Monster Yamaha Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal has responded to rumours that Cal Crutchlow's place in the team is under threat from Moto2 star Pol Espargaro for 2014.
Crutchlow recently revealed he had been told by Poncharal
that “Yamaha are potentially going to sign Pol and [Tech 3] will have to take him for the first year” before a move to the factory team.
Crutchlow has been the top satellite rider in all three events so far this year and would therefore appear an unlikely candidate for replacement.
However the Englishman is the only Yamaha rider without a contract for 2014, meaning if Espargaro - or anyone else - arrives, it is Crutchlow's place they would be taking.
In an interview with MotoGP.com
, Poncharal - currently in talks with Yamaha to extend the Tech 3 partnership into 2014 and beyond - began by stating “I have never talked to Espargaro on behalf of Tech 3”. But the Frenchman admitted “that Yamaha and Espargaro have spoken is a certainty” and MotoGP is the “logical step” for Espargaro in 2014.
Espargaro finished runner-up to rookie MotoGP race winner Marc Marquez in last year's Moto2 series and is therefore regarded as the rider to beat this season - although he is presently only third in the 600cc standings. Assuming Espargaro does step up, Poncharal pointed out that with all four of next year's Honda seats seemingly confirmed, it is “obvious that he [Espargaro] is in talks with Yamaha” about the undecided M1 ride.
“I do not know the depth of those conversations; whether something has been agreed, is almost agreed or whether there is still a lot to sort out,” said Poncharal. “What I do know is that Yamaha has four bikes and, when Cal Crutchlow is the only rider who is contracted only for this year, some think Espargaro could take his place.
“I love Cal and will be keeping him informed of what I know, simply to allow him as much time as possible to remain attractive on the rider market - whether that will be to stay at Yamaha or to go somewhere else.”
But Poncharal also highlighted that it was Crutchlow's decision to limit his latest Tech 3 contract to a single season - and that he had been ready to leave had the factory Ducati ride not gone to then Tech 3 team-mate Andrea Dovizioso.