Cal Crutchlow's offer of a factory ride at Ducati moved from conjecture to established fact at Assen, Crutchlow tacitly acknowledging that the factory which had offered him a contract was indeed Ducati. Though Crutchlow is waiting on an offer from the factory Yamaha team before giving Ducati an answer - Crutchlow is directly behind Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa in the Silly Season pecking order - he is believed to be very keen to take the ride, regarding a factory ride as the only chance he has of having a shot at being World Champion.
At Barcelona, when asked by MotoMatters.com whether the plight of the many top riders that have struggled on the Ducati worried him, Crutchlow told reporters it did not, saying that the similarities between his own riding style and Casey Stoner's made him optimistic he could learn to ride the GP13. "If I looked at my riding style and Casey's riding style, how we open the gas, how we brake, stuff like that, obviously he's a second a lap faster most of the time, but it's similar," Crutchlow said. "And as he's the only one who's been able to ride the Ducati, then I'm not scared to maybe take a chance and go there, no."
When Stoner himself was asked whether he thought Crutchlow's style was similar to his own, the Australian said to be careful of comparisons. "Everybody said Marco's [Melandri] style was similar to mine, and we saw what happened with that," Stoner said. "I don't think anyone has a similar style, everyone has their own DNA. Cal brakes a lot later than me and takes different lines to me, so I think the only thing that looks similar sometimes is that we're a bit more ragged than other people, but as far as style goes, I don't think we have a similar style, we just don't mind the bike moving around."
Nicky Hayden, the man Crutchlow has been penciled in to replace at Ducati, had an opportunity to examine Crutchlow's style in depth at Assen, after Crutchlow spent a number of laps mixing it up with the factory Ducatis of Hayden and Valentino Rossi and the Pramac satellite machine of Hector Barbera. Speaking a little more freely than usual, Hayden's place at Ducati having been offered to Crutchlow while the American's option to extend with Ducati had been allowed to lapse by the Bologna factory, Hayden expanded on what he had seen of Crutchlow's style in this race and on previous occasions.
"Yeah, I rode a lot with Cal today, but I don't know," Hayden told reporters, when asked if he thought what he had seen of Crutchlow's style resembled that of Hayden's former Ducati teammate Stoner. "Of course Cal has got the right attitude, he's not going to give up real easy, but today he was fighting that Yamaha a lot to be racing with me. Obviously he got a bad start, but he's not going to have to fight that Ducati any less," Hayden said. "I know people say he rides a lot like Stoner, but, from where I'm sitting I don't see him riding a lot like Stoner. From what I watched there's a little difference there." Hayden was keen to emphasize that he was trying to be impartial, and his impressions had nothing to do with his own contractual situation with Ducati. "I don't want to sound like a hater, just because they're offering him my bike, but we'll see, I guess," Hayden said.
"Cal beat me, he's a good rider obviously, but to say he rides like Stoner, I'm not sure," the American continued, going on to explain what he had seen of Stoner's style. "When people talk about Stoner, they say you gotta be aggressive, and really work that Ducati. But when you saw Stoner go fast on the Ducati he let the bike move, the bike moved but he didn't. He was smooth. You know, his body, he never fought the bike, he let the bike just move under him. Where Cal, the bike moves, but also he moves a lot." Crutchlow had at least part of the equation, Hayden said, and that was the correct attitude. "Of course it's interesting, and he's got a lot of potential, and certainly got the right attitude, he's not gonna give up the first couple of crashes, but it would be interesting to see."
If Crutchlow's style was not similar to Stoner's, one veteran reporter asked, whose style was it similar to? Hayden had to think about that for a while, before opining that Crutchlow's style was rather unique. "I think he's kinda got his own style," Hayden said. "I mean, Cal's fast, he's beaten me just about every race this year, so I'm gonna look silly to say anything. I mean he rides hard, and that's the one thing this bike needs, somebody to be aggressive, to heat the tires. But to say who he rides like? I'd say he really rides like Cal, he has his own style which obviously works for him."
Whether Crutchlow's style is similar to Stoner's or not, and whether or not it will work with the Ducati remains to be seen. If Crutchlow gets the offer of a factory ride from Yamaha, his preferred option, we may never find out. If he does decide to switch to Ducati, gambling on Borgo Panigale's ability to improve the bike - possibly with the assistance of Ducati's new owners Audi - then We should know by Qatar 2013 just how successful his style is with the Desmosedici.