Current Yamaha test rider, Cal Crutchlow, will be replacing injured pilot Franco Morbidelli at the Sepang Racing Team, for the next three rounds of the season. The British pilot will therefore take the start in the two rounds scheduled at the Spielberg Circuit; the Styrian GP (August 8) and the Austrian GP (August 15), as well as in his home round at the British GP (29 August) in Silverstone.
There is even a chance that he might also compete in the following race, the Aragon GP on September 12 at MotorLand in Alcañiz. Obviously, it will all depend on the recovery and overall fitness of Morbidelli.
35-year-old Cal Crutchlow will thus return to the MotoGP World Championship, after abandoning it at the end of 2020, when he lost his seat at LCR Honda against the Spaniard Alex Marquez.
Since then, the pilot from Coventry has worked as a test rider for Yamaha but has not carried out a lot of in-track training. This lack of practice has raised many questions regarding his chances in such a demanding competition.
“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” – admitted Crutchlow-.
Naturally, he will be riding Morbidelli’s M1, which entails an added difficulty. Morbidelli’s bike is the only older model of the four Yamahas and so Cal Crutchlow will not be able to rely on telemetry data from the other three riders, which would have been a great help.
Cal Crutchlow, very happy for the challenge
“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 and I should be able to gather a lot of data for Yamaha. It’s a bit like being thrown in the deep end, as it’s a very competitive MotoGP class, but I’m really looking forward to it and it’s going to 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 because 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”.
Yamaha SRT: No real targets for Cal Crutchlow
Razlan Razali, Team Principal, PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team commented:
“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 and 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, and I’m sure he’s up for the challenge”.
Morbidelli cautious over his knee and his future
The official pilot of the Malaysian works, for his part, continues his rehabilitation after undergoing surgery on his left knee on June 25. The severe pain and discomfort he has endured at different times during the current campaign were understandably affecting his performance and so, taking advantage of the summer break, Morbidelli decided to undergo surgery on his left knee.
His recovery, however, might not be as straightforward as expected, with his convalescence coming at a particularly important moment for his professional future. After Maverick Viñales’ hasty departure from the official Yamaha team, the Italo-Brazilian was the main candidate to inherit his coveted place.
Morbidelli’s state of fitness, however, could influence the decision of the Japanese brand. While the Italian is in the dry dock, the team managers from Iwatta could opt for a safer option, especially as they realise his convalescence is likely to last longer than predicted, a circumstance that always raises doubts about a pilot’s future performance.
Morbidly had already missed the last race in Holland before the summer holidays as a result of his surgery. Back then, in Assen, he was replaced by his Yamaha GRT’s colleague in the World Superbike, the Texan Garrett Gerloff.
That initial absence added to the upcoming ones – proving everything goes as planned – means he will miss a total of four GPs before being able to climb back on his bike.
Images of Cal Crutchlow: Yamaha Racing.