The riders’ market follows its own rules, especially this year with the championship halted by the coronavirus. The consequence is that there are riders who have learnt that this will be the last season for them with their respective teams even before having done a single race.
The names are those of Danilo Petrucci and Cal Crutchlow. The former will have to make room for Jack Miller, already announced by Ducati, while the second for Alex Marquez, to whom Pol Espargarò has been preferred in the official Honda team and who will therefore have to move to the LCR team.
An unpleasant description for the two riders could be that of having been ‘shafted’, but where one door closes another door opens and they could find an excellent arrangement in MotoGP for the future, without having to think about retiring (Cal) or going to SBK (Danilo).
There is one manufacturer in particular that desperately needs an experienced rider, and it is KTM. Pol was the only one in its ranks experienced enough to carry on the development work (together with Pedrosa) and guarantee some certainty among the many up-and-coming youngsters. Aside from Espargarò, at the moment, the most experienced rider in MotoGP is Miguel Oliveira, who can only boast one season, while Brad Binder and Iker Lecuona are two rookies. Considering that this will be half a season, things will not be too different next year either.
Also for this reason KTM might give up on Jorge Martin (under its wing in Moto2 with the Ajo team) leaving him to Ducati. The Spaniard has talent but he would be another rookie.
So along come Danilo Petrucci and Cal Crutchlow, two riders who are well familiar with MotoGP and the working methods of the competitors, as well as riding motorcycles with an engine that has the same architecture as the Austrian one, at a 90° Vee angle.
Of the two, the Brit is the one with the most experience, having moved between Yamaha, Ducati and Honda in his career, but also the oldest. Crutchlow is 35 years of age and had previously said he was thinking about retiring, so it is difficult to think of a long-term plan for him.
Petrucci, on the other hand, is 5 years younger but is not a top-notch rider. He worked his way up to a factory team like Ducati and has always shown that he is not afraid of rolling up his sleeves. A vital quality when you to agree to get involved in a project - such as KTM’s – which is not yet at the level of the best opposition.
The two also have another ace up their sleeve: they are relatively cheap. The alternative for the Austrians would be to grab Dovizioso, but convincing him to abandon Ducati to embark on this new adventure means that they will have to put a lot of money on the table, which in this period cannot really be taken for granted, even though one always tends to think of KTM and its sponsor Red Bull as the ‘Scrooge McDuck’ of the paddock.
Cal and Danilo also have another alternative, that goes by the name of Aprilia. Yesterday we heard that the procedure of the CAS was underway, and at the moment, nobody knows how it will pan out, but above all when it will end. If Iannone is not acquitted, Aprilia will have to find a replacement and Petrucci and Crutchlow fit the bill. Provided that they are still available, but at least one of the two most probably will be even if an unfavourable sentence to Andrea were to arrive in late summer.
Already two years ago there had been contacts between Aprilia and Petrucci; the rider from Terni however opted to stay in Ducati but relations remained good. For his part, Crutchlow has already made it known to Noale that he is available; the Brit has actually also been in touch with Ducati and KTM in the past few weeks.
Hopes of seeing Petrucci or Crutchlow, if not both, in MotoGP next year are anything but slim...