Cal Crutchlow open to Ducati strategy change

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Cal Crutchlow has backed Ducati’s drastic plans to transform its woefully uncompetitive factory Desmosedici in the 2014 MotoGP world championship.

The Bologna factory, now led by former Aprilia technical mastermind Gigi Dall’Igna, is seriously contemplating racing in the new Open class when the 2014 campaign kicks off in Qatar on March 23.

That would mean Crutchlow’s 2014 Desmosedici would run the same rules as Scott Redding’s production Honda RCV1000R, but different to the regulations governing factory prototypes entered by HRC and Yamaha for the likes of Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi.

By becoming an Open category entry, Ducati would be allowed to run 24 litres of fuel and benefit from using softer compound Bridgestone tyres.

The most significant advantage of embracing the Open format is that Ducati will not be restricted by new engine regulations introduced for 2014.

If Ducati continue to race as an official factory effort,  Crutchlow will have to race a Desmosedici motor that can’t be modified at all during the season, with a new engine freeze coming into force for 2014.

If Ducati does enter the Open class, then it will not be restricted on engine development as it can use 12 instead of five engines.

For a factory like Ducati, which has fallen on hard times of late with some disastrous results, the ability to tweak and develop its engine is vital to hopes of a major turnaround in fortunes.

Ducati though would have to sacrifice running its own electronics strategy, with all Open class participants having to run the standard Magneti Marelli hardware and software.

Ducati’s shock plans to race as an Open entry were first leaked by Crutchlow’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso last month.

Ducati played down the revelation but with the leak coming from such an impeccable source as Dovizioso, who would undeniably be well informed, there is an increasing belief that the decision for Crutchlow to race under Open class regulations has already been taken.

Crutchlow was remaining tight-lipped on the issue, but he did offer his thoughts on the prospect of racing a Desmosedici in the Open category during an exclusive interview with MCN.

The 28-year-old though said he has total trust in Dall’Igna and Ducati to make the right judgement.

He said: “I think Gigi is very clever and I will go in which ever direction he wants because I am confident he knows what he is doing and he will make the correct decision. He is obviously looking at every single angle. I know I will be riding for Ducati in 2014 and whatever they do I am absolutely confident they will take the right decision. From a perspective of racing it would be a very clever move if they do it and I will fully understand the reasons behind why they would want to do it.”

The former World Supersport champion admits the main advantage of racing in the Open class is opportunity for Ducati’s under pressure engineering group to modify the engine during the season.

He added: “What Ducati need is development of the engine and I’ve always believed that is one of the key things for them. So if they have extra engines by going Open then that will obviously benefit us a lot.”

There’s no doubt though in an ideal world that Crutchlow would prefer to make his Ducati debut racing to the same specification as the factory Honda and Yamaha outfits.

He said: “ For me personally, I am a racer and I want to compete on the same level as everybody else. If I jump on an Open class bike and with 24 litres I can be competitive then it would look as if I’ve got more power than anybody else and it doesn’t put me on a level playing field with the other guys. That’s just a personal thing. I’m not saying I like being the underdog but I like to be the guy that’s not expected to be able to compete and then actually competing. That’s the whole reason why I took this challenge.”

Crutchlow hasn’t even revealed whether he expects to test an Open spec Desmosedici as yet, but he outlined his initial plan for the first test of 2014 in Malaysia, which commences tomorrow (Tuesday).

“I will have a new bike to test in Malaysia but first and foremost I will be riding the old bike. I want a reference of the bike that was bad for me in Valencia. I’ve not ridden on a track since then, so any bike will feel alien and it might as well be the bike that I was not happy with in Valencia and that no Ducati rider has been happy with. And then I’ve got a reference straight off that. There is no point in jumping on a new bike and saying it is better because I’ve got nothing to gauge it on because the last time I rode at Sepang was on a Yamaha. Having that bike as a reference, at least I will know the issue that the guys were facing last year and you can then say the new one is better or worse. I don’t expect it to be any worse but the new bike is radically new bike as far as I’m aware. It is not a transformed bike but an updated version, so more like a hybrid of 2013 and 2014. I’m excited to see what they are going to bring to Sepang but I think what they will bring to Sepang 2 and Phillip Island will be more in the direction of what we will be going for in the season. Ducati have been working flat-out and working until 2am at times. There is no doubt they have been working hard to get ready for this test. That’s good news and shows that they are motivated.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt