Cal Crutchlow could get an early reminder of the downside of being a non-factory rider in MotoGP in Malaysia next week, with rumours mounting the British rider will not have a new seamless shift gearbox at his disposal from Yamaha when winter testing resumes on Tuesday (February 5).
Although Crutchlow’s Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team insist the full spec of the YZR-M1 Crutchlow will test in Sepang has not been clarified, MCN understands the 27-year-old will not have the same gearbox as factory duo Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.
A new gearbox was high on reigning world champion Lorenzo’s wish list for 2013 as he looks to mount a successful defence of his world title.
Honda and Ducati have been using the system since 2011 and although both claim the seamless shift gearbox only gives a minimal advantage of 0.1s per lap, it is the stability under acceleration when shifting up through the gears that offers an improvement over the Yamaha system that was used in 2012.
At the end of 2012, Lorenzo’s factory Yamaha boss Wilco Zeelenberg confirmed to MCN that improving the gearbox was a clear winter target for Yamaha’s engineering department.
The Dutchman said: “We have enough power but we need more drive. Going through the gears is one thing because Honda has this special gearbox, which gives them a good benefit. With lean angle going through the gears they don’t have a problem and that’s where we are trying to improve.”
Crutchlow himself singled out the gearbox as an area he wanted to see improved for his third season in the French-based Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad when he told MCN: “We still have the same gearbox from a long time ago and Ducati and Honda have the seamless shift gearbox.
I’m not saying our gearbox is no good but it can be improved. We also know how expensive these things are to do and it is not my decision. Don’t get me wrong because I can improve as a rider as well but the gearbox would be an area to look at.”
It seems Crutchlow though will not have the seamless shift gearbox in Sepang, and at present there is no indication at which stage in the season he will have access to it, if indeed the latest generation gearbox is made available by Yamaha at all to its satellite squad.
Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal said he had no idea what the status of the gearbox was for Crutchlow, or whether Lorenzo and Rossi will test the new system when pre-season preparations get underway again in Sepang next Tuesday.
Speaking exclusively to MCN, Poncharal said: “I have not been informed officially by YMC (Yamaha Motor Company) that we will have or won’t have this new gearbox. I even don’t know that gearbox is ready to be used by Lorenzo and Rossi.
We are waiting to go to Sepang where we will do the schooling in the assembly of the new bike. Clearly it has always been the policy of Yamaha as well as the other factories to give the priority to test new parts to the factory team. If there is a new gearbox in Sepang then for sure Jorge and Valentino will have it first.
Will we have it? I don’t know. Will we have it after some races, or not at all? I am not in a position to answer that. First I think Yamaha needs to evaluate if it is better and if it is reliable and how many can they produce before the start of the season. We have to remember we have only five engines for the championship and we have to wait and see. All I know is the factory team will always have the priority to test new parts.
We know our position but we still managed to score eight podiums last year and Andrea (Dovizioso) was fourth in the championship. We can’t complain about the level of support we have had. Last year our bikes were very close to the factory bike and the situation in 2013 is not known but I am confident Yamaha will give us competitive machinery.
They know that it helps the image of Yamaha to support the satellite team. They use us a lot for their marketing activity and I don't see any reason why they won’t support us in the best way they can.”