Following Tuesday’s announcement that factories without a dry MotoGP win in the previous season – in other words Ducati – will be able to combine the advantages of the Factory and Open classes, Cal Crutchlow joked today that, “The rule just got better for us again!”
The Englishman has made the move to the Italian manufacturer for this season, when Ducati planned to break ranks with Honda and Yamaha by switching from the Factory to Open class, in order to continue machine development and return to front-running form.
But the last-minute rule amendment means Ducati will remain in the Factory class, but enjoy the Open class concessions – in areas such as race fuel, engine changes, softer tyres, engine development and testing – until they achieve a certain number of top three results.
Speaking in Qatar on Wednesday, Crutchlow admitted that some of the Open concessions give the team an advantage whereas others provide little change for Ducati.
“The soft tyre might be a benefit in qualifying,” said Crutchlow. “But I don’t even believe that because I was always able to run a fast lap time on the same tyre as everyone else so that should be the same now and I won’t have to worry about using the soft tyre to get the fast lap time. I don’t believe we’ll use the soft tyre in any of the races. I believe that we’ll the same tyre as everyone else at races.”
The four litre difference in fuel capacity is likely to help Ducati at some circuits where consumption is an issue. But Crutchlow dismissed the idea that having extra fuel would provide an outright advantage in terms of engine performance with the former World Supersport champion saying:
“It’s difficult because we can’t use all the power we have anyway and we’re trying to tune the engine down and make the bike smoother. We’re not trying to make it a rocket.”
The decision to grant Ducati these concessions, of which only race fuel and the softer tyre will be affected by dry weather podiums, means that the team is unsure what to expect from the opening rounds.
“I think it’s going to be an interesting weekend. The same guys are going to be at the front with Aleix [Espargaro] and some other guys thrown in. I’m excited to see where we’re going to pan out.”
For Crutchlow it is important to remember the final goals of making the move, rather than thinking in terms of the immediate future. To this end, good or bad, the Englishman won’t be reading too much into the results in Qatar.
“I’m not taking this race as a benchmark. If we finished 20th at this race it would make no difference to if we think we’re going in the right direction. Or if we win this race it would make no difference to if we’re going in the right direction.”
Although Ducati ultimately stayed out of the Open class, Crutchlow feels their desire to join the category and input into the standard ECU software is positive for the sport. “We’re the team trying to help the situation in MotoGP and we’re the ones trying to help develop the [ECU] system and technology.”
He added: “Ducati has made some decisions, but then so has everyone else. Some decisions got taken out of our hands as well. I’m happy with the decision Ducati made. It gives us a chance to develop our bike, which is what we need.”
In terms of what kind of future developments are needed, the former Tech 3 Yamaha rider explained: “We have to stop, turn the bike and fire it out more than carrying the corner speed. I think there’s room to improve in that area, to be able to carry the corner speed and run with the other manufacturers.
“But we’re making progress, there’s no doubt about that. You can see from what Andrea [Dovizioso] did in testing at Sepang. The bike is competitive over a lap, over a race I don’t know yet.”
The fallout from the Ducati Open/Factory situation is that MotoGP will now have an Open-style control ECU for all from 2016.