Motorcycle racing paddocks have never been good at keeping secrets, but this year seems to be particularly bad. As predicted by MotoMatters.com on Thursday, the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team have confirmed that Cal Crutchlow will be riding their MotoGP bike next year. Crutchlow and Tech 3 have agreed a two-year deal for 2011 and 2012, giving Crutchlow a chance to get accustomed to MotoGP machinery without the immediate pressure to perform. The switch back to 1000cc for 2012 should also make Crutchlow's job in his second year a little bit easier, the bikes expected to be a little more like the Sterilgarda Yamaha World Superbike he has raced this season.
Below is the press release from Tech 3:
Cal Crutchlow joins Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team
It's been clear for some time now that Marco Melandri's career in MotoGP is over. The Italian shone brightly for a couple of years on the 990 MotoGP bikes, but his fortunes have faded since the switch to 800cc, and especially since his disastrous year on the Ducati in 2008. A return to the Gresini Honda team in 2010, the team that he scored his most famous victories with, could not turn Melandri's MotoGP career around, and the Italian is now headed for World Superbikes.
It had generally been expected that Melandri would be joining BMW's World Superbike squad for 2011, taking the place of the disappointing Ruben Xaus. But Italian site GPOne.com is reporting that Melandri will not be heading for the German manufacturer, but will instead take a seat in the Sterilgarda Yamaha squad. According to GPOne.com, Melandri's manager met with Lin Jarvis and Laurens Klein Koerkamp of Yamaha, and has agreed terms for 2011. An official announcement is expected to be made tomorrow after the World Superbike race at the Nurburgring in Germany.
Results of Superpole:
Carlos Checa continues to lead the World Superbike field going into this afternoon's Superpole session. Behind the Althea Ducati rider, the only change from yesterday was the intrusion of Ten Kate Honda's Johnny Rea, who disrupted the near hegemony Ducati had at the German track. Rea put his Honda into 4th, behind BMW's Troy Corser and Xerox Ducati's Noriyuki Haga. The final starting grid positions will be settled in this afternoon's Superpole session starting at 3pm local time.
Carlos Checa secured provisional pole during the first qualifying session for World Superbikes at the Nurburgring, heading up another fleet of Ducatis on the front row. Ducati's domination was only broken by Troy Corser, who put his BMW S1000RR between Checa and the remainder of the Althea Ducati and Xerox Ducati teams. Michel Fabrizio took 3rd spot for the factory team, while Checa's teammate Shane Byrne took the final spot on the provisional front row. Championship leader Max Biaggi put his Alitalia Aprilia into 6th, while his main rival, Alstare Suzuki's Leon Haslam, could manage only the 11th fastest time.
According to one report on the Dutch website Racesport.nl, Leon Camier fractured his right wrist in a crash, and will take no further part in the weekend's action.
The two days of practice that the Ducati team had at Mugello earlier this week appears to have paid off, and not just for Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga. The top of the timesheets was awash with Ducatis during the first session of free practice at the Nurburgring, with four of them in the top five positions. But it was not a Ducati in the very top spot, Max Biaggi setting the fastest time on the Alitalia Aprilia, and looking in good shape to lock down the World Superbike title as the series enters its final stages. Fabrizio was 2nd fastest, and just over five hundredths off Biaggi, while Althea Ducati's Carlos Checa interposed himself between Fabrizio and Haga in 4th.
Places 5 through 8 were taken by the British contingent. Althea Ducati's Shane Byrne was the fastest Brit, ahead of Ten Kate Honda's Johnny Rea and Sterilgarda Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow in 7th. Championship contender Leon Haslam could only manage the 8th fastest time on the Alstare Suzuki, nearly two thirds of a second slower than Biaggi.
After the shocking revelation that Ducati is to pull out of the World Superbike championship for the 2011 season, the WSBK organizers Infront Motor Sports were quick to respond. CEO Paolo Flammini was quick to point out that the series has always been open to helping the Italian manufacturer maintain parity with the four-cylinder bikes through balancing the regulations, a response to Ducati's hints that the World Superbike regulations made it difficult for the company to compete. Flammini points out in the press release that just last season, the Ducati was battling for supremacy in the championship in the hands of Noriyuki Haga, the Japanese rider losing out to Yamaha's Ben Spies at the final round in Portimao. Here's the full text of the Infront Motor Sports press release on the Ducati situation.
Infront Motor Sports has learnt with disappointment of Ducati's decision not to participate with a factory team in the 2011 FIM Superbike World Championship.
Ducati have announced that they are to withdraw from World Superbikes for the 2011 season as a factory team. More detail to follow, but here's the text of the press release:
DUCATI WILL FOCUS ITS TECHNICAL RESOURCES ON PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT AND WILL NOT PARTICIPATE IN THE 2011 WORLD SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP WITH A FACTORY TEAM
Borgo Panigale (Bologna - Italy), 27 August 2010 - Ducati, having participated with a factory team in every edition of the World Superbike Championship since it began in 1988, winning 16 Manufacturers' world titles and 13 Riders' world titles along the way, has decided to limit its participation to the supply of machines and support to private teams.
With 13 rider's and 16 constructor's championships, the name Ducati is virtually synonymous with World Superbike. In good times and bad Ducati has exemplified the hoary racing aphorism "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday." Indeed, there were years that the Italian marque's presence was so pervasive in the series that wags called it the Ducati Cup.
A variety of sources are reporting that this active participation will come to an end at the finish of the 2010 season when the factory team will cease to compete in WSBK. A plethora of factors are said to have contributed to this decision, perhaps foremost the recent signing of Valentino Rossi to the MotoGP team and the attendant salary and developmental costs that will presumably entail. Ducati has alao apparently decided that, with the Doctor on board, their PR lira would make more of an impact being spent in GPs.
Another factor is that the 1198 platform, which then team manager Davide Tardozzi had said reached it's developmental apogee in 2009, is long in the tooth and will be replaced by a radical new platform that doesn't really resemble its 916/999/1098 forebearers much at all.
Valentino Rossi's desire to race in World Superbikes is well documented, the seven-time MotoGP champion saying as much at Laguna Seca three weeks ago. And upon his return to the circuit he tested Yamaha's YZF-R1 superbike, to assess his fitness to decide whether he would be fit enough to race at the Sachsenring or not, Rossi once again underlined that he would one day like to race in the series.
Rossi was responding to questions on whether it would be possible to race in two classes in the same season. Rossi said that right now, the Moto2 class held no interest for him, and so it was not a goal worth pursuing. "I think the Moto2 is a great show, and is a great opportunity for a lot of riders," Rossi said, "but is not an impressive bike to ride. When you ride a MotoGP, no meaning to ride a Moto2. Maybe it would have more meaning to ride a 250."
As is their custom, the press office at Miller Motorsports Park organized another teleconference with a top rider from the World Superbike paddock. This time, it was the turn of HANNspree Ten Kate Honda's Johnny Rea to field questions from the press. In the conference, Rea talked about his background, discussed the struggles he's had this year to get up to speed, and about how the new Pirelli tires have affected his Honda CBR1000RR. Here's the transcript of what he had to say.