With three podiums and a pole position this year, Cal Crutchlow's stock continues to rise. As the only top rider out of contract, there is much speculation about where the talented Englishman could end up. All three factories have expressed an interest in Crutchlow, with Ducati and Yamaha the frontrunners to secure his services for next year. Crutchlow has made his preference clear: to remain at Yamaha, either in the factory team or at Tech 3, with the kind of factory support given to Stefan Bradl in the LCR Honda team by HRC.
For Yamaha, the situation is more complicated. With reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo on the books, as well as nine-time former champ Valentino Rossi, Yamaha currently has no room in the factory team. And with Bradley Smith on a two-year contract, the factory faces a dilemma: hang on to Cal Crutchlow for another year in the satellite team, or go for a young talent like Pol Espargaro, in the hope that they can develop into a rider to take on Marc Marquez for the next few years.
After a positive meeting between Crutchlow, Yamaha and Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal on the Sunday night after Mugello, more meetings were planned at Assen. To find out where Yamaha stands on the Crutchlow situation, we spoke to Yamaha Managing Director Lin Jarvis at Assen, and find out the current state of the negotations. Yamaha was keen to try to retain the services of Crutchlow, Jarvis said. "We are working with Tech 3 to try to keep Cal," the Yamaha boss told us, while acknowledging Crutchlow's results so far this year. "We recognize Cal's skill, his potential, and his growth."
Jarvis was not certain that Yamaha's efforts would be sufficient, however. "Whether we can put together a package with Tech 3 to match his desire is hard to say," Jarvis said. Yamaha was aware of the offers on the table from other manufacturers, and was struggling to match their terms. When asked if Yamaha was afraid they could lose Cal Crutchlow, Jarvis was phlegmatic. "We are never afraid of things. There is no point," he said. Asked whether Yamaha had already signed a contract with Pol Espargaro, as paddock gossip was suggesting at Assen, Jarvis declined to comment.
The ball is now in Cal Crutchlow's court. With Yamaha apparently unable to extend their offer to match the other factories chasing the Englishman, either in financial respect or in terms of technical support, Crutchlow will have to make a decision on his future soon. A decision which could possibly come as soon as the Sachsenring, if the more outlandish rumors doing the rounds of the paddock are to be believed.