Testing Update: Crutchlow Tries M1, Sofuoglu To Test Suter At Albacete

Preparations for next year are starting to get into gear, with testing for 2011 already underway. After wrapping up his World Superbike season, Cal Crutchlow got his first outing on Yamaha's MotoGP bike at the Fukuroi test track in Japan, as he got ready to move into the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad for 2011. The elements did not look kindly on Crutchlow, however, most of the test taking place in the wet, though the young Briton also got a few laps in under relatively dry conditions. Crutchlow will be hoping for better conditions at Valencia, for the first official outing on the Yamaha M1. He will not be alone, as the Valencia post-race test will also see Valentino Rossi's first outing on the Ducati and Casey Stoner's first test on the Honda.

2010 World Supersport champion Kenan Sofuoglu is also preparing for his move to Moto2 next year, by testing the Technomag Suter machine at Albacete in Spain on Monday. The Turkish rider will be competing in the last two races of the year, at Estoril and Valencia, before making a full-time switch for next season. Sofuoglu is believed to be close to a permanent deal with the Technomag squad for 2011, though several other teams have also shown an interest in the Turk.

Sofuoglu will also be breaking another Dorna custom at Estoril and Valencia: The Turk will be running his coveted #54, the number he has used throughout his World Supersport and World Superbike career. This is unusual, as under the rules, numbers are assigned for an entire season, and #54 has already been used this year by Kev Coghlan, who rode an FTR for the Monlau Competicion team at Silverstone and Aragon. Sofuoglu had offered to run #154 instead, but the systems used by Race Direction reportedly cannot cope with a three-digit race number, which was also the reason that Neil Hodgson raced with #50 instead of #100, which he has used elsewhere. After receiving permission from Coghlan to use the number, Sofuoglu was also given the all clear by Dorna and IRTA last week to run #54 for next season.

Below is the Yamaha press release on Crutchlow's test at Japan:

First taste of the Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP bike for Crutchlow in Japan

Having wrapped up the 2010 World Superbike Championship on a high in Magny Cours with a race win and a second place finish on his YZF-R1 two weeks ago, Cal Crutchlow ended his season with the Yamaha Sterilgarda World Superbike Team by clinching fifth in the standings and claiming the 'rookie of the year' title. With just a few days rest under his belt he has started his move up from World Superbike to MotoGP with Yamaha by getting straight to business, today completing a one and a half day test of the Yamaha YZR-M1 race bike at Yamaha's test track in Fukuroi, Japan. Despite mixed weather conditions with a damp or wet track Crutchlow had the opportunity to try the M1 on both full wet and slick Bridgestone tyres, impressing everybody with his speed on the wet test track. The rising Yamaha star also took some time to practice with the M1's launch control to test starts. 

"The M1 felt a lot smaller than my Yamaha R1 superbike," said Cal Crutchlow. "I actually found the positioning more comfortable than the WSB machine. There is a lot of power but it feels very useable, it felt very different to a production based machine in terms of its delivery. In the wet we used the normal steel brakes but when it started to dry I had a chance to try the carbon ones which were cool, I managed to get quite comfortable with them. I found the chassis very stiff, it was really easy to change direction and the electronics were really different, even more advanced than the high level I'm used to in Superbike! It was a shame the weather wasn't great so I wasn't able to push to the bike's full potential, I'm really looking forward to the Valencia test so I can get back on it and give it a proper work out!" 

Whilst in Japan Crutchlow also took time out to visit The Yamaha Motor Company headquarters and the Communication Plaza in Shizuoka where he had an opportunity to get up close to some of Yamaha's historic and iconic machinery from past and present. 

The Valencia test will be on the 9th and 10th November. For 2011 Crutchlow will be entering the MotoGP World Championship in the Yamaha Monster Tech3 team, alongside Colin Edwards.  

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So how do the testing limitations work for a rookie like Crutchlow? Do they not kick in till the end of season or something? Is there anything in the regs to stop Cal spending a few days/weeks on circuits outside the MotoGP circus getting to know the bike?

As I understand it, Crutchlow is not yet a contracted rider, and so is free to test. Also, the Japanese test circuit is not a track on the calendar (a Grand Prix track), and so there is no rule broken there. There is also a limit of 240 tires per manufacturer per season, which may impose a restriction on who can test and how often. After Valencia, Crutchlow will be limited in his testing (he'll be under contract). But mostly, it's about cost: the Tech 3 team certainly doesn't have the funds to do unlimited testing, and Yamaha will not want to put an unlimited amount of money into Crutchlow. They're glad to get him started, but he will have to pick it up himself.