European news media (including the BBC) are all announcing that British MotoGP rider Cal Crutchlow has signed a two-year contract with Ducati for the 2014-2015 seasons, taking the place of Nicky Hayden. Crutchlow had been the hot topic of conversation for the past month, as he let it be known he was looking around for other rides after finding out (and letting that news out as well) that Yamaha had been in talks with Spanish Moto2 rider Pol Espargaro. This angered Crutchlow, who felt he deserved a factory bike after being the highest-placed satellite rider during this season on a consistent basis. It’s expected that in addition to the official announcement by Ducati of Crutchlow’s signing tomorrow, that the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team will announce that Espargaro will be taking Crutchlow’s seat.
Yamaha were obviously keen to keep Crutchlow in the fold, but with both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi in the middle of two-year contracts, the company couldn’t offer him a factory bike and the level of support that Ducati could. It was also rumored that Honda had been in talks to offer Crutchlow the satellite LCR Honda Gresini seat currently occupied by Stefan Bradl. But despite the best efforts of both Yamaha and Honda, Crutchlow decided that a full factory bike and support (along with a much fatter paycheck) was the better course for his career.
Crutchlow is definitely taking a chance, as the Ducati has been struggling ever since Casey Stoner left the team after the 2010 season. Even the best efforts by Rossi and multiple changes to the chassis couldn’t cure a persistent understeer problem that has plagued the bike for the past few seasons, and the spec tire rule (which prevents Bridgestone from building a special tire for the Ducati as it did during Stoner's tenure) hasn’t helped matters either. But since the purchase of Ducati by Audi, there have been signs that things are changing within the factory infrastructure, with many team management personnel being replaced. Time will tell whether Crutchlow has made a good decision.