Virgin Yamaha’s team-building plans have been thrown into turmoil by James Haydon’s decision to leave for Foggy’s WSB team.
Team boss Rob McElnea was fully expecting the 28-year-old to line-up alongside new signing Simon Crafar after putting together a package that would have seen Haydon as the factory’s leading development rider and the man the factory would look to spearhead a potential return to World Superbike.
The team even issued a press statement on December 14 stating that Haydon would be continuing to race for them. But Haydon’s switch to Carl Fogarty’s ambitious Petronas project has left a dejected McElnea having to renew his search for a second rider.
He said: " It’s very disappointing. I felt that we’d offered James a good package that would give him a path back on to the world stage and in principle we had an agreement.
" I know that he’s gutted for the team but he has his heart set on doing World Superbike this year. I can understand that as I was a rider too, but I thought that we had a deal. But bringing in Simon is a real coup for the championship, he is at least as good, if not a better rider. "
High on McElnea’s shortlist are Steve Plater and Michael Rutter.