MotoGP: Cal Crutchlow set for racing return with Petronas Yamaha

Cal Crutchlow will make his return to MotoGP with Petronas Yamaha next month as a replacement for the injured Franco Morbidelli.

The Brit, who is Yamaha’s official test rider, will compete in both Austrian rounds at the Red Bull Ring, as well as the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Crutchlow retired at the end of the 2020 campaign after spending 10 seasons in the premier class.

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Crutchlow has had limited time on the Yamaha M1 this year, with Covid restrictions playing havoc with Yamaha’s original plans. He did however take part in the pre-season tests in Qatar and began his MotoGP career with the manufacturer back in 2011 as a Tech3 rider.

“It’s great to be back riding with Yamaha this year as the official test rider and to be able to step in when needed is good for all parties,” Crutchlow said. “I’m looking forward to riding for Petronas Yamaha SRT in the three Grands Prix. Obviously, it’s not in the best circumstances and I wish Franco a good recovery, I hope he comes back strongly after the knee surgery. I’m sure he will because he’s been riding fantastically over the last two years.

“I think it’s difficult to set targets for these three races and it will be more about understanding the bike, as I’ve had limited riding days this year. The good thing will be that I can compare the bikes and I should be able to gather a lot of data for Yamaha. It’s a bit like being thrown in the deep end, as it’s a very competitive MotoGP class, but I’m really looking forward to it and it’s going to be good to be back on the grid.”

Crutchlow’s return to the grid has come at a perfect time for British fans and for Silverstone. The circuit was facing the prospect of hosting a MotoGP without a British rider on the grid. Today’s news will likely generate more interest in the event, which is going to be broadcast on free-to-air television via ITV.

Crutchlow has worked with team manager Wilco Zeelenberg in the past, in his title-winning World Supersport Championship campaign, whilst he also raced against team director Johan Stigefelt.

During his 10-season MotoGP career Crutchlow raced with Yamaha, Ducati and Honda and therefore brings a wealth of knowledge and information to the Petronas team. Crutchlow has three victories to his name, as well as 19 podiums and four poles.

“After looking at all the options, it was a collective decision between Yamaha and ourselves to ask Cal Crutchlow to fill in for Franco, while he recovers from surgery,” team principal Razlan Razali added.Cal is a credible and experienced rider, who is currently a test rider for Yamaha. As an independent team, this is where we can really step up to help Yamaha. Cal will be able to rack up some good mileage on our M1, which should aid him with his testing and development work for Yamaha.

“Cal will replace Franco for the next three races and we have no real targets for him in terms of results. We will do all we can to help support him and make him feel comfortable in the team. He’s already familiar with some of the key people in the team, which helps, and I’m sure he’s up for the challenge.”

Morbidelli underwent knee surgery in June after aggravating an existing injury in a training incident before the Dutch TT at Assen. The Italian was consequently replaced by World Superbike rider Garrett Gerloff for that round.

Morbidelli isn’t expected to return until Misano, which means he’ll also miss Aragon on September 12. It’s not yet known if Crutchlow’s three-race return will be extended to cover the Spanish round.

At the Grand Prix of Styria, Crutchlow will be joined by a fellow retired rider Dani Pedrosa. The Spaniard his making his return to action with Red Bull KTM as a wildcard entry after spending the last two years as the Austrian manufacturer’s test rider.