Cal Crutchlow has admitted the challenge of making Ducati’s struggling factory Desmosedici machine a winner again in the MotoGP world championship will be the toughest of his career.
Speaking for the first time since the British rider signed a two-year deal to join the Bologna factory from the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad next season, Crutchlow told MCN in an exclusive interview that he’s convinced he made the right choice to try and drag Ducati out of the doldrums.
The sceptics and critics have had a field day since it emerged Crutchlow will join former Tech 3 teammate Andrea Dovizioso at Ducati in 2014.
Crutchlow is turning his back on a YZR-M1 machine that he’s ridden to a pole position and four podiums already in 2013 to try and tame the Desmosedici that destroyed Valentino Rossi’s morale and motivation and is already testing Dovizioso’s patience after just nine races of the current campaign.
Crutchlow has scored more podium finishes in nine races this season than Rossi did in 35 attempts on a Ducati machine that hasn’t seriously challenged Honda and Yamaha for race wins since the end of 2010.
The lure of being a full factory rider for the first time in his MotoGP career and a lucrative pay deal though meant Ducati’s offer was too good to reject.
Speaking to MCN from his summer holiday base near San Diego in California, Crutchlow said: “I am very happy with my decision for next season. I believe that Ducati will give me 100% and they know I will for them.
"I believe my 100% will be good enough to challenge at the front in the future. I am not saying at the first race next year but I am saying in the future. I am very excited about the project and all I can do is my best and give my all.
"I know Claudio Domenicali (Ducati CEO) tried so hard to get me to come and I really appreciated that. I spoke a lot with Claudio and I know how busy he is. I appreciate all the effort Ducati put into getting me and I hope I can reward them.
"The bike at the moment is obviously more difficult than the rest but I am looking forward to the challenge. I believe that they will turn it round and I am excited and if I look where I have come from and managed to get to in MotoGP in a relatively short space of time, there is no reason at all why I can’t be competitive.”
Crutchlow accepted Ducati’s offer because his ambitions to be a full factory rider were never likely to be fulfilled at Yamaha, despite his brilliant performances in 2013 where he has regularly challenged the elite four of Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa and rookie sensation Marc Marquez.
With Yamaha seemingly keen on keeping Lorenzo and Rossi beyond their current deals that expire at the end of 2014, Crutchlow could have been stuck riding a satellite YZR-M1 for the foreseeable future.
Yamaha could not give him assurances of full factory support in a satellite squad. And the signing of Moto2 title contender Pol Espargaro on a factory contract that places the Spaniard in Tech 3 next season only threatened to push Crutchlow further down the pecking order.
Crutchlow has been with Yamaha since 2009 when he captured the World Supersport crown on an R6 and he added: “Yamaha is full and they told me that if Jorge and Valentino want to stay past 2014 they can. I am not angry with Yamaha but I just couldn’t move at Yamaha. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time with them and I really believe that.
"If it was another year or a different situation then I really believe I would be in the factory team. I can’t change it and I really thank them for what they have done for my career.”
One of the toughest aspects of Crutchlow’s decision-making process was he knew he’d be leaving the close-knit Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad.
Crutchlow has gone from struggling rookie in 2011 to consistent podium threat in 2013 under the guidance of Herve Poncharal’s French-based squad and he has formed close relationships with his crew on a personal and professional level.
He added: “I am very, very sad to leave my Monster Energy Tech 3 Team. Herve and I have built a great relationship and he and all the team are true friends. But genuinely he was happy for me. He wanted me to forward my career and get what I deserved in terms of factory support and a good deal.
"I will leave on great terms and as we said, I will only be in the next garage! Of course Herve wanted me to ride for him again next year but the nice thing is he left the door open for the future and I appreciate that. And thanks to Tech 3 I have become a full factory rider, so I have got a lot to be grateful to them for.”
Freed from the incessant speculation and questions about his future, which has been a key talking point in the paddock since pre-season testing, Crutchlow is now determined to bow out of the Tech 3 squad on a high in the remaining nine races.
He said: “I can’t emphasise enough that I still have a job to do this year and I want to win a race for Tech 3. Now this deal has been done and secured I can concentrate on the rest of this season and really fight.”
For the full exclusive interview with Crutchlow and extensive coverage of his big move to Ducati, see the August 7 issue of Motor Cycle News.