay what the GP rider experiences. Where having a paddock pass this one time gives you more insight into the GP world than an actual insider with many sources still following the circus. Pretty ridiculous. I'll avoid any comments that make me sound like an armchair expert that vastly over estimates the value of my opinion and just say that the thought of Stoner being back on the Repsol Honda next to Marquez is fantastic. I leave for Austin tomorrow on a permanent basis and his return would make COTA next year the coolest place on Earth you could possibly be. Lastly, khan, it's you* your* you are* and you're. Your comment is laughably worded, pure opinion, and not really worth anyones time. If it was though, everyone else on here would go through it and easily prove most of your points wrong. Stoner on the Desmo for instance; he did win on it, many times, including a title. Guess you missed that.
khan   August 10, 2013 03:52 AM
First of all ur no script writer and ur not writing the script of motogp so please don't say that wat u predict happens!!. Second u don't know urself dat how long u will live, then how can u say that dani will not win world championship. Third u said in ur article that u r not showing "patriotic bias" for crutchlow, which is really the opposite, u said he will be the first one to master the ducati after stoner that's never going to happen. If andrea who beat cal on many occasions last year on d same bike couldn't do it then how can cal. Not in at least 2 yrs. it will not happen until an ebola virus brokes out and cal is the only one spared. Even stoner can't win on that desmosedici, how do u know if he's going to come back, he's repeatedly said that he will not. And if he comes then who told u that dani will be riding a satellite bike. U are no one to say that and please please do not ever write all praises for cal because he's not done something impossible. AS for jorge and valentino they are getting the money they deserve and proving theselves in each race, currently cal is below vale in the standings and if he cannot challenge for the championship on a tech 3 then how can he on a ducati. This proves ur unnecessarily praising cal without any reason. U know cal is a real talent and will had proved his mettle but with the current scenario in ducati garage the future does not look bright.
MadMenX   August 9, 2013 10:55 AM
Besides the new reality in racing is to bring in a kid who is a champion in a lower class, give him a year maybe 2 and see if he can shine in MotoGP. If not you replace him with some other kid. If he does well, you keep him and replace your older rider. I can think of Ben Spies, at least, who would be happy to step into Tech3, and Yamaha to give him another chance with Tech3 at least. I can also think that Yamaha would be happy to put an outstanding Moto2 rider in that seat. And you saw what happened. Spies hasn't even ridden a race for months and Yamaha put Espargo in there. It's tough out there for riders with no real success in MotoGP despite a few years in the game. But that is the catch-22: they have no chance to succeed in MotoGP without a competitive bike, and in the current format they are just not going to get a competitive bike.
MadMenX   August 9, 2013 10:40 AM
While I can't personally say that Crutchlow is a future World Champion because I haven't actually tried to follow him in a charity event on a 20 year old 2-stroke racer with half the displacement while he was riding a late-model R1 streetbike, I can say that I have trouble thinking of 5 current riders who have a realistic chance of winning, partially because that probability is so closely coupled both to their bikes and to the competition. But I can definitely say that the guy with the 2nd best chance of winning is probably the guy who came in 2nd at the last race. Crutchlow is jumping at the money while he can still get it. He knows his chances of landing a factory seat with factory money at either Yamaha or Honda are somewhere between slim and none. Ducati is simply the best package on the table. Maybe not the best *bike* or the best *team* but definitely the best financial option for him. Stoner is the same age and has retired already with 2 WCs and 50 wins. Hayden, what, another 5 years older, with at least *some* wins and a WC, is getting pushed off the bike. I think that Crutchlow's chances of a permanent, debilitating injury are much greater than his ever becoming WC. And he finally got his head out of his butt and got the gig he wanted last year. Good for him.
GhostRider11   August 9, 2013 04:57 AM
To all those that have been watching MotoGP for as many years as I have... the best competitive field was way back when during the post 500cc days. There were many riders challenging at the front on different brands. Even the satellite bikes were close and at the sharp end of the field... 2003-2006 I would say... Pre-Single Tire Rule. Now there are only 5 bikes/5 riders capable of winning a race. Dorna needs to allow more not less factory/satellite bikes on the grid, the factories need to lower their prices then allow more tire brands again just in MotoGP! Can't blame Cal for wanting the big paycheck since Dovi is getting it with crap results even after the whole Rossi chapter. Cal won't win but the best he can do is beat Dovi every race weekend. Stoner? Was he testing or just practicing for when he returns?! The only thing Stoner is doing is keeping the media off his back until he comes back full-time. Pedrosa should be worried though, where will he go when that happens? Will he just retire or get stuck with a satellite bike or production racer? Maybe he'll join Hayden wherever Nicky finally lands!
yellowduc   August 8, 2013 06:50 PM
Wow so many negative comments about all these motogp racers that will never win, makes you wonder why bother with motogp to begin with. Problem with motogp and this article, motogp is to good for anyone and full of themselves.
thomboz   August 8, 2013 06:40 PM
I'm 60 years old. I've crashed dozens of times racing my YSR50 on GoKart tracks (and the 'Streets of Willow) in my 12 year 'career'. I've crashed a few times on the street, most at higher speeds on sport bikes. My 1st response in a crash is to get my body to slow to a stop with the least amount of damage. The second is to get back on the bike. The 3rd is to wonder if I was actually injured. I want to get back on the bike fast for one reason at the track... to finish the race in the best possible position. I want to get back on the bike fast for two reasons on the street... 1) to leave the scene so someone else doesn't hit me 2) to lessen the chances of police writing me a ticket. But if this is the defining characteristic of a winning MotoGP rider, I've certainly missed my calling.
Dangnabit   August 7, 2013 05:35 PM
...the idea that Cruchlow is going to go to Ducati and seriously contend for the WC on the GP13 is just stupid. Even Stoner couldn't win on that bike. And that will be clear if...IF...Crutchlow continues to podium this year. Walking in Dovi's shoes. Even if he won 5 races for Tech 3 this year he has no chance of winning on the GP13. Ducati is a year or two away from contending for wins much less for the WC, even if they somehow got Stoner back tomorrow.
Thewall67   August 7, 2013 05:16 PM
"there was, and is, only one available rider capable of challenging for a World Championship and this is Crutchlow." This is simply insane. Ducati took Crutchlow because he was the best of no one else worthwhile available. He is a very good rider. He is not and never will be a title contender no matter what bike he is on. He would, at best, be a lesser version of Pedrosa.
Dangnabit   August 7, 2013 03:13 PM
Out of all the other things that I could say about this probably the biggest is that Marquez is going to accelerate a lot of changes in MotoGP and that all comes out of the fact that often bikes wait for riders and often riders wait for bikes, but it takes a lot to put the two together to win races. But you need more than a few bikes that can win. In MotoGP it just takes too much to win. MotoGP needs to change dramatically for the sheer fact that there are only 4 bikes, two teams, that have a reasonable chance of winning and it has been that way for a long time. Beyond that Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Stoner have 99% of the wins over the past 3 years. Who seriously expects Crutchlow to win MotoGP races on the GP-13? No one. That team has to leapfrog both Honda and Yamaha with arguably 4 better riders between them assuming Stoner doesn't return. Whether the Ducati runs 10th or 5th they have a long ways to go that Crutchlow isn't going to be able to make up on his own. It's that simple.
Dangnabit   August 7, 2013 03:02 PM
I agree that Crutchlow and Ducati are a good fit for each other but I disagree with most of the arguments that you make in your article. Facts are facts but you're not looking at all of the facts nor are you making logical conclusions from them. But the true sin here is to take a handful of facts and make these great sweeping conclusions from them...that just don't make sense given the facts. The bottom line is that we know that Stoner is a great rider. We do not know that the Ducati is a good bike that only Stoner has "tamed". I keep hearing this more and more lately and it's beginning to sound like PR coming out of Ducati. There is an entire tree of at-best debatable arguments like this in this article out of the mere fact that Crutchlow is leaving Tech3 for Ducati. But I agree with you on one point: it takes a special kind of person to hop back on a bike after wrecking it. At high speed. In a race. For a living. But there are thousands of people like this who hop back on bikes even when they aren't racing for a living. Second Crutchlow's results have been impressive this year, certainly good enough for a factory ride (especially with Ducati) but I think that both the Vale and Dovi (and to some extent Hayden) have shown what the GP-13 is capable of in MotoGP. I think that Crutchlow is looking past that bike, just like Dovi did when he signed. So to me it was more that he was on top of the mountain at Tech3 and had to move to a different mountain or else people will always say "well, why didn't you ever win a single race on that bike, if you could consistently get on the podium?". Same with Dovi. The competition in MotoGP is fierce but it isn't going to get better for him on a satellite bike, it'll just get worse, whether it's Pol Espargo or someone else. But I think the Honda option was a better option for him. I think he had a real shot at Dani's ride but couldn't take the chance that Dani would actually win the WC this year and get another 2+ years on that bike...with Marquez right there. Or that someone else would jump on the Ducati ride in the meantime. And I think that all the rest of it makes for juicy side-issue. But no more than side-issues.
kz1000st   August 7, 2013 03:01 PM
It's interesting to note that Crutchlow will have a full factory deal, but at what cost? Ducati is scrambling to stay ahead of Espargaro on the Aprilia CRT. Honda is building for sale a CRT next year that is only a fraction slower than a full factory bike. Race cars and bikes are completely animals and the mistaken notion that Audi will return Ducati to glory is highly questionable. Crutchlow was better off waiting on a satellite Yamaha than settling for a third string ride. He's 28? How ancient. Josh Hayes is what-38? and still capable of a top ten in Moto GP.
eligovt   August 7, 2013 02:14 PM
Interesting to read, but you really didn't address the fact that Dovi was in the same position last year as Cal is this year. Cal couldn't regularly beat Dovi last year, and there is nothing to indicate the divide between them will be different next year. As for Cal, he has always impressed me with his ability to set a great lap time, but he doesn't seem to be able to maintain those times in a race (unlike Lorenzo, for instance). That was true in his Supersport and Superbike days and has carried over to MotoGP. In the last two years, he puts in his best laps late in the race, which is great, but often he is too far behind to improve much. Anyway, Cal may put on a good show in qualifying on the Ducati, but he isn't going to be winning any races unless, as you say, the whole field catches the Ebola virus...