Cal Crutchlow will join Yamaha as its official test rider for the 2021 MotoGP season, the Japanese manufacturer announced on Friday morning. The Brit has been searching for a new berth since losing his factory Honda-backed LCR ride earlier this year to Alex Marquez, with a rumoured switch to Aprilia’s factory squad not coming to maturity.
Crutchlow instead chased a test role with Yamaha amid suggestions that current tester Jorge Lorenzo would part ways with the organisation following this season.
His appointment has subsequently been confirmed on Friday morning just after opening practice for the Valencia Grand Prix, Yamaha’s statement also confirming the exit of Lorenzo and its disappointment that “external circumstances held this partnership back from realising their mutual objectives.”
Crutchlow will get his first taste of the ’21-spec M1 during MotoGP’s shakedown test at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia in mid-Feburary, while a possible wildcard outing could be on the cards “if deemed beneficial to the testing programme.”
“First and foremost I would like to say ‘welcome back’ to Cal,” said Yamaha Managing Director Lin Jarvis.
“He spent three seasons with us in the Monster Energy Yamaha Tech3 team before moving on to gain a further seven years of experience with two of our main competitors.
“This wealth of experience, coupled with Cal’s honest no-nonsense approach, will surely benefit us greatly as we strive to improve our YZR-M1 bikes with a full testing programme next year.”
Crutchlow’s switch to a testing role brings his near-decade run as a race rider in MotoGP to an end, having secured three victories in this time-all with current outfit LCR Honda-collecting a further 16 podium finishes with the Tech 3, factory Ducati and LCR teams.
He has scored a best championship result of fifth, coming in ’13 in his final season with the Tech 3 Yamaha squad. Prior to his MotoGP graduation Crutchlow won the World Supersport title on Yamaha machinery in ’09, before spending a single season with the manufacturer in the World Superbike series the following year-bagging 3 wins on his way to fifth in the standings.
Lorenzo meanwhile was set to compete in this year’s Catalan GP at the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya before the event was postponed as a result of Covid-19, while the banning of any wild-card appearances by Dorna for the rest of the restarted campaign ruled him out of competition for the rest of the year.
Cracks in the relationship between the two parties started to emerge after Yamaha elected not to replace Valentino Rossi-who had contracted Covid-19- with Lorenzo for the Aragon double-header, a venue Lorenzo loves.
Jarvis says it was “regrettable” that Lorenzo was unable to carry out Yamaha’s planned test programme as a result of the restrictions Covid has placed on the working world in ’20, but thanked the Mallorcan for the “many years of collaboration with Yamaha.”
“Of course, we had planned and hoped for a strong programme this year with Jorge,” continued Jarvis.
“Unfortunately, our Factory Test Team soon had to put their plans on hold as the Covid-19 pandemic started and continued to influence 2020 from March onwards.
“It’s regrettable that we have not been able to carry out our testing programme and realize our goals.
“We wish Jorge all the best in his future endeavours, and we thank him for his many years of collaboration with Yamaha.”