After much speculation as to who would replace Franco Morbidelli at the next rounds of the MotoGP Championship, it’s been revealed. Yamaha’s official test rider Cal Crutchlow will replace the injured Morbidelli at the next three rounds. That’s the Styrian GP (Red Bull Ring), the Austrian GP (also Red Bull Ring) and the British GP (Silverstone).
Morbidelli sustained a knee injury just before the Assen round (where Garrett Gerloff rode his bike), and he’s had some surgery on it, but he’s still not recovered. And by the sound of this latest news, he’s not likely to be fully fit for at least another month. I don’t suppose Yamaha actually know when he’ll be back up to full fitness. If ever…
In the mean time I’m sure Cal Crutchlow is more than replace Morbidelli for three rounds though. Especially with one of them being his home round at Silverstone. He might even be able to look forward to some trackside fans, cheering him on and throwing their knickers at him. Possibly. He’s had some reasonable results at Silverstone in the past, including a second in 2016. And being Yamaha’s factory test rider, he’ll know his way round the M1 fairly well.
He’s got two rounds at the Red Bull Ring first to get his head back into competition mode. I wonder what Valentino Rossi, at the other side of the Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team garage, thinks about it. Will he be pleased to see Crutchlow back? Probably not if Cal beats him, which if you ask me, is a distinct possibility. Particularly when you consider Rossi’s form of late.
Razlan Razali, Team Principal of the Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team had this to say,
After looking at all the options, it was a collective decision between Yamaha and ourselves to ask Cal Crutchlow to fill in for Franco, while he recovers from surgery. Cal is a credible and experienced rider, who is currently a test rider for Yamaha. As an independent team, this is where we can really step up to help Yamaha. Cal will be able to rack up some good mileage on our M1, which should aid him with his testing and development work for Yamaha. Cal will replace Franco for the next three races. We have no real targets for him in terms of results. We will do all we can to help support him and make him feel comfortable in the team. He’s already familiar with some of the key people in the team, which helps. I’m sure he’s up for the challenge
And Cal himself said this,
It’s great to be back riding with Yamaha this year as the official test rider and to be able to step in when needed is good for all parties. I’m looking forward to riding for Petronas Yamaha SRT in the three Grands Prix. Obviously it’s not in the best circumstances and I wish Franco a good recovery. I hope he comes back strongly after the knee surgery. I’m sure he will because he’s been riding fantastically over the last two years.
I think it’s difficult to set targets for these three races and it will be more about understanding the bike, as I’ve had limited riding days this year. The good thing will be that I can compare the bikes. I should be able to gather a lot of data for Yamaha. It’s a bit like jumping in at the deep end; it’s a very competitive MotoGP class, but I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be good to be back on the grid. I’m looking forward to meeting the team in Austria, although there will be some familiar faces for me. Wilco Zeelenberg was my Team Manager in Supersport in 2009 and I actually raced against Johan Stigefelt some years ago, so it’s going to be a pleasure to be back with them.
Has Cal still got it? I don’t want to put any pressure on him, but he’ll be the only British rider in the premiere class. He’s got the weight of a nation of his shoulders. But then again, that’s nothing new to him. I think he’s probably still got it. Perhaps it’s me being a little ambitious, but don’t think a top ten is out of the question. Or maybe better… top six?