Andrea Dovizioso To Take A Sabbatical, Cal Crutchlow To Take Yamaha Test Rider Role?

Andrea Dovizioso's future is becoming increasingly clear, and his choices are going to have a knock on effect for the test rider market. According to a report from Motorsport.com's Oriol Puigdemont, Dovizioso has decided to take a sabbatical and spend a year racing motocross, in the hope of making a return to MotoGP in 2022.

Dovizioso had been in talks with KTM, Yamaha, and Honda for a role as a test rider, and at one point had looked very close to signing with HRC, to work as a test rider, and as a competitive replacement rider in the worst-case scenario of Marc Marquez not being fit enough to start the 2021 season. He was also a long way into negotiations with Yamaha to replace Jorge Lorenzo as test rider, but both those options fell at the last hurdle.

There are a number of reasons for negotiations to have failed. Firstly, there was Dovizioso's insistence that he wanted to race motocross at the national level in Italy. Manufacturers are believed not to have been thrilled by the thought of signing Dovizioso as a test rider, and him being unable to fulfil his duties if he were to pick up an injury in an MX race.

Secondly, Dovizioso made no secret of his desire to return to racing in 2022. That meant that factories knew that they would only have him as a test rider for one year, and risked losing him - and the knowledge of their bikes he would have acquired - to a rival the following season. That placed Dovizioso's manager Simone Battistella in a weaker negotiating position, and factories appear to have been unwilling to accede to his demands.

According to the story by Puigdemont, Dovizioso will announce his intention to take a sabbatical some time this week. Whether that sabbatical will turn into permanent retirement is a good question. With several contracts up for grabs in 2022, as well as two extra bikes on the grid from Gresini and Aprilia splitting into two separate teams, and the VR46 operation expected to take over from Avintia, there are options open. But there will also be another batch of young talent coming through from Moto2, and at 36 years of age, Dovizioso may not be at the top of most team's candidate lists.

With Dovizioso out of the equation, that opens the door for a reshuffle in the test rider market. Yamaha have dispensed with Jorge Lorenzo's services after a disappointing performance at Portimao, and because Lorenzo did not keep himself in the kind of shape needed to ride a MotoGP bike at a competitive pace.

That opens doors for Cal Crutchlow. The Englishman lost his ride at LCR Honda earlier this year, and had been linked to the second seat at Aprilia. However, Aprilia's insistence on waiting for the outcome of Andrea Iannone's appeal to the CAS against his suspension for doping violations has not sat well with any of the potential candidates for the role, and especially not with Crutchlow, who has been very outspoken against doping.

At 35 years of age, and with a daughter approaching school age, a role as a test rider would suit Crutchlow much better. Those who have worked with him through the years have praised his feedback, and he played a key role in driving development of the Honda RC213V.

All this puts Crutchlow at the front of the line for the Yamaha test rider role. Well-informed Italian journalist Giovanni Zamagni, writing for Moto.it, is reporting that the deal is almost done, with Crutchlow set to sign a two-year deal with Yamaha as a test rider. This reporting confirms information from my own sources in the paddock, which put Crutchlow in extended talks with Yamaha for the role.

With Dovizioso out of the picture and Crutchlow heading to Yamaha, this leaves one big open question. Who will take the second seat at Aprilia for next year if Iannone's suspension is either upheld or extended, which appears to be the most likely outcome. Aprilia may find themselves forced to either sign Lorenzo Savadori, current test rider, to a full-time role, after parting ways with Bradley Smith, or look outside the MotoGP paddock for a replacement.

Source: 

Back to top

Comments

Who would be with Crutchlow at Yamaha? Is it still Folger?
And didn't Yamaha set up a European test team 2 years ago, but never really used it (just because of corona, or did they change their strategy?) And isn't it quite likely that the whole corona thing won't be over next year and Yamaha won't use the European team again?
A lot of question marks....

I can't say exactly what Lorenzo's problem was at Portimao, since I wasn't there, but I can see Cal not being that interested in building a fast production based motorcycle to keep bike fit if there's a gap in MotoGP testing.

Cal's always making noises about not actually liking riding a MotoGP bike. Does that extend to doing the odd track-day to keep his eye in? Is he good enough mates with Rossi that he'd get an invite and have fun riding at Misano with the VR46 crew?

Pop down the LCR garage and ask him, will you David?

Fitness isn't an issue for Crutchlow - he's a fanatical cyclist. Doesn't ride a motorcycle off-season so no change there.

Easy out and hard in for the MotoGP grid. Difficult to see Dovi having a good go at a return. Wishing him the very best of MotoX racing and being home, he has earned it. He has swum upstream for a long time. 

I've not yet registered it that Yamaha and Jorge are quits, did I miss it? I can't fault him much for having enjoyed eating some hams when his year was all but cancelled. He is still Lorenzo, and Yamaha is not in a saintly position of late. He has been looking elsewhere and things are up in the air was the take a week ago. Interesting scoop re Cal and Yamaha! That likely keeps him in Europe rather than his California coastal bicycling plan. 

Aprilia will grab a kid from outside MotoGP. And should. No guess here yet. Savadori is a safe backup if there isn't a solid option arising. Aprilia may end up with the short stick via their waiting game. There isn't a single peep out there saying Iannone stays, is there? Could it be, after all this, Lorenzo to Aprilia to race?! Honda still may need a test rider by the way. 

My gaze tests on the addition of 2 bikes with Gresini. It pains that there is decreasing likelihood of 2 more Suzukis, more of Aprilia. If wishes were bikes, we would have 32 out there. 

...to have a tide stopping contest. Guess who won?

Well, I am not the sort to leave you hanging; Tide 6, Canutes 0.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro - HST

And all the cards dealt in the 2020 shitshow have been very weird indeed, and I expect next year to bring more of the same. And yet the High and Mighty clamor for regular order or death. In a normal sort of reality, one could make an argument that Dovi must conform to Corporate Norms, that racing MX on the National Stage is just too high a risk for them to sign off on. But the normal sort of reality train left the station a long time ago...and then for good measure jumped the tracks, rolled down a ravine, and exploded. To get somewhere now you have to take a mule. Oh, and I should mention all the mules are drunk.

Some of these outfits desperately need someone of Dovi's (or Cal's) talents pushing their racebike to the edge and then providing actionable feedback. For that, I would take the risk of his tweaking himself on the Italian MX circuit. Hell, I would allow him to participate in Muay Thai tournaments if Dovi were so inclined, or compete in the SE Asia underbone series, the latter being only a bit more dangerous than the former. Because no one knows what the future holds. Who could predict that Jorge's passions would shift from training and the pursuit of metronomic precision on a race track to emptying large bowls of custard? Or that you could only get him to participate in a scheduled track test by adding "And, Jorge? There will be pie available all day!"

The "well, what if Dovi takes all our secrets to another team in 2022?" concern is properly filed under don't make me laugh. What would he reveal about Aprilia? That they catch fire entirely too often, but are sadly very easy to extinguish? That they should focus on making their external combustion engine burn much longer and more completely? What could he say about Suzuki that Rins and Mir have not already revealed? Will Dovi confide from a year spent with HRC that "No, it is not a nickname. He is a real live spider in an actual bottle". Give away KTM's game with a single "no, really...I used a magnet to check!"? Will he thrill all of us by divulging 13 months from now that Yamaha's are slow, unreliable, and just a bit south of proper? Wow, what a scoop.

"Fat, Drunk, and Stupid is no way to go through Life, Son"

Wait, that was supposed to be slow, unreliable, and illegal. Either way...in the end...all Vale could do was laugh to himself inside his helmet about the current state of the House of Iwata when he opened the throttle Sunday and his bike went "Meh...not today GOAT".

When you cheat, you are supposed to get faster, not the other way around. Next time try adding NOx cylinders inside the clip-ons feeding the intakes just above the shower-nozzle injectors, and let the valves be. Everyone sadly understands that thoroughbreds do not have the reliability of plow horses. But Yamaha now seems to have unstabled a horse that combines slow and brittle in a very special way. This may be a crossover from some University research near Iwata that is attempting to create a super pet; One with the Cleanliness of a Dog and the Loyalty of a Cat.

Like Stink on a Monkey

If I were any of these Teams I would grab onto Dovi for as a long as I can, whatever the risks posed by riding some spindly thing with knobbies in a swarm of mad Italian youngsters...or dishing a bit of gossip post season. Because these are not normal times. And a little risk-monkey stink is a very small price to pay for making progress in an Escher Sketch world.

Hell, even KTM should have grabbed Dovi. Just add a weight clause to Petrux's contract...and make sure there is always plenty of pie and custard on hand...and you would see Dovi on a Tech Trois by late May.

The Beatings will continue until Morale Improves

Because God forbid your string of pilots are actually smiling and happy. You know, like the lads at Suzuki and KTM, and risks be damned. I mean, Jeebus, it's not Andrea's first rodeo. and he is not known for habitually lobbing motorcycles at the surrounding scenery. And if he does, at least you won't have to grovel before the big bosses trying to explain youir European Test Program with; "well, sir, you see...it, um...it was the pie". Or all the Canutes could just stay the course and see if the Tide wants to go best 2 out of 3. Cheers.

 

Who could predict that Jorge's passions would shift from training and the pursuit of metronomic precision on a race track to emptying large bowls of custard? Or that you could only get him to participate in a scheduled track test by adding "And, Jorge? There will be pie available all day!"

Cruel. Hilarious. But cruel.

When you cheat, you are supposed to get faster, not the other way around.

To be fair Yamaha didn't intend to cheat, at least if you go by their official sort-of-credible story. 

  • Batch 0: Homologation sample. Fitted with 2019 valves (standard practice acc. to Jarvis).
  • Batch 1: Delivered at season opener. Fitted with 2020 valves - delivered by new supplier but built to 2019 design specs. Failed at Jerez. Revealed to have material that varied from the 2019 valves.
  • Batch 2: Delivered mid-season. Fitted with used 2019 valves.

Batch 1 was technically illegal because of the material distinction between Batch 0 and Batch 1 but the cause for that, according to Yamaha, was that their old vendor became unavailable, which is... plausible, given the pandemic. 

Thanks for the kind words, mate, and I was right with you...up to about a five days ago...

"...To be fair Yamaha didn't intend to cheat, at least if you go by their official sort-of-credible story. 

  • Batch 0: Homologation sample. Fitted with 2019 valves (standard practice acc. to Jarvis).
  • Batch 1: Delivered at season opener. Fitted with 2020 valves - delivered by new supplier but built to 2019 design specs. Failed at Jerez. Revealed to have material that varied from the 2019 valves.
  • Batch 2: Delivered mid-season. Fitted with used 2019 valves.

Batch 1 was technically illegal because of the material distinction between Batch 0 and Batch 1 but the cause for that, according to Yamaha, was that their old vendor became unavailable, which is... plausible, given the pandemic."

Unintentional...how is that even a crime? I mean, do they hand out Nobel Prizes for Unintentional Chemistry?

The problem is that now Speedweek (Germany) has reported that the examination Danny Aldridge arranged at Padua University may have also shown that certain geometric characteristics are different as well, I suspect just upstream or downstream of the seat area. Of course, these are not your typical multi angle valve/seat interfaces, but rather the intersection of two very sophisticated surfaces (one on the seat and one on the valve) of constantly varying radii along the direction of flow (and also varying circumferentially on the seat side). The actual contact area is a very narrow conic band for heat transfer. This has also been reported by the Italian site GP_One, but their report appears to be just an echo of what Speedweek had already stated, not a second source confirmation.

These two News Agencies / Gossip Columns (I love them both, but diligent fact checking never stood between either and a great scoop) are also reporting that the Padua examinations not only revealed a slight variance in the percentages of Ti/Al in the base material, but the hardness spec of the "Supplier #2" valves was on the order of 50% less than the originals (Supplier #1). This is a staggering miss, and should not be possible with any valid QC Program1. Coupon testing of sophisticated components like valves in GP motors is the norm, and would have instantly revealed any disparity with the engineering specifications. Or perhaps they were working to an altered set of specs?.

Yes, I also believed that the pandemic induced supply problem was a plausible rationale, one that should have obviated the following handbag fights over opening the remaining engines. Except it has also been reported (or rumored, reader's choice) that part of the pushback from MSMA was that Iwata was unable to obtain any statements from the original manufacturer (SP#1) that would confirm this inability to continue to supply Yamaha with these components. It is a very poor alibi witness who gets on the stand and testifies; "I really don't know what nutzy over there is talking about. It never happened".

Never Complain; Never Explain ~ Benjamin Disraeli

I think Iwata should have taken Dizzy's advice. When the man in the collar says "say three Hail Mary's and six Our Fathers and your sins are forgiven...go forth and sin no more", you immediately leave the confessional and STFU about your sinful ways. What you don't do is stick around and reply; "but Father, I still really want to explain all the details of how that body ended up in the trunk of my car".

Iwata had a gold plated get out of jail free card gifted to them, and all they had to do was put it in their pocket, zip it, and walk humbly away. But I guess some on Yamaha's soon to be reduced MotoGP Management Staff decided that what the big bosses in Iwata really love is drama, and lot's of it ("say, boys, this story is still stuck on Mothra...I say let's add some Godzilla to make the big bosses happy and show them we can really handle a crisis"). I am guessing they are wrong. Cheers.

PS, All of this remains unsubstantiated gossip with the gaps filled in by ugly rumors. The world will know the truth if they release the Padua University Report. But if the world is like me, their carefactor = 0. The whole sad show's main act is incompetence, and that is really of no interest to me when I have already had that ladled out to me by the bucketful this year. Cheers.

1. The only historical example that comes to mind is the laughable dispersion of Italian Battleship Salvos in WW2 (The Regia Marina had superb 15" guns, and optical sights equal to or better than the RN, USN, or IJN. But the quality control of their shell manufacturing was honored more in the breach than the observance, meaning no two Italian projectiles would fly the same distance, or even the same direction, even when part of a single salvo from the same turret. Or, in layman's terms, they couldn't hit a barn...from the inside).

 

But the quality control of their shell manufacturing was honored more in the breach

Nice.