Rating The Riders, 2016: Cal Crutchlow

The next rider to go under the microscope in our retrospective of 2016 is one of the most interesting of the year. Cal Crutchlow had a season of two halves, but up and down. Here's how we rate the LCR Honda rider's performance last year:

Cal Crutchlow – Honda – 8.5
7th - 141 points

By the time Cal Crutchlow left Le Mans, after the fifth race of the 2016 MotoGP season, his future in MotoGP was being openly questioned. He had just five points from five races, and was twentieth in the championship. He had crashed out of three races, and crashed and remounted in a fourth, in Austin. Things were looking rather bleak.

His results were in stark contrast to the talk of him possibly taking the place of Dani Pedrosa in the Repsol Honda team. Fans responded to such rumors – like Pedrosa's switch to Yamaha – with a great deal of skepticism. Why would HRC want to sign a man who couldn't even finish a race?

By the end of the 2016 season, nobody was asking that question any longer. Crutchlow's season started to turn around as electronics upgrades trickled down to the LCR Honda team. The wet conditions in midsummer gave him a chance to shine. Assen was a disaster, but the fast-drying track at the Sachsenring saw Crutchlow score his first podium of the season. Journalists and fans laughed off his claims that he could have won the race if he had stayed on the same tires.

They stopped laughing two races later. At Brno, in tricky conditions, Crutchlow chose the hard wet tires, and rode a superb race to take his first MotoGP victory. It was a special win both personally for Crutchlow but also for British fans. It had been 35 years since a British rider last won a premier class race, bringing to an end a long and barren period for a nation which once dominated motorcycle racing.

If Crutchlow's win at Brno was down to conditions, and judging them correctly, there were no questions about his second win. At Phillip Island, Crutchlow rode an outstanding race in the dry, managing grip on the cooling track, staying upright after Marc Márquez crashed out ahead of him, and managing the gap to an eager Valentino Rossi. All of Crutchlow's early transgressions were forgiven: from now on, the Englishman was considered a serious threat every race, no one questioning his right to be in MotoGP, or his claim to a factory seat.

It wasn't just the two wins which had impressed. In the second half of the season, Crutchlow was one of the strongest riders on the grid. In the eight race stretch from the Sachsenring to Phillip Island, Crutchlow scored the second highest number of points, only Marc Márquez outscoring him. He had two podiums in addition to his two wins, defeating Márquez in a straight battle at Silverstone. Two DNFs blotted his end of season copybook, but the crash at Sepang came while engaged in battle at the front of the race.

In a way, Crutchlow's Sepang crash encapsulated his 2016 season. A genuine threat, capable of battling at the front, but always riding right on the limit, and sometimes just going a little too far over it. That may not have paid off early in the season, but it illustrated why HRC had supported him at LCR. Honda wanted Crutchlow on the LCR bike, and not just because of his results.

He played an important role in testing, too, trying out parts for the Repsol Honda riders when asked to, flying to Sepang for the Michelin tire test in midseason, taking the workload off Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa. He was, as he put it himself, a "normal rider", not the bizarre talent of Márquez who could ride round problems, nor the physically diminutive Pedrosa who used a range of tricks to overcome his size. If Honda want to build an RC213V which any rider can get the best out of, Cal Crutchlow is a better guide than the Repsol men.

2016 was also a special year for Crutchlow because he became a father for the first time. They say that the first child puts a second on your times, but the change which Crutchlow underwent seemed the reverse. Having a child gave Crutchlow a kind of serenity, a calmness in his approach, a more relaxed manner. It took a load off his shoulders, and that freed him up to ride to his potential.

It also gave him a sense of perspective. Even after his first win, he made it clear that family came first. He took a phone call from wife Lucy in Parc Ferme, preferring to speak to her than the media. He made it clear that the win meant a lot, but it couldn't compare to being with his wife and Willow, his new daughter. It was a distinctly human touch, from the most human of riders. Many professional athletes focus so tightly on their sport that they forget how to be human. Not Cal Crutchlow.


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Total votes: 114
Total votes: 111

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Comments

David, this is a really lovely summation, especially the last couple of graphs.

Total votes: 134

We have to put the start of Cal's season down to the ECU and the rubber changes. No-one forgets how to race and starts crashing consistently for no reason. We know he was not alone with these issues. Many suffered during last season. He held his mettle and got it sorted as he learnt. And backed it up wet and dry. PI was a brilliant ride, with limited dry setup and changing conditions.

Marc went back to his 2014 frame to get his feel again. I have no idea which chassis Cal was given early, but I did read later that he found a better option from a hand me down. Honda cannot build a bike for 1 man. If MM ever got hurt for a while, where does that leave Dani, Cal, Jack, Tito?

Doohan refused most of the Honda Engineers' upgrades in the 90's, and they ended up with an NSR everyone could race. They tamed the evil 500 beast, and made it managable. Here we go again. The HRC engineers are slow learners. They need some history lessons, 83 is classic.

Freddie on a V3 did the job. It has to be rideable. They gave him a 'dog' in 84 because the engineers were let loose again. The upside down NSR V4 #Fail

I hope they utilise and listen to Dani, Cal, Jack and Tito, more in testing this year. Give them the new bits, let them try them and give feedback. It has to be a one size fits all design, and then tweak the settings for each rider. They must have learned from their over engineered projects since the NR500?

I would LUV 2 C Dani get a Title after his loyal service, but whether he gets it or not, #MM93 will rewrite the record books. I am glad to be witnessing this generation of GP racing. Its a long way from Bazza and Kenny, my first heroes, but it means just as much while I watch it :)

Get it right HRC

Total votes: 111

We talk so often about depth of rider talent in a series that makes it worth watching.  Cal Crutchlow and other riders give MotoGP not just a depth of talent, but a depth of character that make MotoGP that much more worth watching.

Total votes: 86

Criticism of Crutchlow's character over the yrs has been a measure of the person displaying it.

Great motorcycle racer. Great guy.

Total votes: 105

I think an element of the "fanboy" has clouded your judgement here Mr. Emmett. I base that on the score of 8 relative to some of the other scores you have awarded in this series. One must not forget that Crutchlow heads the MotoGP crashes table  with all that implies.

Total votes: 118

Crutchlow had no qualms about overriding an underperfrorming RCV for 1/2 a season.  Great job by Honda, LCR and Crutchlow in the 2nd half.  

Particuarly pleased for Luccio Cecchinello, the pressure of running a a single rider satellite team must be immense;- Getting two wins in a season, absolutley superb.  :)

 

Note to David, how guys like LC and the other privateers manage to keep the finances going year to year is worth a fresh article.

 

 

Total votes: 88

Read the article again - 2nd half of the season was very strong, which showed that the bloke can ride, and he also goes closer to the limit than most.  Genuinely a good season where his talent and commitment shone out in the last half, and demonstrated that at least some of his limitations were in fact those of the bike.  And this series rates the riders, not the bikes.
Like Honda, back to the drawing board for you........

Total votes: 76

Even if we give CC a well deserved 9 for the back end of the championship there is no getting around a woeful start. Seriously, if MM had carried out a similar championship run he would have been harpooned and hung out to dry. Instead he took the opportunities when  they presented themselves and the points when they didn't. They almost reversed roles, with MM riding with the more experienced head, while CC refused to listen to a grumbling bike. 

I'm not having a crack at CC, he's done a stellar job of turning things around, but you have to keep it real: 6 self inflicted DNF's, with 2 to close out the season, was like shooting himself in the foot. Realistically with his speed in the latter half he should have finished in front of the unlucky Dani and Dovi in the championship but let the opportunity slip through his fingers.

Again, not having a go at CC, I'm just not sure an 8.5 is warranted.

 

Total votes: 83

It is worth pointing out that all of the scores for all of the riders are questionable. They are my best assessment of each rider, but assigning a number to that assessment is always hard, and always subjective. Rating should be taken with a pinch of salt. Season to taste, as the cookbooks say...

You voted 3. Total votes: 106

David, excellent write up, spot on. You acknowledged his faults i the early season, even noted how fans and journalists alike doubted the man. In the end, Crutchlow came through for himself, LCR, and HRC. The only thing missing was Crutchlow speaking of himself this year. When he was asked about what made this year so much better a performance than the past. He explained that he had gotten to be a better rider. It showed. He may not have the most natural talent. But he has true grit, and that, is respectable

Total votes: 101

Methinks that "fulltwist" has missed the point whilst he went round the bend.

To perform as well as Crutchlow did despite hitting ground [ what 26 times?] takes incredible courage and persistence.  To push his body and mind to score wins and podiums despite the injuries and persisting wear and tear -  that means to me that Mr. Crutchlow deserves at least that 8.5 score.

He ought to have an asterisk in our scorebooks exactly because he was able to excel despite those drawbacks and injuries.

One does well to remember the effects of injuries on Freddie Spencer and Kevin Schwantz.

I say hoorah to Crutchlow.

 

mike

Total votes: 82

Can't stand CC. His interviews are always a series of would have, could have, should have and gibberish mystery complaints about problems that only affect him. Remember the nonsense he spewed about not being able to achieve the same lean angles as Dovi while they were on the Duc.. 2 races later suddenly they miraculously disappeared (despite no changes to the bike or setup to coincide with a decent result

Total votes: 96

I'm glad Call is still part of MotoGP. Without him, it's no fun, he often makes the difference in races. I like to seem him an other few jears in MotoGp.

 

 

 

Total votes: 110

half way between the mouth also know as Foggy and the other (somewhat amusing and overall good guy) mouth known as Edwards.  The difference was that Cal generally seemed to believe what he was saying which I always admired.  This year Cal demonstrated that he also knew what he was talking about.  I rate his dry/cold win as THE most outsanding win of the season and that alone (IMO) is worth the 8.  The extra 0.5 comes from two wins on a non factory bike and the second half of the season turn around :-).  Yep, I wish he would stop crashing and over the years I have lost count of how many podiums he has crashed out of late in the race - but he always comes back next week.

You voted 2. Total votes: 108