Ducati is locked in talks with Cal Crutchlow and has offered the British rider a two-year deal to quit Yamaha next season, MCN can reveal.
Crutchlow doesn’t have a contract with his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad for next season and interest in him has rocketed after a stunning start to 2012.
The 26-year-old has scored three front row starts and finished every race with a worst result of eighth in a rain-hit French Grand Prix last month.
His impressive form continued on Sunday when he stormed from the back row of the grid to finish in a heroic sixth place at Silverstone, just over 24 hours after a high-side crash in practice looked like ruling him out of the race with a broken and dislocated left ankle.
Ducati boss Vittoriano Guareschi said it was inspired and aggressive performances like he showed on Sunday that appealed to the Bologna factory.
He told MCN: “We are speaking to Cal. He is a fast rider and aggressive and I think with our bike it is possible for him to get some good results. Now he is a Yamaha rider and Yamaha will be looking very closely at him and it is not easy for us to take him or easy for Yamaha to lose a good rider like him.”
MCN revealed after the recent Catalunya MotoGP round earlier this month that negotiations between Ducati and Crutchlow’s management had commenced.
Crutchlow though has made it clear his priority is to remain loyal to Yamaha but he wants to secure a move to the Japanese factory’s official factory team with Jorge Lorenzo.
He recently told MCN: “I want to stay with Yamaha first and foremost and whether that is at Tech 3 or in the factory team I don’t know. If I had a full choice I would want to be a factory rider but in Tech 3. But we know how difficult that is going to be.
"I am happy with Yamaha and that’s where I want to be. Whether it is at Tech 3 or in the factory team, I’d still like the same support as the factory team. I see my future beyond this year with Yamaha but whether that will happen remains to be seen. If I am doing well I want to be on a factory team.”
Yamaha though has already slammed the door firmly shut on giving Crutchlow full factory support if he stays with the French-based Tech 3 squad.
Crutchlow has told Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal that the perfect scenario for his future would be to remain with the French satellite squad, but receive a full factory spec YZR-M1.
For that to happen though would necessitate a major shift in policy for Yamaha, who has always given priority treatment to its two official factory riders.
Factory support for a satellite team rider is a concept employed previously by Honda for Sete Gibernau and the late Marco Simoncelli when both rode for Fausto Gresini’s squad.
But Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis said Yamaha wouldn’t deviate from its long-standing strategy.
He said: “I don’t see that as an option for us. Honda possibly have more resources and capacity to do that sort of thing than Yamaha, so when Ben was on a Yamaha contract but in Tech 3 he had a satellite spec bike.
"I don’t see us running three factory bikes. Then you have inequality in Tech 3 which creates management problems for them.”
Having accomplished its main mission to re-sign Lorenzo on a new two-year deal, Yamaha is unlikely to be in a rush to sign the Spaniard’s team-mate, with Ben Spies, Andrea Dovizioso and Crutchlow all vying for one YZR-M1.
The situation is complicated further with rumours growing during last weekend’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone that Valentino Rossi could make a shock return to Yamaha in 2013.
Yamaha has already said it is receptive to a Rossi return, despite him departing for a disastrous move to Ducati.
Yamaha hasn’t had a title sponsor since Rossi quit at the end of 2010 and Fiat also decided to end its successful relationship at the same time.
Though Rossi's return would be no guarantee of fresh investment, the Italian remains the number one box office draw in MotoGP and any potential return is likely to be strongly supported by Yamaha’s marketing division.