Cal Crutchlow’s decision to join Ducati for 2014 has at least ended constant speculation about the MotoGP future of current Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammate Bradley Smith.
With Pol Espargaro signed for Tech 3 on a factory Yamaha contract for 2014, if Crutchlow had agreed to a new one-year deal with the French-based squad, then Smith’s position appeared in jeopardy, even though he is under contract for next season.
The Oxfordshire rider has always remained convinced that he had a future in Herve Poncharal’s Tech 3 squad after an encouraging first half to his rookie MotoGP campaign.
The 22-year-old has scored six top 10 finishes so far with a best of sixth in Catalunya and Sachsenring.
Lingering doubts about Smith’s future ended today (Friday) though after Ducati and Yamaha made a raft of announcements.
The most significant of which was a big money two-year deal for Crutchlow to ride a factory Desmosedici as 2006 world champion Nicky Hayden’s replacement next season.
Smith will now be partnered by Moto2 world title contender Espargaro and speaking to MCN from California during the MotoGP summer break, Smith said: “From my point of view, to be honest it has never been 100% in doubt. I am sure there were meetings where my name was getting the axe but in terms of to my face it was never in doubt.
"None of that worry or anything else was passed onto me and that’s the job of the team and my management to keep that well out of my ears. To cement my place now 100% and not have to worry is nicer than being asked the same old questions week in and week out and the allows me to focus on the rest of the season.”
As speculation about Crutchlow’s future intensified during the recent Laguna Seca race, so to did the scrutiny on Smith’s potentially vulnerable position.
He added: “Laguna wasn’t a lot of fun because every interview and every media debrief I did, the same old question was coming up. I think it is nice now that the whole Tech 3 team is not going to be constantly questioned and we can focus on doing a good job for the second half of the season.”
Despite constant rumour about his own future on a factory-supported YZR-M1 being in doubt for weeks, Smith told MCN he never got even slightly worried about being squeezed out of Tech 3.
“I just had to continue working hard and keeping my head down. I just had to prove myself and make the decision very difficult. I made a conscious decision to focus on the racing and never once did I worry, “said the former 125GP winner.
The whole Crutchlow/Smith contract saga was further complicated by the fact that the same manager represents both.
Bob Moore has no doubt been involved in some tense and delicate negotiations over a period of weeks but Smith said: “Bob has done a fantastic job and I am sure there has been a lot of pressure and a lot of moments that he wouldn’t want to share with anybody.
"He managed the whole situation really well and I didn’t know anything about Cal’s situation or anything that was going on and I didn’t make it my business to know what was going on. He kept us completely separate and I am sure it wasn’t easy at certain points.“