Cal Crutchlow’s Monster Yamaha Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal has spoken of his sadness at the British rider’s decision to complete a lucrative switch to Ducati’s struggling factory MotoGP squad in 2014.
Poncharal and Crutchlow have developed a close relationship away from the world championship paddock and the French team boss said the 2009 World Supersport champion’s exit would be felt as much personally as professionally.
Poncharal was desperate to persuade Crutchlow to stay with Tech 3 for at least one more season after his dazzling performances in the first half of 2013.
Crutchlow became the first British rider in 11 years to claim a premier class pole position at Assen in late June and he has smashed other records with four podiums in the opening nine races.
But an improved pay deal and a contract direct with Yamaha in Japan failed to convince Crutchlow that his future was on a YZR-M1 machine and he has taken a massive career gamble to try and tame Ducati’s fearsome Desmosedici.
Yamaha had imposed a July 27 deadline on Crutchlow to give them a decision on his future and he informed Poncharal of his move to Ducati in an emotional phone call on Monday night.
Speaking exclusively to MCN while on his summer holiday in France, Poncharal said: “I was having dinner and it was 9:30pm European time and I saw Cal’s name on my phone. I knew he was in California and I knew there was some deadline.
"This telephone call was emotional for him and honestly for me too. Cal can be somebody who looks very strong and sometimes arrogant but he has a big heart and the words he said to me almost brought tears to my eyes and I am not exaggerating.
"He told me everything and kind of apologised but I said he had no reason to at all. I fully understand his decision because he is going somewhere he deserves to be. If I had been his manager too then honestly I would have told him to go there.”
During the European season, Crutchlow frequently uses the Tech 3 workshop in France as a base with his fiancée Lucy Heron and several members of Poncharal’s squad share his passion for cycling.
It was for that reason too that Poncharal said Crutchlow’s departure would be felt off the track as much as on it and he added: “We will lose a friend too and not just a rider.
"Cal has been fantastic with the whole team and we have had some great times. Every morning he comes to the box to have a coffee and talk about normal stuff. Cal is not only a Tech 3 rider but Cal is a Tech 3 member and there is a big difference and we will all miss that and that is going to be a big disappointment.
"Cal is a very special man and a very special rider for me. It doesn’t matter where he is going because in our hearts he will always be a Tech 3 rider and he has already told me he will still come to the workshop with his motorhome to go out together and cycle together with the team.
"What we have experienced together has been something really great, really exciting and unforgettable and I think Tech 3 owes a lot to Cal in terms of what he gave us with results but also media coverage.
"And he gave a lot of excitement to the whole team. I think that Cal and Tech 3 was a really good match and he feels part of the Tech 3 family. I am very sad to lose him.
"It is a pity because I don’t think at the beginning of 2014 that it will be easy to replicate what we have been doing in 2013 because Bradley (Smith) is still learning and Pol (Espargaro) will have to start from scratch. But I still believe the Tech 3 line-up in 2014 is very strong and full of potential."