CN III IN THE PADDOCK
BY MICHAEL SCOTT
CRUTCHLOW AND THE DESMO DIRGE
t's hard to believe that the best
that Audi and Ducati can do
between them is to keep on
scrabbling with their fingernails,
managing only narrowly to stop
themselves sliding further away
backwards into the clutches of
the CRT bikes.
New ownership, new management, new staff members, new
working practices, new money
and a combination of old and
new riders can surely do better
than this. Especially with a series
of evolutionary developments
tested on the so-called lab bike
by full-time tester Michele Pirro.
By and large (though not every
time) Ducati lap times are better
than last year. The problem is
simple: so too are the lap times of
the rivals. And the riders' dirge is
the same as that which darkened
the Doctor's Ducati doldrums:
"Understeer, poor corner entry,
wanders off line, rear suspension
pumps, good power wasted on a
bad chassis, hope it rains tomorrow."
It's still hard to believe there
is not something better coming,
and apparently Cal Crutchlow
shares that conviction.
Or is he just a victim of circumstance, talent and age, at a time
when there are more factoryclass bottoms than there are factory saddles to put them on?
Cal's status as junior alien and
best of the rest is substantiated
by results that have steadily im-
proved over two-and-a-half years
in the premier class. Until Laguna, the last race of the first half of
the season, he outranked Valentino Rossi in the points and has
beaten him twice. The British relative rookie languished just one
point behind the grand master, in
spite of riding a (marginally) lower
grade of Yamaha.
His claim to be worthy of a factory bike is equally strident, and
equally plausible. If all was right
with the world, he'd be a shooin for Yamaha. But all is not right:
He's been passed over. Yamaha
did offer to pay his salary to stay
put (lord knows what they would
have done with the already contracted Bradley Smith), but his
stature demands at least a firm
promise of a full factory bike in
the foreseeable future.
Yamaha however have some-
one else in mind, for when Rossi
or Jorge Lorenzo depart the factory squad. Mindful of the threat
of future domination by Honda's
prize new boy wonder Marc Marquez, still only 20 and with years
of winning left in him, Yamaha has
snapped up his (defeated) Moto2
rival Pol Espargaro, in the hope
that the 22-year-old can have another pop at his compatriot.
The prospects at Honda were
no better: a B-grade production
racer with the Gresini team, with
the carrot of a satellite bike for
the following year. Not a step forward, in terms of status or performance.
At 27, Crutchlow can't afford to
spend too much more time waiting, anyway.
Ducati could not only offer
him a factory bike, such as it is.
They could also offer him a fee