Cal Crutchlow has taken a massive career gamble by accepting the tough challenge of transforming Ducati’s flagging fortunes in MotoGP next season.
The British rider rejected an improved pay deal to stay with the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad and will be reunited with former teammate Andrea Dovizioso on a factory Desmosedici in 2014.
The former World Supersport champion had until last Saturday to give Yamaha an answer on a final take or leave it offer that he got on the eve of the German round in Sachsenring earlier this month.
Yamaha’s offer included a factory contract and a pay hike from the Japanese factory, which management said was an ‘extraordinary’ step to convince Crutchlow to remain on a YZR-M1 for a fourth season.
One of Crutchlow’s priorities though in lengthy negotiations with Yamaha was the cast iron assurance that he would secure a switch to its works team in 2015.
Unwilling to make such a commitment so far in advance, Yamaha refused to guarantee Crutchlow a place in a star-studded squad currently made up of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, who have won 13 world titles between them, including nine in MotoGP.
During the recent US Grand Prix round at Laguna Seca, Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis said: “There is a proposal on the table from Tech 3 to retain him. What we have offered is that Cal can have a contract direct with us if he wants. We are also making a financial contribution to try and make the Tech 3, Monster and Yamaha project work.
"Yamaha has made a contribution, which is unusual. It is an extraordinary step that we are doing but that is it. That is our limit. It is up to Cal to evaluate his options.
"Maybe money will be the deciding factor but in my opinion you should also weigh up the potential for results and performance. The money is very important to these riders and there is only so much money.
"Yamaha already has two factory riders who are quite well paid, so we have our limitations. We would love to see Cal stay and what we can offer is a competitive team and bike and I think a good money offer.
"If Cal chooses something else that's up to him. Cal is having a fabulous year and doing a great job. If we had a space in the factory team we would consider Cal but we have Valentino and Jorge (Lorenzo) who have two year contracts, simple as that."
Crutchlow had also been linked with a move to the LCR Honda squad for next season but Stefan Bradl’s breakthrough weekend in Laguna Seca last month, where the German scored a career first pole position and podium in the premier class, secured the 2011 Moto2 world champion his RC213V place.
Crutchlow’s decision to walk away from a Yamaha YZR-M1 that has powered him to a career first pole position and four podiums in a stellar 2013 to ride the beastly and brutal Desmosedici will be seen by many as a massive gamble.
The Desmosedici is the bike that destroyed the morale of Italian legend Valentino Rossi and is now tormenting Italian Dovizioso, who scored four podiums more than Crutchlow when the pair were at Tech 3 in last season.
The Ducati deal will make Crutchlow wealthy beyond his wildest dreams but he has taken on the toughest job in racing.
Crutchlow has managed more podiums in the opening nine races of 2013 than Rossi managed in his entire torrid two-year stint at Ducati and the Desmosedici is consistently hammered by Yamaha and Honda.
The last time he spoke publicly about the prospect of riding the fearsome Desmosedici, Crutchlow said he was not scared about its reputation.
He said: “Who is to say the Ducati won’t change? It depends who they have in Ducati and what they do to the bike. Maybe it will come better but I am not scared. Why would I be scared? Is there something to be scared of? Is there a ghost?”
At Laguna Seca recently, Ducati boss Paolo Ciabatti told MCN of the Bologna factory’s desire to sign Crutchlow and he said: "Cal is the only rider capable of being constantly in the top positions that still doesn’t have a contract and obviously we are interested in Cal.
"Yamaha is interested and I understand that also Honda is interested in making him an offer. At this point we have explained what our plan can be with us and it is up to him to give us an answer.
"Cal has all the features that fit into being an ideal Ducati rider in terms of charisma and riding style. But we are not the only ones willing to come to an agreement with him. Obviously it will be important to get Cal on board but if not we will take the best choice according to what we think are the best riders on the market.”
Confirmation of Crutchlow’s big money switch to Ducati means that current teammate Bradley Smith’s seat in Tech 3 is secured and that current Moto2 world championship contender Pol Espargaro will join him on a YZR-M1 machine.
Smith’s future had been the subject of intense speculation while Yamaha was negotiating a contract extension with Crutchlow.
With Spaniard Espargaro already signed months ago on a contract direct with Yamaha in Japan, had Crutchlow agreed to stay then Smith would have been frozen out.