Yesterday at Mugello Yamaha bounced back after fearing the worst from Honda’s developments. Round 5 of the 18 in 2013 saw Lorenzo leading with the two Repsol Honda’s in tow however with around half race distance complete the Spaniard put the hammer down and drove off into the lead. It was looking like another all Spanish affair until Dani Pedrosa encountered issues and began to slow. Eventually Marquez passed him with a excellent clean overtake (he looked like he was terrified of bowling off his team mate and current championship leader) . However as has happened all weekend Marquez chucked the bike down the road (after some horrific crashes during the practice sessions which left him with a patch up job having to be done on his chin).
This left Yamaha Tech III rider Cal Crutchlow to pick up the pieces and although he attempted to chase down Dani he admitted that after seeing Marquez crash out he buttoned off the pace and had settled for yet another podium. Despite the other Satellite bikes of Ducati and Honda receiving factory support and thus essentially the full factory bikes the Tech III team only have a good Satellite package and as such should be at a bit of a disadvantage. However the British rider is well on his way to beating Valentino in the standings this year and is pushing hard to get a full factory bike. The rumours flying round the paddock this weekend are that Cal has demanded a factory bike amongst rumours that Lin Jarvis was intent on signing Pol Espagaro to run in the Tech III team with a full factory bike in 2014. The picture now however has become more complicated as Suzuki have essentially stated that Cal is welcome to walk into a contract with the returning manufacturer next season and that Ducati are also interested in signing him to re-unite Tech III’s 2013 line up on the factory Desmosedici bikes. Additionally Crutchlow appears to have the support of Monster (Yamaha and Tech III’s primary sponsor) so if he leaves he could take the Energy drinks cash with him creating a real head-ache for Yamaha.
Crashes and Heartbreak lower in the pack
Despite being on the pace most of the weekend Valentino Rossi failed to get onto the front 2 rows and started from 7th meaning he had to get a sharp get away on Sunday in a perfect Mugello race track drenched in sunlight. However he collided with Alvaro Bautista on the first lap with both riders going for the same piece of tarmac and getting tangled in the chaos of the mid-field race start. It highlights an issue with Rossi this year of not being able to extract the maximum one lap pace and has essentially now put him out of the running for the title and will require some effort to get back past Crutchlow in the standings. Furthermore there was a bad crash for Bradley Smith in practice that left him with a damaged hand and a skin graft appointment this morning, however he saved face by racing on Sunday and despite some scares bringing the bike home in 8th position. Ben Spies recovery took another dent with the American having to withdraw on Friday from running the race as he still felt a lack of power in his shoulder and accepted that it would of been foolish to ride, the former race winner will try again next time out in Spain. Stefan Bradl improved on his dire finishing record this season by keeping it on the island and passing the factory Ducati’s into 4th place, which will be a relief for the German who hasn’t had the best of starts to his 2013 campaign.
Goodbye CRT hello Non-MSMA
Also in the news of over the weekend was the widely expected rule change that will see the “Claiming Rule” dropped as there is now a different distinction between the classes in 2014. Teams running the spec ECU and software will be classified as “non-MSMA” and will get 24 litres of fuel alongside 12 engines for the year. However any team can now elect to become a MSMA team and run 20 litres of fuel and only 5 engines per year in return from being able to write their own software for the ECU. This will relax Yamaha’s fears as they plan to release lease customer engines next year and it also opens the way for a much more aggressive engine from Aprilla (as previously discussed the manufacturer may release an update this year to significantly increase the power of the bikes). Next year there should be at least 2 FTR Kawasaki’s alongside Aspar continuing with the Aprilla ART, NGM Forward Racing are looking at the Yamaha engines and other teams are evaluating Honda’s “customer bike”.