A Leap In The Dark? Why Cal Crutchlow's Move To Ducati May Be Smarter Than It Looks

The news that Cal Crutchlow has signed a two-year deal with Ducati led to howls of despair from MotoGP fans, especially among those in the UK. Why, they asked, would Crutchlow willingly leave the Tech 3 Yamaha team and the as-near-factory-as-possible M1 to take on the miserable task of taming the Ducati? Why throw away another year on a bike which he knows he can score podiums, and perhaps even wins on, in exchange for riding a bike which has been a proven failure since Casey Stoner last climbed off it and headed next door to the Repsol Honda garage? If Valentino Rossi, the biggest name and most politically powerful rider in motorcycle racing couldn't make the bike competitive, what chance does Crutchlow stand?

Though only Crutchlow himself fully understands the motives behind his choice, he has left plenty of evidence offering some insight into why he has signed for Ducati. Though fans around the world have tried to point to a single reason - usually either money or having a factory bike - the decision-making process is far, far more complex than that. It is a case study of the complex thought process that lies behind the decisions a rider must make when steering his career. With so little time spent at their peak, and so many factors outside of their control, the decisions a rider makes are not as clear-cut and simple as the fans would like them to be.

So why did Crutchlow go to Ducati? There is no easy answer to that question. Crutchlow had a number of options on the table, but not all led to the same goal. His objective, Crutchlow has made it clear on numerous occasions, is to win races and challenge for the title. Winning races requires a competitive bike, and there is no argument that the satellite Yamaha he currently rides is capable of doing just that.

Challenging for a title is more difficult - beyond the argument that the current level of competition makes it virtually impossible in the first place. The priority of every manufacturer is their own factory team, which means the factory team gets all the resources at the factory's disposal. The new parts go to the factory riders first, the factory teams get the best engines, the most support, have the most engineers. When a factory rider has a problem, he becomes that manufacturer's highest priority. When a satellite rider has a problem, that is looked at once the factory engineers are done with the factory riders. Beyond that, there is good reason to believe that manufacturers do not want satellite riders beating their factory riders - above all, it would not impress the factory team's sponsors in the slightest. Just how actively the factories enforce their superiority is up for debate, however.

So if a rider believes he is good enough to win a championship - and the truth is, every single rider on the grid believes that; if they don't, they cannot justify the enormous personal sacrifice they have to make to compete in any form of elite sport - then they want to be in a factory team. Satellite teams are useful as a way station en route to a factory team, or as a substitute when factories are willing to give cast iron guarantees of support. But a ride in a factory team remains the ultimate goal, and any other team is just a stepping stone along the way.

That meant there was no future at Yamaha for Crutchlow. The Japanese factory already have Jorge Lorenzo, arguably the best rider of the moment (at least until Marc Marquez gets up to speed), and their best hope of a MotoGP title. At 26 years of age, Lorenzo has plenty of racing left in him, and shows no sign of retiring until he is into his thirties. He will remain Yamaha's main title challenger for the medium term, until they find another youngster capable of taking his place, just as Lorenzo was drafted in to take Rossi's place.

Yamaha also have Valentino Rossi, clearly still competitive and an icon of the sport. Rossi can still win races, and he can surely still sell bikes, and will continue to be a hugely important marketing asset for Yamaha once he finally decides to retire. In a recent interview with the German website Speedweek, Rossi said he hoped to sign on for another two years after his contract expires at the end of 2014, and it goes without saying that Yamaha will be happy to offer him such a deal. The Yamaha factory team is full for the foreseeable future, or at least until 2017. By then, Crutchlow would be 31, the age at which most motorcycle racers have their best years behind rather than ahead of them.

Crutchlow also had an offer from HRC, with Honda team principal Livio Suppo showing great interest in the British rider. Talks took place on Crutchlow replacing Stefan Bradl at LCR Honda, riding the factory-supported RC213V fielded by Lucio Cecchinello's team. But while Crutchlow could have expected more support at LCR than he could have at Tech 3 - Yamaha's stated policy is to have two factory bikes and two satellite bikes, while Honda has much stronger factory backing for riders in satellite teams - he still would have been playing second fiddle to the Repsol Hondas.

A move into the factory Honda team is almost as hard as making the jump into the factory Yamaha team. At 20 years of age, Marc Marquez has proved to everyone that he is the future, not just for Honda, but for the sport of motorcycle racing as well. He is having a stellar rookie season, and will remain in the factory Honda team for as long as he desires. Dani Pedrosa, too, has a strong foothold at Repsol Honda, despite having so far failed to win a title for the factory. He came very close in 2012, and is probably favorite for the title this year, with MotoGP about to hit the tracks at which Pedrosa did so well at the end of last year. Pedrosa is the rider most likely to retire earlier rather than later, but it seems unlikely he will call it a day at the end of his contract. Just as at Yamaha, there is no room at the Repsol Honda inn for Crutchlow either.

So if Crutchlow wants a factory ride any time soon, his best bet is to go to Ducati. There is a seat available, after the Italian factory decided not to renew Nicky Hayden's contract. Ducati are desperate to get the best talent they can on the Desmosedici, and as his podiums demonstrate, Crutchlow is one of the best in the world.

But a factory Ducati has proven to be a very long way from being competitive, with the factory's last win coming in 2010 in the hands of Casey Stoner, the only man capable of riding round the Desmosedici's frailties. Since Stoner left even podiums have only come in exceptional circumstances, when a wet track or chronic lack of practice time has shaken up the established order. The bike is clearly badly flawed, and in its current incarnation, Cal Crutchlow is unlikely to get so much as a whiff of the podium without the weather gods taking pity on his plight.

Crutchlow's hope is that the bike will improve enough next year for him to be closer to the front. But given the dismal history of the past couple of years, and the bike's long decline since Casey Stoner won the 2007 championship back when Bridgestone could build a tire specifically suited to the Desmosedici, any hope of improvement at Ducati seems optimistic to the point of naivety. After all, if Ducati wouldn't change for Valentino Rossi, why would they change for Crutchlow? Rossi had the power to badly damage Ducati's brand when he spoke out against their inactivity - a power he used very sparingly, and very strategically - because of the status Rossi has. 106 victories, 80 in the premier class, and a total of 9 world titles means that his riding ability is beyond doubt. It was clear the problem was with the bike, and yet Ducati were still incapable of making the changes necessary to turn the Desmosedici into a competitive MotoGP machine. Why would Crutchlow be successful where the most famous motorcycle racer on the face of the planet had failed?

Hopelessly naive? Not necessarily. There are reasons to believe that the situation at Ducati is now very different to the one faced by Valentino Rossi. Very different, in large part precisely because of Rossi's failure at the firm. The fact that Rossi and his crew, led by the experienced Jeremy Burgess, failed to make the bike competitive was proof, if any were needed, that the problem really was the bike.

Rossi arrived at Ducati thinking that the bike only needed a little work to turn it from winning races occasionally in the hands of Casey Stoner to being a genuinely competitive racing machine. After all, if Stoner was capable of regular podiums on the bike, then he, Valentino Rossi, should be able to match those results and lead development in the right direction. Rossi was rudely disabused of any notion of being competitive on the bike the very first time he rode it. It was much, much worse than he thought it was, and he understood that he had underestimated just how much of the Ducati's success was down to Stoner's freakish ability to ride around problems.

That just left the problem of bike development. At Qatar, in an informal chat, a member of Rossi's crew suggested that the state of the Desmosedici was a measure of Casey Stoner's inability to lead bike development properly. Having listened to Stoner at his race weekend media debriefs for the past three years, I was sceptical. I knew that Stoner had been pushing for changes that had simply not been delivered. The bike you start the season with was the bike you ended the season with, he had said repeatedly. This impression was underlined when I was taken aside by a Ducati spokesperson and had emphasized to me just how much Ducati were doing for Stoner. They had brought a set of triple clamps, I was told, with modified flexibility. Compared to the four or more chassis iterations which the Japanese factories were used to throwing at their riders every season, I was unconvinced by Ducati's arguments. By the time Valentino Rossi and his crew left Ducati, they too were unconvinced. Much had changed, more than ever before in the history of the factory, including the abandoning of the frameless chassis concept, but it had been directionless change, all sound and fury but no motion. Ducati was running furiously, while remained firmly rooted to the spot.

In the meantime, however, real change had started to happen. Halfway through what would be Rossi's final year at Ducati, the company was bought by Audi. Though the deal was viewed by most automotive industry insiders as a vanity purchase by Audi boss Ferdinand Piech, there was no doubt that Audi was serious about making a success of the Italian bike manufacturer it had just bought. It took six months for Audi's management to analyze the company, at which point they started to make changes to the organization. Filippo Preziosi, the likable and brilliant engineer who had led Ducati Corse since 1999, was moved aside to make way for Bernhard Gobmeier, a German who had previously been responsible for chassis development at BMW. Alessandro Cicognani was relieved of his role of MotoGP project director, replaced by Ducati's former WSBK chief Paolo Ciabatti.

Less visibly, Audi started to make internal changes at Ducati, focusing on changing working processes and shortening communication lines. That process continues today, despite considerable internal resistance from Ducati Corse's engineering staff who face a radical shake up in their way of working. The rigid hierarchy is slowly making way for a more flexible approach, flattening the organization to make it more efficient. Ducati Corse was known for its technical brilliance and its incredible work ethic, but not for its effectiveness as an organization. That is where Audi is focusing their efforts, but such organizational changes take time. The best case scenario is that it can be done within a year; a more realistic appraisal says it will be two years before Ducati Corse is fully up to speed.

Cal Crutchlow joins Ducati a year after Audi first started making serious changes to the company. He will once again be sharing a garage with his former teammate Andrea Dovizioso, who left Tech 3 at the end of 2012 to become a factory Ducati rider. In a way, Crutchlow's timing is more favorable than Dovizioso's, as the Italian joined just as the organizational changes were starting, while Crutchlow moves to Ducati as they are in full swing. Dovizioso has seen little practical progress, but he has been the victim of his decision to move earlier rather than later. Ducati Corse may have been very busy changing, but the focus has been on the organization rather than the bike.

The new engineering and testing process started at the beginning of the season has seen some changes come to the bike - the new chassis Dovizioso debuted at the Sachenring is the first major step to come out of this process - and there are several more to come. More changes will come after Misano, but the underlying problem - a weight distribution problem caused by a poorly packaged engine and gearbox - will have to wait until next year at the earliest. Ducati Corse is now shifting its focus from organizational changes back to engineering, and only now will the design and production of new parts start to speed up.

There are signs everywhere of Ducati's intention to change. Warren Willing, the man who helped Kenny Roberts Jr win the 2000 500cc title, and who has been involved in many extremely successful racing projects, has been brought in to advise Ducati on their MotoGP project. Ducati is rumored to be looking to hire more top talent, courting Aprilia engineer Gigi Dall'Igna (though probably unsuccesfully) as well as former Ducati World Superbike chief Davide Tardozzi. The old guard has been swept away almost completely, and a group of highly competent leaders with proven records are being brought in.

Ducati clearly want to win, but just as clearly, wanting to win is not enough. The Italian factory has put all of the right pieces in place to drastically improve its chances, and is finally going through the painful process of taking a long and critical look at its internal organization and working practices. If ever there was a time when Ducati was on the right path, this is it. The trouble is, of course, that while Ducati are busy turning their ship around, Honda and Yamaha are steaming ahead, long comfortable with their technology and with their engineering process long since settled. Even once Ducati get going in the right direction, they still have an awful lot of catching up to do.

And so Cal Crutchlow has taken a gamble, one of the biggest in his career. Bigger than his leap from BSB to the World Supersport class, and perhaps as big as his move from a factory World Superbike ride to a satellite team in MotoGP. He is gambling that Ducati will be better once he arrives, and will make enough progress in his time at the factory for him to be back with a shout at the championship, or at least regularly winning races. If he succeeds, he will stamp his name firmly on the series, and cement his position among MotoGP's 'aliens'. He will strengthen both his own and Ducati's brand, following in the footsteps of Carl Fogarty, who led the Italian factory to so much success in the World Superbike championship.

But what if his gamble doesn't pay off? What if the hoped-for progress fails to materialize? Isn't Crutchlow stuck at Ducati for two painful years, just as Valentino Rossi was before him? Not necessarily. While Crutchlow is the victim of unfortunate timing this year, as the only major rider to be out of contract, at the end of 2014 almost everyone's contract is up for renewal. He has another shot for 2015, especially with Suzuki set to join the series, opening up two more factory seats in MotoGP.

But wait, I hear you say, Crutchlow has a two-year deal with Ducati, and is stuck there until the end of 2015. Surely he won't be in the frame for all of the factory rides which will be open for the 2015 season? Hasn't he shot himself in the foot by signing up for two seasons?

Maybe. If Crutchlow is smart - and after spending a considerable amount of time talking to the British rider, he certainly is that, much more than he likes to let on in public - he will have instructed his manager Bob Moore to insert a get-out clause in the Ducati contract, giving him the option to quit after just a single year. Anyone signing for Ducati will want to have an option to leave early, and if Ducati want top riders, then they will have to grant them such an option to get them to sign in the first place. If there are no signs of progress by the middle of the 2014 season, Crutchlow will surely be making it clear to any factories who wish to pursue him that he is available for the right price.

At first glance, Crutchlow's decision to go to Ducati looks foolish, either stupidly naive in the hope of progress from the Italian factory, or nakedly greedy in his pursuit of cash. Yet while Crutchlow will be handsomely paid - rumors bandied around suggest he will receive a base salary of 2.5 million euros a season, over eight times his basic pay of 300,000 euros at Tech 3 - his decision is neither as naive nor as cynical as it may seem.

His pursuit of a factory ride may seem quixotic, given the current level of the Ducati, but there are real grounds for hope that the Italian factory has managed to turn itself around. That will be good for Crutchlow, but most of all, it will be good for MotoGP. The two-horse race between Yamaha and Honda is simply too limiting to make the championship meaningful. Having Ducati competitive will add prestige to the championship, and will put Crutchlow back at the forefront of MotoGP.

Cal Crutchlow's move to Ducati is a calculated gamble, and like all gambles, it requires some bets to be hedged. The Englishman is betting that Ducati will have changed enough to be competitive, and he will have ensured an escape route should that turn out not to be the case. Yes, he is taking a big risk by moving to the one factory in MotoGP which has so vary publicly failed to build a competitive bike. But given what has changed already, and what Ducati must surely have told Crutchlow about their plans for the future, it may not quite be the leap in the dark which so many of his fans believe it is. It might just work out, but if it doesn't, Cal Crutchlow had better have a parachute to hand.

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I've said it before and I will say it again - Audi know a thing or two about racing prototypes and winning in them.

Let's hope they can turn it around for Ducati.

He really didn't have a lot of choices. I would bet David is right about the escape clause and I'm also willing to bet that the Desmo IS going to get better. Go Cal!

He should have taken it. Even if its not in the official factory team that's still a good enough package to win a title on if he's good enough. Choosing the Ducati over a Factory Honda makes no sense at all unless he's getting a big fat pay cheque. Toseland recently said Bradl was riding for nothing at Honda, just sponsorship and race bonuses. And I get it from that point of view for Crutchlow. Even on the Factory Honda the chances are he's not going to be winning many races to be honest, and a GP riders career doesn't last forever so you have to make some cash while you have the opportunity. A couple of seasons riding for Ducati will set him up for life, and if they produce a competitive package in the meantime so much the better. But it seems to me the move has to b mainly about money rather than the hope of winning races.

... David to have said, Honda would NEVER allow a " full-factory satellite" bike to beat the Repsol bikes for the title. A race here or there, certainly, but never a championship.

Right, David?

Of course the factory wants the Works bikes in front for all the obvious reasons.

However, that didn't stop 1989 from happening. Ancient history granted, but I'm sure Honda remembers that unintended championship.

Then you had 2001, but that was quite intentional as far I understand & remember it.

Although all that was 2 stroke era, where a single guru could do things to the bike that are simply impossible now.

Honda would never allow a satellite bike to win the championship. The 'full factory support' would not so mysteriously evaporate the second they thought he had a chance at beating the Repsol team. And not because Honda wouldn't consider it a win, but because Repsol would pull the plug on their sponsorship money in an instant if Honda allowed it. So over all I disagree, his best chance of being in the 'title hunt' really is at Ducati at this point, as odd as that seems. David, I think you have the clearest view on this I've read so far. Thanks for the article.

Rossi was riding for a full-factory satellite team (ie it wasn't the Repsol team) when he won the 500 title.
That was a special case though...

For a while there the most competitive Honda team was Gibbers on the Pons Movistar Honda. Ah yes, the bad old good old days...
I tend to agree that it wouldn't happen now, the factory ECU boffin would tap a few keys and the 'correct order' would be resumed. Not just a Honda thing though, I recall Barros complaining of the same thing after he beat Stoner in Mugello 2007. He claimed all the non factory Ducatis were 'turned down' after that.

The comments he ever made in an an interview after he retired were that the package was good, but he never had enough technicians and software guys in the team to make the most of it. C'est la vie in a satellite team. When Kallio got subbed in for Stoner from the Pramac Ducati team he said the packages were very close. Whats more, all satellite guys had access to Stoners data. Guintoli made some colourful comments another site recently about his reaction to seeing Stoners data when he rode for Ducati.

Yeah, 2001 was a tough year for the Repsol team. One rider was among the walking wounded and never really recovered before calling it quits on GP racing for medical reasons, and the other was, I think, there to meet a Honda insistence on having a Japanese rider on the squad. Tohru was good, very good, but five wins in 127 starts isn't going to get you the World Championship.

On the other hand, Honda had given Rossi Doohan as a personal mentor and Burgess as his crew chief and a full factory NSR500. Does this really fit the description of a satellite squad?


I was one of the people who believed that Cal Crutchlow had committed hara kiri by signing up for Ducati and I am really not convinced that he has done the right thing even now. But Crutchlow obviously knows a thing or two that I certainly don't so one will just have to wait and see how the future unfolds for him.

However, I will say that I feel very, very sorry for Filippo Preziosi, who was hailed as a genius when Casey Stoner won the 2007 title and when Ducati seemed untouchable by the competition. The Valentino Rossi years at Ducati have reduced the man to being thrown out of the organisation and the hero got reduced to zero. Much as it was a mistake on Rossi's part to sign for Ducati, it was also equally Ducati's mistake to sign Rossi to ride for them. They should have hung on to Casey Stoner. Rossi's arrival at Ducati only meant that he was in a hurry to fix the problem with the Ducati and in this hurry to find solutions Ducati increasingly lost its way. Too many things tried in too little time and nothing therefore given a proper chance to develop into a winning solution.

If Crutchlow takes things a little more calmly and allow for development time, he may benefit, but if he too is in a hurry, he will end up damaging himself and the reputation of Ducati. And I seriously do not believe that either Audi or Bernhard Gobmeier have a magic wand that will fix Ducati's problems. Preziosi should have been retained and allowed to work calmly. Instead they let go off him. Their best bet at return to success was thrown out and I do not think that Audi or Gobmeier will have a quick fix. It might take them longer than it would have taken Preziosi to fix the problems of the Desmosedici.

I read in a recent interview with Livio Suppo that he believed much of Ducati's troubles stem from lack of development funding when they winning with Casey. As Casey could win the bike was clearly ok was the rationale. Whereas the Japanese would choose to push on a build on that, perhaps even securing greater funding on the back of success, Ducati saw little need. Shame.

You wouldn't be the musician, would you?

And I agree that it's sad to see any team take some wins as a sign that nothing need be changed or developed. Not a decision you'd see Honda make...

* how could Ducati ever have hanged on to Casey, if all he ever wanted was to ride for HRC, and HRC wanted him badly. there's a big difference between what fans want/thinck and reality.

*Cal/Dovi may be in a hurry as much as they want, they don't determine development rate.

I remember reading that Casey would've stayed with Ducati had he felt more supported during his 2009 illness. Yes, he had memories of Doohan and HRC (& Repsol) but I have no reason to doubt his word that he would have stayed put had they not looked to replace him.


... I have no reason to doubt his word ...

I guess you don't remember that whole, "I'm not retiring" then retiring 2 weeks later thing, huh? Why would you believe anything he has to say?

... &, as was stated in the recent Stoner thread, it proved how he stuck to his word... it appears you still haven't read the interview...


... at no point does he say "I'm not retiring"... he actually says "I will be retiring in the not-too-distant future for sure"... then "I am actually going to stick to my word, I'm going to retire when I stop enjoying racing."... then 2 weeks later "this sport has changed a lot and it has changed to the point where I am not enjoying it. I don't have the passion for it and so at this time it's better if I retire now."

... therefore we have no reason, based on the evidence you have presented, to doubt his word.

Cal has stated plenty of times - he wanted a factory bike AND factory money pay check. Ducati was the only place he was going to get both next year.

Sadly, I think the idea that Ducati will be competitive to win races in the next 2 years is laughable. It's not like Ducati haven't thrown parts at the problem when they had VR riding the bike. New swing arms and chassis to name a few.

And if you look at the bike now, they're even worse off then last year because Honda and Yamaha have moved forward. But they don't have the experience designing twin-spar aluminum chassis and with the control tire, they can't work with Bridgestone to create something that will work with the Desmosidici. Yes, they need to redesign the engine cases to alter the weight distribution, but if it was easy they would of done that a long time ago. Even if they finally get things basically right, they don't have the years of experience that Yamaha and Honda have fine tuning their bikes to get those last two tenths of a second.

Sucks because I really like Cal and am a Ducati owner/enthusiast. All hail Stoner.

ain't easy to develop, no one ever said that. So why didn't they do it in the past (for Rossi) ? because they all said the engine wasn't the problem. But engine's can create lot's off problems : it may be down on power/unreliable/unrideable/ .... which none of them was a problem according to Rossi/his team. In the end, I believe (and others) the problem with the engine is that it is too big and heavy and with the mounting-bolts in the wrong place (it dates from the frameless design) to get the chassis right . so it's an indirect engine-problem. And one simply doesn't solve frame-problem's by changing the engine, that's the final resort.

The frameless design was a 800cc bike - this is the 2nd year of the 1000cc bikes. The engine mounts would have definitely been changed. And it has been acknowledge that Honda has a v-twin engine with the 90 degree V same as Ducati. So the engine design can work and has worked.

the 1000 is basicly the same engine as the 800. remember they rushed a short-stroked 800cc version of the 1000 already developped before Rossi came, so he could race the new "rear suspension" in hisfirst year.
Nowhere I have read something that might suggest they have a complete new engine since. And they can keep the 90°, they just need to make it smaller, lighter and use normal bolting to the frame/

Ducati can't simply change the engine mounts because they are up against the 5-engine limit. If they give Dovisioso a new engine with new mounts, then that engine and its frame are now incompatible with the previously taken engines.

Honda and Yamaha are able to get chassis balance sorted out because they have tons of institutional knowledge and they have done massive amounts of testing. Ducati has neither, and is lost at sea like a keel-less boat.

Very well written piece David. No mention of Dovizioiso though who was regularly beating Crutchlow on the identical Yamahas last year so unless Cal's riding improves a lot or Dovi's abilities decrease, Cal will still be beaten by his team mate, regardless of the improvements that Ducati may or may not make, his objective of winning races and challenging for the title seems even more unrealistic.

And as of ' a rider believes he is good enough to win a championship - and the truth is, every single rider on the grid believes that; if they don't, they cannot justify the enormous personal sacrifice they have to make to compete in any form of elite sport'. I would say that half the grid are pragmatic enough to realize that they will never can be champions. Enormous personal sacrifice still equals several hundred thousand euro incomes per annum and doing what they love.

Cal was on his second year in MotoGP, Dovi was on his 5th ? You don't thinck Cal needed some more time to learn the nescesary skills to ride a MotoGP bike ? I thinck he improved a lot over last year and will be much more/as competitive to/as Dovi.

There's a safe aspect to signing with Ducati as well. If a rider fails to win on the Ducati, no one blames the rider. If a rider wins on the Ducati, praise will be spread all around. A few riders were unfortunate to try the Ducati before this was true and it severely impacted their careers but Cal should be safe at this point.

"If Crutchlow is smart - and after spending a considerable amount of time talking to the British rider, he certainly is that, much more than he likes to let on in public - he will have instructed his manager Bob Moore to insert a get-out clause in the Ducati contract, giving him the option to quit after just a single year."

What utter waffle! How about posting something better than a Crutchlow puff piece.

Bloody pathetic journalism? imo.

David is a lot closer to the riders than most of us. Can I suggest you have another look at the words you quote. There's a message that comes out, loud and clear. Then re-read the article as a whole. David isn't regarded as the most insightful writer on MotoGP for nothing.

David wrote of Cal Crutchlow in his article above: "If he succeeds, he will stamp his name firmly on the series, and cement his position among MotoGP's 'aliens'."

I think it is a good time for pause regarding the (mainly) motorcycle racing writers and fans who promulgate Crutchlow with the alias "alien", in reference to Pedrosa, Rossi, Stoner, Lorenzo and now Marquez as at midway through the 2013 season.
While I accept Crutchlow deserves to be in MotoGP (as no doubt many others to come will also) and he is a world champion after all, and, he is proving he is able to race at the pointy end, it is far too large a jump to associate his name with that of the 4 riders + Marquez.
Crutchlow has yet to win a race or get a 2nd podium and even if he should manage a podium in every race for the rest of this year and beyond he has yet to prove he is deserving of such a lofty status.
Stoner is the least qualified of all of the "aliens" but he came up through the GP racing ranks the hard way, on the sweat of his brow and because his parents committed almost everything they had for his future to race in England and Spain. He is a double world MotoGP Champion who deserves the accolade due to his blistering pace and remarkable record.
Pedrosa is a 125 and double 250 world champion who will probably never win the MotoGP crown but who has proved to everyone beyond any doubt he is one of the top 4 fastest racers in the world with pole positions, race wins and podiums to fill a large basket over a long period of time and when fit will hardly ever be beaten by Crutchlow in my view.
Rossi is a 125, 250, 500 and 6 times world champion with the 9 world crowns on 3 different brands and we all know his records and bio. He is still winning races and is far from done by all accounts. I have watched him and Capirossi et al, since his 250 days. Lorenzo, a double 250 and double MotoGP world champion, multiple pole positions and race wins or 2nds and is perhaps the most consistent of the current 4.
Marquez is earning his tag as an alien already and there seems to be no one from fan to writer to team management everywhere in the paddock who will disagree that he will win many crowns to come and he will do it in style. He can already be tagged like this because of his speed in practice and in racing and is learning craft at double speed for this class.
All of these riders have stats that prove they are head and shoulders above the rest. While some of the rest can have especially good days like at the recent Laguna with Bradl, I think Bautista has yet to prove he can do that very much.
No, the top 4 (with Casey Stoner sadly retired) can do the win / podium gig every weekend or be at the edge of that and have done so over a long number of seasons - both Pedrosa and Lorenzo at Sepang in 250 class dicing with Simoncelli illustrate how much ahead of Crutchlow they are and why they earned the alias "alien".
It is time the racing writers and fans stopped the fabrication that Cal Crutchlow is either an alien or will one day become one. He is a number of light years away as of right now. I think 2 or 3 seasons IF he gets some wins and If he gets some poles and IF he breaks the odd race lap record, practice laps records, fastest laps and so on and none of these has he done as yet in practical terms, these things must be earned and earned over time not just as the whimsy of a few writers and in one or 2 seasons with the odd success. Crutchlow is not an alien.

before you make praise of the aliens and thinck Cal is below them, make a count of all the championships you mentionned that are won on non-factory bikes. I believe this is a very simple calculation.
Yes, one can be an "alien" without having won any race !
One could describe Aleix' performance this year as "alien-like" IF he was on the same spec ART as the others, but rumours are he is not.
The bike -sadly- is more important than the rider. for a long long period. When was the last time a non-factory bike won a championship (in any class) ?
maybe it is time some fans of the sport realize that the difference between a satelite bike and a factory bike isn't 0.2 sec a lap, but more like 0.2 lightyears ...

"Crutchlow has yet to win a race or get a 2nd podium and even if he should manage a podium in every race for the rest of this year and beyond he has yet to prove he is deserving of such a lofty status."

  1. There has been no race wins by a rider on a satellite bike since the introduction of 800cc, so requiring a win from a satellite rider to be called an "alien" might seem unfair.
  2. 2nd podium? Not sure if you mean "not more than one podium place" or "no second place finishes", but since Cal has four podiums this year and two of them are second place finishes, both of those would be wrong.

If he's not an "alien", he would still be more or less the only non-alien to regularly be able to be up there fighting with the aliens and relatively frequently beating some of them.

The Ducati is a losing proposition, and no Audi magic is going to change that any time soon. As for the contract escape clause, that's a laugh. If no factory has room for Cal now when he's performing at his peak, why would anyone want him after he's floundered on the Ducati for a year.

Just the same, I think he made a reasonable decision. He can score the occasional
podium for 300K euros, or he can battle Dovi at mid pack for 2.5 million.
Seems like easy math.

is a good racer,but not a great one and the Duc is a truly bad bike in a bad organisation....(not bad people,just a dysfunctional organisation)....no magic bullets in either case. In this case,factory means a bigger paycheck and a better buffet with a much longer view to the front....

The ducati has never been a hood bike. Thats the point that has been missed here. Over the last 10 years only two bikes have been technically superior. The M1 and the V5/V4 RCV. Stoner made the ducati look good. So it's not like we are hoping for Ducati to regain their lost magic. We are hoping for them to magically transform into Yamaha or Honda. And that will take more than two years if it is even possible.

And even if the bike does get better Cal will never be able to beat marquez lorenzo or pedrosa for talent and raw speed and may struggle to cope with Dovi too.

He moved for the money and prestige and convinced himself that the bike would be fine. There's no get out clause - no way!

Still I would have done the same as Cal. 2.5 million euros? ? Hell yes!

All interesting stuff but it doesn't answer the engineering question of what Audi are going to do to fix the bike. Or what's actually wrong with the bike now.

If it was a weight distribution problem all along, then it's the engine that needed changing not the chassis. Which might also mean that all that work that was done for Rossi-Burgess changing the frames was pointless because the problem was the specifics of the engine layout.

by the negativity here. So many criticising but no-one saying what they think Cal should have done to achieve his aims, or Ducati theirs.
Cal had very few to no options at the end of the day and it didn’t need David to tell us that, but his perspective on the scenario is worth reading. I believe that his assumptions are very close to the truth – no-one is going to enter a deal where they are very likely to get themselves badly hurt (Cal has ‘previous’ on the M1, never mind the D13) unless they think that there is a point to it – and money isn’t the point, important though it may be.
Riders don’t design bikes, and neither do crew chiefs. They can influence development and come up with fine-tuning – as originally and recently happened at Yamaha with Rossi/Burgess. Stoner never designed anything either – he rode what he was given with Ducati and Honda, just as he did with his father in his early years – that’s what made him a brilliant ‘go fast on what he’s given’ rider. His ability to make minimal use of the various ‘extra’s’ and be as fast as those using as much as was available was probably unique.
Enough has been said about Ducati’s old ways by Rossi, Burgess, and others who know, to know that Ducati’s problem was the senior people in the team. I don’t know about Preziosi – he seemed a nice guy and pretty clever too – but he either wouldn’t or couldn’t make the necessary changes and that meant he was inevitably going to be pushed out. In racing, as in many other areas of life, if you don’t produce the results you will suffer the consequences. It’s just faster.
Mahindra’s reversal of fortunes in Moto3 shows that a quick change can be effected if you just accept that the base product is not up to the game and find another solution. That’s what Ducati should have done a long time ago. Perhaps Mahindra didn’t have the brand image that Ducati had and found it easier to change but that image made Ducati think it was riders not the bike that needed changing.
I hope that era is gone and that Ducati will now do what a lot of knowledgeable people have told them is necessary.
If they do, it will not harm their WSB programme either.

I believe Mahindra's reversal of fortunes however was by simply scrapping all the work previously done and farming the whole lot out to Suter.

I may be wrong in my assessment but that is their 'learned change'.

In fairness to Ducati (and it must've been a huge deal internally, I suspect) they did the same thing with FTR albeit only with the chassis.

Although some commented the twin spar frame was an improvement, I would like to see a reversion to monocoque. Audi know composites and they would be well placed to help, surely, instead of chasing the Japanese down a road they apparently don't have the budget or will to follow.

Why is it so difficult to accept that Crutchlow moved to Ducati? Everyone knows that Cal would not have won on the Tech 3 bike unless atleast 2 of the usual frontrunners were out of the race[crashed/injured]. Yamaha was not offering him any position on the factory team nor factory team updates as they came. If he knew that he would have to continue being satisfied with an occasional podium then why not do it with some better perks and pay? If i have to be an 'Also ran' due to circumstances beyond my control then I wouldn't mind being paid well to do that. Ducati is so bad right now that the only way ahead is Up. Nobody thinks about that. Audi is not where it is today by just standing on the bylines and throwing good money after bad. They do know a thing or two about prototype racing.The 2015 season would be very interesting.

And to the d!khead saying Cal was still earning 300k euro-He has to make the money he earns in the next 5-6 years stretch a lifetime as incoming money is severely curtailed once a racer retires,unless he was the best of his generation,like schumacher, vettel, rossi ,stoner etc. which Cal,with all due respect, is not.

Sounds like Stoner’s father.(that's a joke)
As David suggested in his article, a top team brings a frame a month to MGP. Or more. HRC don’t win by using the same old week-in, week-out.
It’s the lack of such action and seeing everything as ‘pointless’ that got Ducati exactly where they are (or seem to be).
When Ducati change their engine/crankcases and the chassis to suit (forks/frame/swing-arm and everything in between) they will then have a chance of finding the ‘magic’ that HRC has. It’s called hard work, money, clever people, good management, and passion/determination to beat every other team out there, and stay on top once they get there. And if you don’t, you keep trying until you get back up there.
What you don’t do is, you don’t send your riders to the shrink.

O boy, this is going to be good, the battle in tech 3 to be continued... . He may (get personal :-D) believe he can beat the man that beat him at tech 3? may he got paid better? may got the #1 Duck bike? But the ultimate question is; may he finally beat Dovi at the end of 2014?? We'll see!

In reality Dovi did two things better than Crutchlow in 2012.

1. Launching of the line when the lights go out

2. Corner entry - Dovi was way better on the brakes (no surprise a former 125 WC is good on the brakes)

Corner entry was CC's weak point in a race, sometimes over compensating mid corner and corner exit (where he was faster).

Jump forward a year, CC has fixed the 2nd issue, he can brake and enter a corner as fast as anyone now.

Race starts however................... is by far CC's biggest weakness. Getting off the line is his achilles heel, once he's got that sorted he's as good as anyone in the top 5 - his mid corner speed is absolutely superb.

Cal may just have moved at about the right time.
Sometimes great riders develop. Natural talent sometimes needs to be nurtured and developed (ask Andy Murray about tennis) and just because someone doesn't go straight to the top doesn't make them a failure or second rate.

I hope for the best for Cal and Ducati. The sport will be the better for it.

I've been amazed by the level of criticism from armchair experts on Cal's move to Ducati. As far as I see it, if Cal outperforms Dovi, he raises his currency. If ducati improve the bike both of them get to run closer to the front. Meanwhile Cal earns enough cash for a comfortable retirement.

Cal's background also makes him a good prospect for a future sbk ride should ducati decide to try to improve the Pan's poor showing there.

I'm sure Cal and his management are making informed decisions, unlike the internet critics.

Totally agree.

Good luck to Cal, David may be right that the bike comes right at the right time, then well done Cal. Plus I hope he makes a nice wad of cash from the riding and the peripherals, this is a dangerous sport that can be very fickle with careers, he thoroughly deserves every penny; they are all 'brave' and Cal must be one of the toughest of the lot.

I'm sorry that MotoGP is being taken off mainstream TV in the UK at the same time as he finally gets a factory ride. That will damage his potential to raise his national profile.

I've had the honor of getting Filippo's friendship some years ago, I can testify that he's always had a strong belief about having Vale with him, even when he was regularly winning GPs with Casey. Not making the Aussie feeling desired & rewarded enough was probably a major mistake. Then the massive pressure on the 'dream team', not only by media & supporters but also by sponsor & stakeholders in general have been a major headwind on the venture. I also feel very sad for Filippo who'd ultimately been driven by strong passion and devoted 110% of personal resources to Ducati Corse and the MotoGP project

Nice to read a piece on Ducati again after getting bombarded with them in the last two years... Anyway. I think the taking over of Ducati by Audi is quite possibly the best thing to have happened in MotoGP in years. Otherwise, I think it might have been possible that they wouldn't have been on the grid this year or the next.

I wish with all my heart that Audi manages to fix whatever's wrong with that bike and see it at the sharp end again. I have been a longtime fan of Ducati, partly because of their unorthodox approach to racing. But if what it takes is German style management and a Japanese-like bike, I'll take it.

" ... if what it takes is German style management and a Japanese-like bike ..."

Funny that you say that - I think you're spot-on.

BMW took some criticism for taking exactly this route with its S1000RR. Internally, the company knew that its targets were the Japanese inline fours, and worked hard behind the scenes to make sure that the customers who were buying R1s, Ninjas, etc., felt right at home on the S1000RR.

Critics said BMW was mimicking the Japanese - and to a great extent, it did. Then the S1000RR became a major sales hit and a WSBK winner, and BMW suddenly became geniuses.

Funny that you say that ...

I think you're both spot-on. What everyone seems to keep dismissing the fact that it was Audi that bought Ducati. If they had the intention of not racing it, contracts would have been settled with the riders and they'd have called it at that point.

You can bet with their record for winning on the line and the pride involved, they'll be pushing big to make the changes to turn things around. From this great article that David gave us, it sounds like that is just what is being done now. Everyone wants to talk about the past. It's just that, the past. Don't judge what Audi might accomplish when they've yet even been given time to do much at all. They have a history of winning, it's a simple search to find out that's true.

Give them 2 years and let's compare how much more competitive they are then. After all, Suzuki has a year of development at least now and they're skipping 2014 to try to make the needed progress. Aud-ucat-i should be given the same opportunity. Personally, I'm looking forward to a kinda "new", great racing company enter the challenge.

I was sad to see Nicky go and don't think they did him right but I'll bet he kicks ass on the Honda in WSBK (if that's where he ends up). News soon, I've heard. Having said that, I've become a fan of the Honey Badger and wish him well. Congrats on securing your future, now it's time to help build a bike that can win and prove what you're made of.

All of this is subject to change, just like the juggling act DORNA states as rules.

A rigid hierarchy is the most efficient way to run an organization.

Ever heard of the military?

That system has evolved over millenia to be the most efficient way to run an organization. So much so, that companies all over the world have mimicked it for as long as there have been corporations.

A situation where everyone is in charge is one where no one is in charge.

In practical terms, if you were correct either the military would produce everything because they were the most efficient, or every private organisation would emulate their structure identically. Neither is true because the military - like all government - is far from the most efficient.

Firstly, a business structured as any variety of hierarchy is not necessarily mimicking the military: it is simply business owners delegating tasks to a boss who delegates tasks... so on and so forth.

Also you imply that disassembling a rigid hierarchy implies choas: this is a false dichotomy. The removal of *unnecessary* interfaces within an organisation implies improved communication and efficiency but does not imply zero structure.

Your mistake is easy to make however: the military, like other government departments, are monopolies - created not naturally for their superior performance, but because the state threatens violence towards those that would compete. With no competition, there is no basis for comparison. And with the propagandists in power constantly touting how important/necessary/beneficial their rulership is, and with only a few faint voices struggling back against their enormous megaphones, it's no surprise that the majority easily believe the state's self-serving arguments.

A common motor racing analogy is: in Formula 1, would a superior car be produced were there only one team, comprising the best staff of all current teams? Doubtful. And if it were, how would you know?

the military system is also a system that when the man on top makes a wrong descision (frameless MotoGP bike), no one dares to tell him/has the authority to change his descision, and the whole army is going down the drain.

You're already on the 3rd best bike, and you deserve better, Now, ask yourself what to get if you can't get the best bike or even the next best bike? That's right! The best bucks! Better and is Natural!!! ;)

I count the 2 Factory Yamaha's and 4 Honda's as better equipment; 7th best perhaps?

Gawd, I'm starting to sound like a Crutchlow fan boy (I'm not). I do love Ducati though and at the moment in the current market, Crutchlow is the best rider available so signing him was the most sensible option available.

While this editorial was entertaining, it could have been reduced to one word,MONEY. I, like many others, dig Cal and wish him well. He is a great, world class rider. But he will never be champion, regardless of what bike he rides. On a sunny day, the usual suspects will always win the race. Winners become champions. "So if a rider believes he is good enough to win a championship - and the truth is, every single rider on the grid believes that" What a load. There are only three riders in MotoGP capable of winning a championship at the moment. All the other riders understand that. If they don't, they're delusional. Ask Colin Edwards. A two time SBK champion. He's never won a MotoGP race, he he's had full factory support. As much as Cal wants to win, he knows his days in this sport, just like all the other riders, is numbered. He knew his only chance to make the big bucks was to sign with Ducati. That's the only reason he went with them. He is not likely to do any better than Dovi, just like when they rode together at Tech 3. And as far as Suzuki is concerned, they will sign a younger upstart coming out of Moto 2, like Redding, before they sign Cal. Cal made the right move. He needs to secure his financial future and this was the only way to do it.

I have a picture of Cal Crutchlow taken in BSB in April 2008 at a snowy Brands Hatch standing next to Leon Haslam. Yes I am a Brit!

Cal will never be an alien and I doubt whether he will ever win a race - but he has come a long way since those snowy 2008 days. He has not come through the 125/250 route but compared with other Brits entering Motogp in the last 5 or so years, he has done very well. Do you remember James Toseland and the 2 years he sent with Tech3?

Amongst his BSB peers, the only one I can think of who is making a successful of things is Tom Sykes in WSB. Motogp may be graced with the presence of Jonathan Rea in 2014 but I wouldn't hold your breath.

Good luck to Cal in 2014 with Ducati. He will need it. But at least he has a factory ride unlike Ben Spies who has gone from hero to zero in the space of 5 years.

In my opinion they're (Ducati) going serious rather than do cosmetic changes this time. More so, they will have best lineup in '14 with Dovi, Crutchlow and Spies in full physical condition. All three should get the best possible equipment and support as they're capable to give important feedback and push developement in the right way. In my opinion some Reddish succesfull moments next year can give MotoGP a great refresh and make Crutchlow, Dovi or Spies a 'real Ducatisti', the men of changes. It's a gamble to be in Ducati garage but every downturn can't last forever.
The Desmosedici has one positive point now - winning on it is like winning twice on the Honda or Yamaha.

You can't say that Casey not winning as much in 2009 was down to the bike he chose. He missed many races and in the races before that was clearly very sick. When he came back he immediately started winning again.

If you actually look at the potential of that bike/rider combo that year, I think he would have won quite a few more races and possibly the championship that year, if not for the lactose intolerance.

How about when Stoner told Ducati the bike had front end issues, and was given the previous seasons forks as a 'solution'. Stoner got new parts occasionally, usually far too late, and hardly ever anything along the lines of a chassis revision. Stoner said if he'd had half the support Rossi got in 2011 they'd have had much better results. The carbon frame and Big Bang engine were the only serious developments Ducati made in the 4 years Casey rode it, and although they were both steps forward Ducati simply didn't keep up the pace of development. 1 package upgrade in 4 years doesn't cut it in Moto GP.

It was Ducati as a corporate group who believed that CF was the way of the future for their bikes. Just Google it, easy enough to find the evidence. Nothing to do with what Stoner wanted. CF has dominated the top levels of 4 wheels since the 1980s. It could have been a brilliant move, nobody could possibly know until they tried it. Ducati needed to innovate, it was the best way to match the might of the Japanese. And from a marketing viewpoint it differentiated their bike as a product. It was therefore perfectly understandable that Stoner wanted to race the new CF frame, and to this day he maintains that it was better than the old steel frame he used in 2007/08. In any case it is clear by now that CF is not Ducati's core problem. When Rossi went to an aluminium frame the bike got worse if anything, certainly not better.

And btw Wosi, your incessant trolling of any articles related to Stoner in various websites is tiresome, and puerile to say the least.

was and is still the way for them to go imo.

You've said it above so no need for me to harp on about it.

You all remember the Britten's im sure, CF does work.

I think it was early in the 2010/11 summer break testing when CS switched to HRC he commented how "nice" the rcv was to the desmo. However he missed one thing which was stability under hard front braking.

Im going through the interviews so if i find it ill post a link(is this allowed????)........

I don't think the "CF-monocoque VS steel-trellis" frame is so clear cut like that.

One important thing that people forget is that these guys in MotoGP (and SBK to large extent) go from very early age and through all their careers riding race-bikes that rely on "traditional", proven equipment and solutions. A lot of tricks, for set-up but especially for riding, become second nature. It's something you learn to feel and translate throughout all of your riding life, what they do on track revolves around that.

People think of machines development throughout all of our history in a wide variety of situations (not just bikes), but forget the one factor that is dependant on unknown variables - the human user. Specs/sheet numbers are not all of it.
This is the reason why most think that, in motorcycle racing, there's a (justified?) conservative aproach from manufacturers and respective progressive solutions.

I'm a long-time Ducatista so cut me some slack but, I'll take steel trellis or aluminium twin-sparr over any monocoque (whatever material) any raceday, especially considering the developments of what became almost "generique racing peripherals" (suspension, brakes) and -most of all- the spec tyres.

One analogy that may be used here are electric-guitars (I guess many other things could be used). Technology has improved instruments -and their parts- through the years a lot but, like with motorcycles, the music instruments (guitars in this example) are a very conservative market, with a lot of stiff roots on old tech, for similar reasons - what is "felt" by the highly skilled user is still the number one thing to get the musician his/her results, more imediately.

I believe the problem with Ducati is that, by ditching a concept that they had embraced and developped with huge success for decades (the trellis frame) to adopt an almost unknown and (looking at the past) unproven concept as the monocoque, they have created a machine that, it seems, "feels" too different to professional riders, mechanics and engineers. Ducati just made their own life harder, matter of fact.
It's happening with the 1199 Panigale all over the world in plenty domestic STK championships -not just the MotoGP D16- and not even the huge ammount of electronics seems to bring back all those "familiar senses known from older tech", becoming then somehow difficult to interpret at the limit and safely push limits (not counting possible architecture limitations).

Then there's the whole engine progress in the middle of this.
The 'Big-Bang' engine had been around for almost as long as the 'Screamer' engine that was used untill 2008. Looking at pictures and articles, it seems that the current engine in 2013 is still, overal in its basis, the same engine that was used over 5 years ago(!) with little developments (different cases, displacement, angle in the frame). Itself developped from the one that had been started back in 2001/2, which was not much more than a concept idea of making a "double L2 SBK" engine. It was a smart move, maybe for simplicity, known tech solutions and lower costs, or even brand traditions (all of it, who knows?), but that was back then and the game got bigger.
The fact that it still uses single-injectors when J.Burgess said that double-injectors was a basic necessity and not "luxury", may hint how much they stood still at Ducati.
....whatever it is, the Honda V5 (RCV211) and the current V4 (RCV212 and 213) always made it look Neanderthal-ish, big and blunt.

You mention the Britten V1000 (brilliant racebike, no doubt) but the truth behind the story that hardly is mentioned is that it also had a HUGE horsepower advantage, in most cases over 25HP against the tougher competitors throughout most of its career (Ducati 851/926 corsa, in the famous win at Daytona, for instances). It used to take the most of its competition in the straights (top speed, acceleration), not on the corners.
It was also a different era and categories - most likely, today it wouldn't turn out like it did then.
Its story (amazing, if tragic) maybe is worthy of a Hollywood movie, and the effort and success is certainly to be applauded, but let's not get rose-tinted glasses in the way. :-)

Ducati having Stoner and Capirossi relied fully on Desmosedici project and after 2007 even strengthened it beliving it's just a proof of concept. Probably Stoner, Capirossi, Melandri, Hayden and Rossi all were asking at the same level for everything they wanted except the latter could push bluntly forcing his demands. Ducati needed a time to figure out that their proof of concept looks great on paper but doesn't actually deal with reality. Casey facing reality could do nothing more than riding around it till it was 'enough is enough'. Dovizioso is probably the first 'casual' rider who can speak with factory in proper manner.

The exotic so ambitious technology (as Ducati calling themselves) against the standard used, lets say ordinary one in this case, if delivers may be seen as a genius thing but if doesn't then it's just a complicated machine full of unnecessary effort around it.

As I remember new chief Bernhard Gobmeier once said that they don't want to build another Yamaha or Honda but want to keep their innovative, self developed ideas. Maybe in reality at some level there's no better solution than this used for decades by Japanese motorcycle corps? I hope Ducati are making the proper decisions for the future relying first on riders' feelings.

I really hope for Cal's sake that Audi are able to turn things around at Ducati. However one mistake that I am seeing many people do is betting too much on Audi to turnaround Ducati's troubles in motogp.

Audi/VW are a smart and pragmatic company who know which battles to choose and are also not afraid of a tactical retreat.

There's a reason why VW/Audi are/were not competing in F1 even when both of their rivals BMW and Merc were competing and winning in F1. Audi was pragmatic enough to know they will have a lot of catchup to do before they were ready to win and that ll take many years and a mammoth budget. In the end they decided that it was just not worth it and decided to focus their effort in Lemans endurance racing where they smoked everyone!

Audi/VW know the purpose for which they bought Ducati which was to make them more successful and profitable in the marketplace. In the scheme of things, Audi
know that the motogp program is a very small issue and that's not what for they bought Ducati for....

So Audi will give a decent budget to Ducati's motogp program and a proper environment to succeed for may be a year or two. But if Corse don't deliver, remember Audi won't hesitate to pull the plug on motogp program and focus their efforts only in WSBK. They can market the success in WSBK just as effectively as Motogp....

... decision he could, simple as that. There are 6 factory seats available in the world at this level of motorcycle racing in any discipline, Cal got one of them. Well done.

As a fan, sure I have a sinking feeling we won't be seeing Cal stalk Marc to the last lap for a long while, or ever again perhaps. But it's a factory seat, and as David so brilliantly pointed out, it's a factory seat that looks better than it has in years.

I was honestly surprised at the amount of criticism Cal got for his decision.
If Ducati is not competitive, Cal will still come out with a cool 5 million after 2 years.
He is a pro and wants results, but he is also working for his livelihood and future.
The Ducati contract will ensure him that.

I think Cals position was that he had proved enough this season for Yamaha to make him a full factory rider (either in a 3 bike team or with a Tech3 solution). Bautista and Bradl are not setting the world on fire on almost factory (in Bradls case) Hondas, and I think it is fair to say that they are close to Cals level as riders. With a new generation of Moto2 pups like Pol and Scott moving up and making it even harder to get a Tier 1.5 or Tier 2 bike (satellite bike) Cals decision to take the gamble now is spot on.

What would happen if he had an unlucky or simply average year on a satellite bike next season? Theres a lot of hungry dogs out there...

Ducati know that a Dovi/Cal line up is as good as they can get currently and will treat both riders and their racing effort with the commitment and seriousness they deserve.

Good luck to both of them and the team.

I don't know enough about the properties required of a MGP bike or the materials science to know if either can work (and win consistently). There is also the factor of resistance to change/innovation within race teams/riders to adopt and develop something new.
However, Ducati have dropped it and no-one else seems to be pursuing it in any category at the moment, let alone the top level.
The Panigale/frameless concept seems to be a great road solution and plenty good enough for superstock too.
Again, it is causing problems (judging by the results and the only thing that has changed is the chassis) in WSB. Checa said it was 'difficult to tune' and 'sensitive to small changes'. This does sound (I'm not saying it is)like the difference between the easily tuned alloy frames that 'everybody' uses - you can change alloy spec/thin/thicken/shorten/lengthen sections etc.

This is said to 'possible' with CF too, but....

To me, its easy to imagine the flex in a chassis leant over at anything between 20 and 60 degrees. Its also easy to imagine the huge difference between a 1m length of alloy of differently thicknesses etc. flexing at different rates along its length and how this can be tuned by adding/removing/changing material. This is what is generally meant by a 'new' frame - it is evolution rather than revolution.

Whereas, a length of chassis made up of 150 or 200mm of 'frame', joined by a super-stiff piece of engine case (practically impossible to 'tune' as a chassis component and effectively impossible with the engine rules), seems a fine recipe for Checa's problems. Once you have a race bike with hard suspension settings and stiff tyres (compared to a road bike) its the chassis that gives you feel and the frame is a major component of that.

I've not said anything new here, and possibly not very well, but my point is that if we want Crutchlow on a 'winner' in anything like the span of his contract they had best stick to what everyone knows and not try that clever/simple/obvious CF/frameless stuff because it isn't clever /simple/obvious when it comes to top level racing.

Personally, I like the look of the old Ducati trellis frames, even if I know they are not the best racing option once you get to a certain level. The link between race and road bikes is tenuous and, if a Panigale is a great road bike and 'resource efficient', keep it.

But please do not give one to Cal/Dovi/Spies as I would like to see them win regularly before the decade is out.

A while back I did the numbers on lateral flex for a Ducati 1198 trellis frame (for which the material thicknesses etc are known). I based it on the fact that forces applied to the side of the tyres are going to make the bike fall (simple issue of applying force far from the CoM inducing a torque), and that the rider can probably recover something equivalent to the bars dropping about 10cm closer to the track (I was being generous).

With the most generous assumptions I could make everywhere, I came up with a lateral deflection of about 0.1mm of the steering head relative to the motor, due to hitting a mid-corner bump. Compare that to tyre deflection... it's irrelevant for bump absorption... but it might just give the rider a bit of feel.

Otoh, wrenching the bike from side to side in a chicane, I came up with an estimate of nearly 1mm... and from a materials point of view, you really wouldn't want more than that. That's probably the design parameter that drives frame stiffness, because there is no way these tiny displacements are going to sink enough energy to play a role in controlling tyre oscillations occurring in chatter.

It is worth remembering that the frameless concept has been used before many times... most recently by Honda for their NSR250 (abandoned after 1 season) and the VTR1000 (abandoned after some low level racing when they built the RC51). In fact Honda even ditched the use of the swingarm pivoting in both engine and frame on the CBR600RR from 2007... wonder why?

A motorcycle racer has a short career, and for an even shorter part of that career he is in a position to earn money, rather than paying it out. No one should ever criticize a rider for taking the money. Cal is now set for life, assuming he doesn't suffer a major injury. For a professional, that is success. Winning titles, that's success for the fans.

Of course they go together, but if Cal stayed at Tech 3, scored a few more podiums and then got squeezed out by the next wave of talent, what does he do next? Rely on getting a job as a commentator? Open a bike shop?

As for Ducati and all the nonsense about "building a Japanese bike"... it happens that the best bikes are being built by Honda and Yamaha. There may not be two ways to do it, whatever the baseless fantasies about "if only Bridgestone could make special tyres". So what Ducati needs to do is build a bike that works, regardless of whether some pseudo expert thinks it looks like a Honda or not. As a pseudo-expert myself, it looks like the frame they are using atm is designed to mimic the "no-frame" concept, ie flexible at the front and rigid between the top of the motor and the swingarm. Since that is pretty much the exact opposite of what appears to work for Honda, Yamaha, Aprilia, Kalex and FTR, one might suppose there was a certain degree of bad faith, cutting off of noses to spite faces and so on. A sort of egotistical engineering tantrum...

Let us also remember the history of Bayliss, who after a fairly lack-lustre motoGP career at Ducati with a team that sent him out with 40psi in the rear tyre, that dropped the bike on its side in the garage just before he was supposed to ride it, swore he would return only with his WSBK crew. Which he famously did at Valencia.

No serious enterprise can tolerate that sort of unprofessional nonsense, whether it be Japanese, German or Italian (Aprilia are Italian, remember...). If Audi can put some of those people on the street, they will be doing the company a huge favour... and maybe the fans of MotoGP as well, if the results can get through to their race bikes fast enough.

Who knows, they may even build a competitive superbike again one day...

As I understand it, Ducati were proceeding one step at a time, changing one variable at at time. The aluminium chassis was designed to first replicate the CF chassis, to try to understand what the change in materials would do. That meant it was flexible at the front, stiff in the middle, and flexible at the rear. The stiff part in the middle was aimed at replicating the stiffness of the engine.

Since the beginning of the year, Ducati have been experimenting with flexibility. That's what the lab bike was intended for, for those kinds of experimentation. The new chassis rolled out for Dovizioso at the Sachsenring was the first product of that experimentation, and another one is to follow at Misano, I understand.

That makes perfect sense. If they'd been able to do that in the space of a week, by producing and testing the different frames in parallel, they might have gotten somewhere.

What I find strange is that people talk about the limited budget for building frames. Dave Pearce goes into conniptions when he sees 5-figure prices thrown around for the cost of a frame... let's accept that the 90% of the 80K€ Suter charges for a frame is for company overheads, the design staff etc etc. So then the real cost of showing up with 2 of each of 3 versions of the frame would have been 50-60K€. Now compare that with the salary bill just for that room full of engineers we saw at the off season tests 18 months back...

Speaking to the brilliant Mark Taylor at FTR, he pointed out to me that the cost of fabricating stuff is relatively trivial. But fabrication isn't where the expense is, it's deciding what you want to fabricate in the first place. It's the hundreds of hours of R&D, of design and running finite element analysis over and over again on your design, making tweaks and then doing it all again. That's where the cost is. And because you are only selling a handful of frames / bikes / etc, you can't amortize those costs across a large number of sales. If you spent 200K designing a bike (3 or 4 engineers working for several months), then you can't really price it at 10K unless you expect to sell a whole bunch of them.

I remember that J.Burgess said during 2011 season, that "in engine its lot of things on the move" and some way I believe, that important part of Desmosedici difficult handling could be actually desmo distribution mechanism in the cylinder head. It inst as light as pneumatic distribution, which use Honda and Yamaha. Then because whole desmo weight must be much heavier and considering how high cylinder head is, then is question, how much it could affect gravity center and then whole bike behavior & handling.
Lets see what they can do for Cal and Dovi, what they couldnt do for Vale and Nicky...!
I wish to see Nicky on competitive bike, he deserve that after such a difficult 5 seasons.

Classic Racer, May/June 2013 issue has a story on the 20-year anniversary of the Britten. Included is interview with rider Andrew Stroud.

"(the) Britten taught me to ride slowly. I found that I could only turn it into corners at 90 percent of what I wanted before it would shudder and want to push straight ahead," Stroud said.

I wonder if Stoner would feel right at home on the Britten.

Point is, new tech needs massive refinement before it's better than massively refined old tech.

Glad to see someone not just blindly pushing the "it was outstanding" myth around the Britten. An exceptional achievement by a great team, but with lots of real problems. The only way that FFE's will advance is if there is an open and honest confrontation with their problems to date, and an effort to understand their origins.
Interesting that Christian Boudinot's group are running into similar (but not as severe) issues in trying to build a Fior-inspired Moto2... will it turn out to be just set-up, or the materials, or the limited front wheel travel inherent to the details of that design, or a general issue for combining a Fior/Hossack type design with racing geometry...? It will take time and effort to find out.... as you say :)

Some further thoughts: when Andrew Stroud turns in at 90%, he's probably turning in harder than I would even consider. And then you take a further step up to what Stoner does: to quote a recent interview with Sylvain Guintoli regarding Stoner's data on the Ducati
"He goes into every corner as though he doesn't want to come out of it".

So, you put a test rider on the bike, it handles fine, what do you conclude?

I can't believe some are still talking about the CF frame. To get the most out of the Bridgestones, you are going to have to make a twin spar or have the ability to make quick changes with CF, and that is impossible to do quickly. Stoner's results were sliding. 10 wins in 2007 (Custom tires, and a much better electronics package compared to the Japanese), then 6 in 2008, 4 in 2009, and finally 3 in 2010. That is what I would call a downward spiral. The changes and innovation they made for the 2007 season were incredible. Qatar, the first race, had Casey gapping Valentino down the straight and it looked as if Stoner was on a prototype and Rossi was on a production bike, it was that bad. But, the Japanese responded quickly. Yamaha changed from springs to pneumatics, and got the Bridgestones. (Rossi was already tired of Michelin before the 2007 season).

Meanwhile any changes to the Desmosedici were minimal compared to the Japanese. They just have more $, more engineers, etc.

Some times, in this sport, you have to copy your competitor to catch up or gain an advantage. Yamaha copied Honda (pneumatic valves) and Ducati (the move to Bridgestone tires). Honda stole 2 key Yamaha laptop jockeys from Jorge Lorenzo's garage prior to Stoner arriving at Honda in 2011. In a way, that was HRC admitting that Yamaha's programmers were better and they needed fresh flood at HRC.

In this sport, you have to do anything to win. Ducati needs to copy the Japanese and beat them at their own game. Until custom tires can be allowed again, that is the necessary recipe. This is what BMW did (as a poster above mentioned) and it worked for them. Ducati must do the same. From the article it seems that Ducati is on their way to doing the same. Cal may have made a brilliant move just at the right time or the worst decision of his career but unless you have a crystal ball NOBODY knows which way it'll turn out. Ducati have made an awful lot of changes in organization to turn this around and keep in mind, as David said, this is what is done first. With any sport, you get your players lined up from management to athletes. Then, and only then can you start over.

"Qatar, the first race, had Casey gapping Valentino down the straight and it looked as if Stoner was on a prototype and Rossi was on a production bike"

At that 1st race you mention even Jeremy McW on the Ilmor GP was faster in a straight line than Rossi... Tamada on the Tech 3 Yamaha was faster than him... but Rossi was racing Stoner, & Rossi's deficit was plain to see... everyone interpreted it as a massive performance advantage but the advantage Ducati had over most of the field was minimal & they were slower than Honda at several circuits. Yamaha had to play catch-up & to their credit they did. Had it not been for the skills of Stoner & Rossi 2007 would have been a Honda/Suzuki whitewash.

In CF you can easily design the amount of flex that is seemed fit. IMO the MotoGP rules are favouring traditional designs and do not reflect a true prototype class. Minimum weights and spec tyres are 2 such limitations. In fact, some roadbikes are more state-of-the-art from a chassis/engine point of view than some of the prototypes we see in MotoGP.

Examples are the Yamaha GTS1000, Bimota Tesi, BMW's Duolever and some Bakker motorbikes; they eliminate the traditional front fork's fundamental design flaws, only to see the advantages they offer reduced by the lack of a front tyre that can work with the forces generated in corner entry (which can perfectly be developed, but would only work for these alternative front suspension systems). The same goes for the seamless gearboxes (a very expensive solution to work around a rule for gearboxes that are already used in roadbikes).

The same goes for the CF design. A good design company (I'm not saying Ducati has yet shown to be one in MotoGP) can design a carbon frame/engine combination with the amount of flex the riders want. I do not believe in a single solution (an aluminium beam frame) and the fact that we are at our peak in terms of chassis development. Riders want to go back to what they know (especially when their experience has shown this to be faster), but they do not necessarily choose the right development path. Furthermore, what is also clearly visible, is that no matter how you try to reduce the costs of racing, the manufacturers with the largest budgets win most races.

I agree on the CF not being the flaw in the Ducati GP bike. The biggest problem was the frameless design. What was left of the frame was not enough to allow the nescesary flex. I thinck Ducati has some experience with the material now, and they should go for a CF beam frame !

Ducati even stated it takes a while to make a new Carbon Fiber frame. While they could possibly make a quick change in design, fabrication takes LONGER than twin spar to produce.

agree with that, however it would probably take at least 2yrs development to get it right or, MAYBE with the data they have + Audi it could be much quicker.

Either way it's an interesting concept.

Ducati management could not entice Stoner to come out of retirement and spearhead a project (next to Dovi) that's going nowhere fast! Stoner would not want to wait a few years to be competitive on the Ducati especially after riding the RCV. Stoner has loyal ties to Honda and its management team anyway. Casey 'Superman' Stoner will be back soon enough. Meanwhile, Ducati/Audi went with the next best thing... Cal Crutchlow at a fraction of the money they would have paid Stoner! Cal has more to gain than he has to lose going to Ducati. So good for him. 2014 will be a year to watch in Motogp. The inner-team battles are going to be stellar: Jorge VS Rossi, Cal VS Dovi, Marquez VS Stoner... I mean Dani.

Let's find out if Cal beats Dovi and Spies consistently next year before he is annointed...I sense the desparation of British fans to have a champion but all of this is quite pathetic.

More a case of dreaming the impossible and nearly making it work. The NR was engineering audaciousness on a level we can not really comprehend in these days of spec-almost-everything. CC for cc the 2-strokes just had too much going for them, but once H abandoned the totally blue-sky mindset and made a more conventional bike around the NR motor they sort of got close.
If they were racing horses, what they did was not only turn up with a 2 legged horse, but one with the arse at the front, the head at the back and the saddle mounted underneath. With all the bits eventually in their normal positions they got that 2-legged horse to run midfield in the Melbourne cup. Something of an achievement no?

The Honda adventures from the very late 70s to the mid 80s in GPs is (IMHO) the example that Ducati should be looking at before continuing with "funny and original" solutions that don't present significant gains (actually the contrary).

Yes, the NR500 4-stroke with oval pistons was a great achievement of engineering, had fairly decent results (when it finished, that is) considering that the 2-strokes are a way more efficient concept, better power, lower weight, much simpler, and much, much less expensive, as they did realize in the end. It had it's overal performance, engine horsepower and reliability crunched by 2-strokes developped with budgets "nth" times lower. The "Never Ready" was a very big fiasco.
The moral of story to realize is that there was no point in spending resources on a racebike that would never win against competitors that played with more efficient solutions by the rules presented (.....hello Ducati!).

The "let's be original" story doesn't end here though, I'm afraid...

After the NR500, Honda surrendered to the 2-stroke concept, yet continued the "originality" by presenting the successor NS500 with a two-stroke V3 (3-cilinder) against the more common 4-cilinder machines of the competitors. And as great as the NS500 was, they too realized it wasn't enough against the competition (Spencer's riding and team was the success factor, no doubt).
And, once again, Honda tried to be "original" with its successor. The NSR500 now had 4-cilinders as the competition, but then (of course, "let's be original") it used the funny layout of exhaust cones on top of the engine and petrol-tank on bottom and, funny enough, that too was soon substituted with the more common and functional layout we've got used to see on all other 2-stroke GP bikes (front cilinder exhaust cones below the engine, tank on top).
Honda also started to use the successful twin-spar chassis/frame design that Yamaha initially brought in (the Deltabox design, although the 'invention' belongs to Bimota), which all others would also adopt.
I don't think the latter iterations of the NSR500 need introduction. It became the most successfull 500cc GP 2-stroke of all time, and it's safe to say that its success wasn't achieved by trying to be "different" or all original. :-)

There's no shame in admiting that your current solution(s) does not work as good as the ones from your competition with the presented rules. Hence why many think Ducati should try to beat the competition by adopting proven solutions that aren't in their own tradition, and atempt to make it better than the others do.

The NSR500 of the GP's and the VTR SP2 (RC51) WSBK and AMA 'works' machines are among those racebikes that achieved some of the most important racing achievements for Honda, and look how much they became Honda's statement of "beating your enemy with same weapons". :-)
Maybe Ducati should have a good read at the enemie's story before writing the next page of their own history book....

Very nice synopsis of the logic K. Audi takes their competitive pursuits seriously, of that there is no question. I am sure you are 100% correct this factory ride will be emerging again. Dovi and Cal should make a good team and are hard workers. Hopefully it is a win/win for all of them before this is too far down the track.

If they can land Gigi, it will be much sooner than later, that would be huge.

Reading through your logical pursuit, it just made me smile about all the lame cracks about Stoner. His heart and other bits were far bigger than most gave him credit for. Sad to see him have lost interest at the prime.

Give it hell Cal.....you have a chance to bigger than Mr. Ducati in the homeland if you pull this off. Even without an "r".

No one is blaming Yamaha for the move that Cal made. Is it not an oversight on part of all those saying CC35 is wrong in going to Ducati? Crutchlow accepted Ducati’s offer because his ambitions to be a full factory rider were never likely to be fulfilled at Yamaha,they even got Pol on Tech 3 on a yamaha contract, despite his brilliant performances in 2013 where he has regularly challenged the elite four on the Works bikes.

With Yamaha keen on keeping Lorenzo and Rossi beyond their current deals till the end of 2014, Crutchlow would have been stuck riding a satellite YZR-M1 which is good enough for podiums but not for victory.

Go Cal! I may be wrong and you might not do so well but you deserve the money and the perks and if you beat them Japs even once next year you will stand vindicated.

Speaking as a sponsor of Cal, I have somewhat more than an academic interest in his move to Ducati. Up front: absolutely delighted.

As Dave so aptly points out, there are a hundred rocks on the road to a world championship; and moving to Ducati isn't necessarily a dead end, any more than a move to - say - factory Honda is a guarantee to victory (Dani).

But what in my eyes, what REALLY matters in the larger picture is that this is a sport that entertains and delights, and draws more people to its shores.
Good for my business (eg sponsors), good for the riders, good for the sport, good for the fans. When you think of teams in the paddock, which team stands out as the clear leader in the sizzle?

Ducati has gone down this route with a certain Italian - and while their image as a race team has been a bit scarred (hard to argue that Rossi's titanium reputation has been scratched) the brand itself hasn't noticeably suffered -- still commands the most fanatic following.

However there is a huge difference between then and now: 2 years ago everyone - including Rossi's team - had the expectation that he could make a winner out of the bike.

With Cal we are under no such illusion. He will get a few podiums, we pray for a win, but not a chance for a world championship (in the next 2 years)

BUT - will it be exciting riding along with this charismatic sportsman and this exalted brand, in anticipation of what MIGHT happen?

I'm thrilled just thinking of it! Bring on the red - let's have fun!

I am told that a number of tyre shops will not handle CF wheels because of the perceived problem of damage. I don't know if that's purely a cosmetic/claim issue or if it affects the integrity of the wheel.

No-one seems to run these wheels in major race series although you do see them in national/regional races.

I wonder how well a CF frame would crash - if you take metal beyond its limits it bends, and welds crack for various reasons but these are all fairly easy to see/check.

What do you do with CF? Have a look and hope that you can spot any problem? It seems that although a high strength material, it is not as robust/practical as more common materials.

Off topic to some degree, but does anyone know enough to comment?

You do realize that CF totally transformed 4 wheel open wheel racing from the 1980s on? That F1 cars are mostly constructed of CF? Also Indy and most open wheel cars are constructed of CF? That high end road cars are increasingly using CF in their construction?

Given that F1 teams often bring new CF bits to almost every race, in a multitude of different shapes and sizes and degrees of flex, I don't see that multiple configuring of CF for testing was Ducati's problem. The problem seem to be that they just didn't provide enough different parts to do proper testing. Unlike say Honda, who seem to have no problem producing a new frame whenever they feel it is needed.

In principle it is entirely reasonable for a bike manufacturer like Ducati to try CF with their bikes. I don't believe that CF was Ducati's problem, it appears that the bike's fundamental design is flawed in some way.

Let us hope that Ducaudi are sending some money over to FTR-alike then.....

A problem that all engineers have is that they can design structures and do FE to provide the required results, as long as someone tells them what the loads/flex in various conditions are required to be. (I assume that at this level/sophistication the 'client' does not just say "You are the expert; you decide.")

Who defines that? I presume that a rider/crew chief can come up with a basic brief such as "We need more flex/stiffness at 55 degree lean and at 2g". Does someone else, at the factory say, interpret that into an engineering brief for the designer/fabricator, or do they just pass the message on and have a discussion about what the numbers are and what they might be targeted as?

Do they then load-test the item to see if it meets the spec, or do they just send it out and say "Try this".

Or is that being simplistic?!

As a sponsor of Cal Crutchlow, what are your thoughts about the potential of losing UK viewers next year due to the switch away from free to view coupled with delayed coverage on a widespread platform replaced by a much disliked, minority player? I am fascinated to hear sponsors' views.

Are you UK based or dependent or globally marketed? I hope you can find the time to answer or 'the editor' is willing and able to forward this question.

Hope you can tame that Desmo and bring in some good result. Hopefully one more alien pack to join the front running club soon.