New Yamaha MotoGP test rider Cal Crutchlow has a 'very busy programme' scheduled for Qatar, as the manufacturer seeks to make up for lost winter testing time and solve last year's inconsistent performances with the Factory M1.

After retiring as a full-time MotoGP rider at the end of last season, the Englishman should have made his Yamaha test debut at Sepang this month.

However, the Malaysian outings were cancelled due to Covid restrictions and while Honda, Ducati, Aprilia and KTM have been using their European-based test teams to do private development at Jerez, Yamaha's shakedown won’t be until Qatar.

"Unfortunately, we have not been able to test earlier, first of all because our manufacturer is in Japan, and also the quarantine Cal would have to do if he flew to Japan [to test]," said Monster Yamaha team director Massimo Meregalli.

"But even our Japanese test rider hasn't been able to do a proper shakedown in Japan. So the real shakedown will come in Qatar."

Suzuki is in a similar situation with its European MotoGP test rider Sylvain Guintoli absent so far, although the reigning world champions say they have been able to do some private testing in Japan with Takuya Tsuda.

For Yamaha, it will basically mean cramming their entire pre-season track programme into next month's official Qatar tests (six days for Crutchlow, five days for race riders), which directly precede the season-opening Losail races.

"We're looking forward to the two tests at Qatar, because you never know how you are going to be until you go up against your competitors. So these first tests will be very, very important," said Yamaha Racing managing director Lin Jarvis.

"We have a lot of things to test, and we are very happy that we will have Cal Crutchlow on board working with us in those tests. He has a very busy programme ahead of him scheduled, so we have a lot of new things to try."

Jarvis added: "We're quite confident. We do not expect to have the sort of technical problems that we had last year, and we believe that our bike should be a very balanced package this year."

Crutchlow began his MotoGP career with Tech3 Yamaha in 2011, spent the 2014 season as a factory Ducati rider, before joining LCR Honda, where he won three races.

"For sure I am really curious to see what Cal can bring to Yamaha from his previous experience and we expect him to give us a strong input," Meregalli said.

"Cal probably has to adapt his riding style to the Yamaha again, but I think if you compare when Jorge [Lorenzo] jumped on the Yamaha at Sepang [in 2020], he said 'for me, it looks like the bike is still as easy to ride as it was two years ago'.

"So the first day of the Shakedown will be important for Cal to get used to the bike but then from the second day he will be ready to compare the new items. I know that the material they are bringing is a lot."

It's not only Yamaha management that are looking forward to Crutchlow's input.

"I think Cal will help us a lot," said Maverick Vinales. "For sure I will try what Cal says. Sometimes being a race rider and a test rider during the same weekend is so complicated. Yamaha incorporating Cal in the team can be very helpful.

"But Qatar will be strange, with so many days on track everyone will be fast. We need to think about [bike set-up for] Portimao and Jerez..."

 

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