UPDATED: Forward Racing Boss Denies Reports That Colin Edwards Will Quit Racing After Jerez
The Jerez round of MotoGP could be the very last race for Colin Edwards. The Texas Tornado could relinquish his place in MotoGP directly after the Spanish race, to make way for another rider.
NGM Forward team boss Giovanni Cuzari told Italian Sky TV that there would be a meeting on Monday with Edwards to discuss his future with the team. Forward's sponsors are reportedly not happy with having Aleix Espargaro circulating at the front, while Edwards has been unable to match the pace of his teammate.
Edwards has been unhappy with the Yamaha chassis from the very beginning, and had hoped to receive a chassis from FTR, which Forward had originally intended to race for 2014. However, Forward is alleged not to have paid FTR for the chassis, and the British chassis builder has refused to supply the frames, which are rumored to be now sitting idly in the company's headquarters in Buckingham.
If Edwards is forced to step down, then the most likely candidate to replace him is Danilo Petrucci. The young Italian could be moved out of the IODA Racing team to ride the Forward Yamaha. That would make room for Leon Camier, who originally signed with IODA to contest the 2014 season aboard the ART machine, but that deal fell through when IODA lost sponsorship, and could not afford to run two riders. Moving Petrucci to Forward and slotting Camier into IODA would resolve that situation.
Simone Corsi has also been linked to the ride, as the Forward Moto2 rider is set to test the bike during the MotoGP test on Monday. That, however, is to evaluate a move to MotoGP in 2015, rather than to move him up immediately.
To check the veracity of the Italian TV reports, we went to Giovanni Cuzari to ask him what he had actually said. Cuzari claimed that Italian TV misinterpreted his words, and Edwards would be free to ride for the rest of his contract. When asked what he had told Italian television, Cuzari said "I tell them that the next race, starting on Monday, I would like to speak to my rider Colin Edwards, who has a deal with me to the end of the season, and I will 100% respect my deal. But, if he's uncomfortable to stay like this, he's able to do what he wants, nothing else."
"For me, I love Colin Edwards," Cuzari told us. "I build a lot of things with Colin Edwards. For me, he can stay to the end of the season, I'm only happy. But, if he's a little bit frustrated to stay like this, because one is on top and the other one is not in the first ten but in the last five position, for me I'm able to respect his decision. That's it."
Cuzari said he had not spoken to Edwards about the situation yet, but would speak to him on Monday. "After the race I will speak with my rider, and say, 'listen, what do you want to do? Do you want to wait for the new chassis or something like that, or would you prefer to make something different? For me, I am open for discussion, because I know that Colin is open to discussion as well. Nothing else. The Italian journalists, every time they speak a little bit too much. They interpret a bit too much. But we are a serious team, we have a serious deal with Colin. Colin is my rider since three years, more than 100% our rider."
Did Cuzari want to see Edwards continue, or retire now, he was asked. "I don't know, because I'm not on the bike," Cuzari said. "When I was a rally driver, honestly speaking, and I start to see that I 'improve my belly' [put on some weight] and the lap time was a little bit worse, I say to my team, sorry guys, we continue with my team, I stay owner of my team in the rally championship, but I stop racing, because no way, it doesn't make sense, I was not competitive, you know? And for me, because Colin is a two-time world champion, he is a hero for me, I'm not happy to see my hero like this. This is the truth."
When asked about the situation with FTR, Cuzari denied that the relationship had broken down. "We still have a relationship with FTR, if they are ready to support us, we are ready to go ahead. Otherwise, fortunately we have our own consultants [to help build a chassis]," Cuzari said. When asked about allegations that Forward had failed to pay FTR, Cuzari flat out denied it. "Honestly is the opposite. But I don't want to go into details, because I'm a gentleman."