Yesterday, it was Bradley Smith, today it is Cal Crutchlow. On Wednesday, the LCR Honda team announced that Cal Crutchlow will be riding with the team for two more seasons. The deal will see Crutchlow staying with LCR for 2016, giving him an option to stay on for 2017 as well.
Crutchlow's deal has been a long time coming. Talks were started as early as Barcelona, with Crutchlow looking for a two-year extension with LCR. Honda were keen to keep Crutchlow within the ranks, as the Englishman has been able to provide valuable feedback to HRC for the RC213V. With Honda having taken a wrong path for this season, having an extra rider to provide development input has been important. Crutchlow's results have been solid this year, including a podium at Argentina, though he has also found himself in the gravel a number of times.
There had been a brief flirtation with Pramac Ducati, Crutchlow entering talks with the satellite Ducati team about racing for the Italian factory once again. This, however, appears to have been more of a bargaining chip to use with Honda, rather than a serious attempt to return to the fold at Bologna.
The announcement from LCR also contains the first public acknowledgement that the team's sponsorship deal with CWM is at an end. It has been a troubled relationship from the start, with London's City Police raiding CWM's offices in London on suspicion of fraud back in April, and company boss Anthony Constantinou having been charged on multiple counts of sexual assault. CWM had already paid most of the sponsorship money owed to LCR, but after failing to pay the final instalment, believed to be over €1 million, the sponsorship contract was terminated. From Silverstone, CWM will disappear from the bikes, LCR returning to their previous system of rotating title sponsors each event. This weekend, it is Givi on the bike.
Crutchlow's signing with LCR does not mean the end of Jack Miller's slot with the team. Sources close to the team are confident that LCR will be able to continue to run two bikes in 2016, with Miller on the second machine.
With Crutchlow and Smith now signed up ahead of Silverstone, the question is whether more British riders will announce their futures this weekend. Danny Kent had been linked to the Pramac Ducati ride at Brno, but since then, the Moto3 championship leader has had competition from Scott Redding, who has struggled with the Honda RC213V and has happy memories of testing the Desmosedici. Sam Lowes has a precontract with Aprilia, though there have been some suggestions that Aprilia may be looking elsewhere. Kent, Redding and Lowes are less likely to make their announcement at Silverstone, as talks for Kent and Redding are still at an early stage, and Aprilia are more likely to wait until their home GP at Misano to make an announcement. Moto3 rider John McPhee is still in early talks with a number of Moto3 teams.
Below is the press release from LCR on the Crutchlow deal:
CAL CRUTCHLOW RENEWS DEAL WITH LCR HONDA TEAM
LCR Honda is pleased to announce that the British rider Cal Crutchlow will extend his cooperation with Honda HRC and the LCR Team managed by Lucio Cecchinello for the 2016 season, with a further option for 2017.
Based on the Isle of Man, 29 year-old Crutchlow has so far claimed 74 points this season on board the factory-spec Honda RC213V, including a stunning podium finish at the Grand Prix of Argentina.
LCR is also pleased to announce that GIVI (a long-term partner of the LCR Honda Team) will be the Title Sponsor on Crutchlow's Honda RC213V at his home race, the British Grand Prix, at Silverstone this weekend.
Lucio Cecchinello (Team Principal):”I am happy to announce the extension of our cooperation with Cal, who is one of the most talented riders in the whole MotoGP field. He has got the skills and the potential to battle with the top riders and fight for the podium spots, as he demonstrated in Argentina earlier this season. Cal is extremely professional and during the season we have built up a great rapport. it's a pleasure to be working with Cal again in 2016 and I look forward to the years to come"
Cal Crutchlow: "I am very happy to continue my relationship with LCR for 2016 and 2017. Lucio has a fantastic team and I look forward to growing further with them and with Honda. We started the season well and I believe we can score some great results in the rest of this year and in the season to come."
LCR Honda Team would like to sincerely thank CWM for their support.