The Italian-based Forward Racing squad is understood to have clinched a deal to lease YZR-M1 engines from Yamaha for the 2014 MotoGP world championship.
The final deadline for confirming orders with Yamaha is today (Monday) and after lengthy deliberations over which technical package to run next season it appears Forward Racing boss Giovanni Cuzari has opted to lease YZR-M1 engines for two riders.
Yamaha was willing to lease engines to a maximum of four riders from the 2014 season onwards as part of a drive by the major factories to offer more affordable and competitive machinery.
The engine will run to a similar spec to the current motors raced by Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad but will run 24 litres and use the Magneti Marelli electronics software and hardware.
Forward Racing are understood to be the only team to have clinched a deal with Yamaha, though it is not clear what chassis it plans to house the YZR-M1 engine in.
The team currently competes with a tuned Kawasaki ZX-10R motor in a British-built FTR frame for Colin Edwards and Claudio Corti.
Continuing with an improved Kawasaki motor had been an option, with the Japanese factory's engine tuner Akira ready to roll out a brand new pneumatic valve motor to test in the summer break.
Cuzari also spoke in some detail about the possibility of buying Honda’s new production RC213V racer and speaking to MCN during last weekend’s German MotoGP round at the Sachsenring he said: “Yamaha is the biggest cost for us but we would have the same engine of the Tech 3 team with a dedicated engineer, so it is a serious project but also expensive.
The easier way for us is Kawasaki because they promise us a new engine with pneumatic valves that we could test in August. If we had more time the best way is wait a little, do the Kawasaki test, and then decide. The engines are from Akira and they do the WSB engines for Tom Sykes. But with Yamaha I would be the third team behind the factory and Tech 3.
The Honda is a good project but in my opinion Honda already has two factory bikes and Gresini and LCR and a minimum of another two bikes. So if I go with Honda I will be the seventh or eighth team. It means I don't have too much power with Honda.”
It is not clear who will ride for Forward Racing in 2014, though MCN understands Bradley Smith’s name has been mentioned as a possible option.
Yamaha could be heading towards a contractual minefield having already signed Pol Espargaro for the Tech 3 squad in 2014. Crutchlow is still in talks with Yamaha about a new deal, though the Japanese factory’s refusal to guarantee him a factory ride in 2015 is pushing the British rider closer to the exit door.
Smith already has a contract in place for 2014 at Tech 3, but if Crutchlow does agree to an extended deal with the French squad, the 22-year-old could be back on the open market.
Cuzari refused to say which rider was a Yamaha preferred choice but he said: “If it is possible I would like to stay with Claudio and Colin but if we choose Yamaha or Honda they want to nominate one rider. Minimum I have to give up one of the two riding spots for a Honda or Yamaha nominee."
Asked specifically if he had been asked to accommodate Smith should he become available, Cuzari added: “I know who the riders are but I can’t tell you. Yamaha with Tech 3 have three riders with two bikes, so you know the situation.
If Crutchlow doesn't stay in Yamaha then it is no problem because Herve has Bradley and Pol Espargaro on his team."
It seems that Cuzari made a late bid to sign Moto2 world championship leader Scott Redding in Germany.
Redding is hotly-tipped to be signing a deal to ride a production Honda RC213V with the Gresini squad in 2014 but his Marc VDS Racing team boss Michael Bartholemy suggested a late approach had come in for the rising British star.
He didn’t name Forward Racing as the team that had enquired about Redding’s availability but Bartholemy has conducted his own lengthy discussions with Yamaha about a YZR-M1 deal using a Kalex frame.
The Belgian said: “Until now the talks with Yamaha have been fair and only this morning (Sunday) I had an approach from another team who say they are doing something with Yamaha and they are interested in Scott. I told them to make me a proposal.”