Cal Crutchlow ‘welcome’ at Aprilia if Honda axes him for 2021 MotoGP

The MotoGP rider musical chairs is kicking off as Honda prepares to welcome Pol Espargaro, but will it be Cal Crutchlow left standing when the music stops?

Cal Crutchlow - LCR Honda 1200

While we may be gearing up for the belated start of the 2020 MotoGP World Championship season, speculation and confirmations regarding the 2021 MotoGP season look set to remain rife right up to the rearranged opener in Jerez.

While the likes of Yamaha and Suzuki ruled themselves out of the rumour mill early on with their pre-season announcements (Valentino Rossi’s seismic but now very much expected move to Petronas SRT notwithstanding), the remaining manufacturers have instead been shaking things up despite the lack of any 2020 form guides to work on.

Ducati looked to have made the biggest shake up by promoting Jack Miller in Danilo Petrucci’s place, but Repsol Honda is but moments away from stealing its thunder by revealing Pol Espargaro as Marc Marquez’s team-mate in 2021.

Though neither Espargaro nor Honda have given much away, this week’s confirmation that Danilo Petrucci is KTM-bound to (effectively) fill the void left by the absent Espargaro makes it a certainty in all-but-press release.

However, what started as Espargaro leaving KTM for Honda looks set to kick-start a chain reaction that could well end with Cal Crutchlow out of a ride by the conclusion of the 2020 MotoGP season.

Initially that may have not been a problem given the Englishman’s repeated hint last year that this would be his swansong in the premier class, only for him to have had an epiphany over the winter and insist he wants to remain exactly where he is with LCR Honda.

Unfortunately for him, with Espargaro on his way to Repsol Honda, he’s about to push out a hapless Alex Marquez, who despite having not started a race in MotoGP yet looks set to start his first season with HRC in the knowledge he’ll be demoted at the end of it.

As it stands, it’s not entirely clear where five-go-into-four at Honda for 2021. Espargaro and Marc Marquez will naturally form the Repsol team, but that leaves the younger Marquez, Crutchlow and Takaaki Nakagami potentially in line for two LCR Honda seats.

Assuming Alex Marquez is remaining with Honda, that puts the pressure on Crutchlow and Nakagami for the second seat heading into the 2020 season.

Though Crutchlow has stronger results record than his relatively inexperienced team-mate and is favoured with the use of a current-spec RC213V compared with Nakagami’s year-old model, the Japanese rider brings his own Idemitsu backing to the extent it is almost a team within a team, while he is an up-and-coming – and quickly improving – home hope for Honda at a time when there aren’t so many rising the ranks.

What are Cal Crutchlow's 2021 MotoGP options beyond Honda?

In short, not a lot...

If Crutchlow does find himself out of a Honda ride at the end of the 2020 MotoGP season, it's tricky to see where he'd feature anywhere else.

Yamaha and Suzuki have been out of the question for some time, while KTM this week confirmed the identity of its four riders for 2021 too. That leaves Ducati – whom Crutchlow had a fleeting relationship with in 2014 – and Aprilia.

Indeed, Aprilia might become something of an attractive and timely option given the apparent step forward in performance made by the revised RS-GP over the winter. The stumbling block, however, remains Aprilia’s loyalty to Andrea Iannone, who is awaiting appeal for his drugs suspension, a hesitance that has already cost it its preferred back up of Petrucci. 

If Iannone’s suspension is overturned, Aprilia will welcome him back and all will eventually be forgotten, but if it is rejected (or even extended) the Italian team will be on the hunt for 2021 at a time when it’ll be relatively slim pickings available.

With this in mind, Crutchlow with his lack of other options could find himself in the right place at the right time, should Honda force him out with at a time when almost every other seat is full. 

It’s a deal current rider Aleix Espargaro thinks could well suit both Crutchlow and Aprilia too.

“Andrea's situation does not seem to be very good, even though I would really like to see his return because he is a very fast rider who would push me - and that is it , what I want,” he told Speedweek.de.

“But it doesn't look good for him, so it's a tough time for Aprilia. It also seems that all good riders already have a contract. It would also be very difficult to get one out of Moto2. Really not an easy time.

“Petrucci and Crutchlow would be great for the project,” he continued, referencing Petrucci prior to his confirmation with KTM.

“Cal sat on a factory Honda for five years. Of course, the Aprilia is not a Honda or Ducati, so it would not be easy for him. I don't mean that it would be a step backwards, but the truth is that the bikes are not immediately competitive. So you have to be prepared for it in your head, but they are fast drivers and would be very welcome.”

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