28 February 2014
Sepang II MotoGP Test: Cal Crutchlow talks Open MotoGP move
"Gigi has done a very, very clever thing and proved why Ducati have taken him on board" - Cal Crutchlow.
Having finally secured a MotoGP ride with an official manufacturer team, is Cal Crutchlow disappointed by Ducati's decision to change from the Factory to Open class?
Not at all.
Instead the Englishman hailed new Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall'Igna's move as something of a tactical masterpiece.
“Gigi has done a very, very clever thing and proved why Ducati have taken him on board to lead this project,” said Crutchlow, speaking at the end of the Sepang MotoGP test on Friday evening, shortly after the official decision was announced.
“Because he has seen the system - he has seen how to develop in this championship already and he has taken advantage of that. That's what we need.”
Crutchlow added: “We all discussed the pros and cons. For me there was a load of pros and not so many cons.
“I don't think everyone [in the paddock] is happy about it, but I think everybody in Ducati is happy. Why not? I think we've got nothing to lose
“I don't think everyone should think suddenly because we've gone Open we're going to finish 20th or that we're suddenly going to win the race either. It takes time and this just gives us room to develop.”
Moving to the Open class means surrendering bespoke Factory ECU software for a currently less sophisticated version shared by all Open competitors.
The reward is four litres extra race fuel, twelve instead of five engine changes, a softer specification rear tyre and -most significantly for Ducati - no ban on in-season engine development.
Ducati riders did not try the softer Open tyre at Sepang - although given the problems many Factory class competitors had with the new heat-resistant rubber, Crutchlow confirmed “maybe we will get a big benefit from having the Open class tyre.”
However the extra race fuel, at least at Sepang, was not much of a factor.
“I'm not saying it doesn't really make a different, but we are not tight on fuel with this bike anyway and we have quite a lot of power,” he said. “So it is not going to suddenly gain us 20kph and suddenly blast past the Honda on the straight.”
“The [Factory] Ducati electronics were better” than the Open version, but Crutchlow emphasised that the overall differences between the two machine specifications is small.
“I don't feel like I have a problem with the Open bike. The lap time was the same, near enough, and everything is working well. We just need to refine quite a lot of stuff.”
Crutchlow was eighth fastest at the final Sepang test, 0.791s from joint leaders Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) and Dani Pedrosa (Honda). Team-mate Andrea Dovizioso was third fastest and just 0.108s from the top.
Renowned for his ability to pull flying laps out of the bag in qualifying, Crutchlow on a softer rear tyre would seem an obvious bet for pole positions in 2014...
“No! Because I can't do a fast lap with this bike at the minute,” he replied. “I can do an okay lap, but it's nowhere near where we need to be.
“Normally I'm a guy that can do a fast lap whenever I need to. Also at the start of races, if there is a little gap to the guys in front I can normally get my head down for couple of laps and get onto them.
“But at the moment that's actually where I struggle with this bike, in the first five laps.”
One more pre-season test, at Phillip Island, remains for Ducati before the start of the new season in Qatar.
Ducati were left without a podium for the first time last season and have been without a win since world champion Casey Stoner's departed at the end of 2010.
Honda and Yamaha are now the only manufacturers in the Factory class.
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