2 August 2014
Crutchlow out, Iannone in at Ducati MotoGP team
Cal Crutchlow to leave Ducati MotoGP team - replaced by Andrea Iannone for 2015.
Cal Crutchlow is to leave the factory Ducati MotoGP team and be replaced by Andrea Iannone for 2015.
The announcement comes just two weeks after the Englishman was 'confirmed' as remaining during World Ducati Week and looks set to clear the way for Crutchlow to join LCR Honda in place of Stefan Bradl.
"Ducati Corse announced today that it has reached an agreement with its factory rider Cal Crutchlow to terminate, ahead of time, the contract that ties the British rider to the Italian team in MotoGP for the next season.
"The two factory Ducati Team riders for 2015 will now be Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone."
Crutchlow - who claimed two poles and four podiums on his way to fifth in the world championship for Tech 3 Yamaha last season - is a miserable 14th in this year's standings after struggling with technical issues, injuries and the Desmosedici's renowned cornering problems.
Being able to make comparisons with last year's Yamaha, while useful for development purposes, has at times taunted Crutchlow as he spoke of massively reduced corner speeds, a lack of lean angle even relative to the other Ducatis and the need to wait for new parts to make the kind of progress required.
Crutchlow's Ducati contract contained a clause allowing him to depart after the first of his planned two years.
The deadline for the opt-out, July 31, had not expired by the time of the WDW comments - which included Ducati's Paolo Ciabatti saying, "Cal has a contract with us for next season and he will continue in the official team next year" - and it is now clear that negotiations were ongoing.
It is difficult to know how committed Crutchlow and Ducati actually were to continuing their relationship at the time of WDW, or which party was the driving force for the split.
Results alone would be enough for Crutchlow to seek a return to proven Japanese machinery, while Ducati had more riders than factory team seats after re-signing Dovizioso and seeking to keep rising star Iannone via upgraded factory status.
Iannone will thus take over Crutchlow's place, with Iannone's former ride at the satellite Pramac Ducati team becoming available.
Iannone has often been in contention for top Ducati honours during his second season in MotoGP with Pramac, including a MotoGP best of fifth place last time at the Sachsenring. The Italian is currently eighth in the world championship, the second best Ducati after Dovizioso, who has taken two podiums this year.
Alongside those podiums, Ducati has cut the gap to the front at many races this year. However it is unclear how much of that is due to the new Open class benefits - softer rear tyre, more race fuel, more engine changes and increased testing - for which they are currently eligible. Ducati has not won a race since Casey Stoner left at the end of 2010.
While Crutchlow had refused to speculate on his future, including a possible move to Suzuki, there had have been plenty of small signs that the Ducati relationship would not last beyond one season.
New Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall'Igna omitted to even mention Crutchlow in the team's Assen race day press release, Crutchlow was absent from images of a Ducati team party for Dall'Igna's birthday at Sachsenring, while Crutchlow's official Twitter page contained no Ducati branding.
Active on Twitter, with over 233,000 followers, Crutchlow also made no reference to remaining at Ducati in his tweets from WDW.
Dall'Igna is planning a heavily revised Desmosedici for 2015, but there have been few major updates to this year's model and - with the new bike not available for testing until the end of the season - the gamble ultimately appears to have been too great for Crutchlow to stay.
With Ducati making no reference to Crutchlow's 2015 destination, attention turns to LCR Honda - which is expected to confirm that the former World Supersport champion will take over Stefan Bradl's factory-class RC213V.
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