Cal Crutchlow is out for the rest of the 2018 season, as well as for the winter tests at Valencia and Jerez. The injury the LCR Honda rider sustained in practice at Phillip Island is so severe that it will take at least until the beginning of next year before Crutchlow will be fit enough to attempt to ride.
Crutchlow sustained a so-called 'Pilon' fracture of the tibia, fibula (the two bones in the lower leg), and talus (the bone which hinges the two leg bones, and joins them to the feet). That fracture (Pilon comes from the French word for pestle) is the result of the foot smashing into the ground, and the three bones being crushed together by the force involved.
Crutchlow had surgery to fix the bones, which involved the use of two plates, eight screws and some artificial bone. The severity of the injury is such that he has had to keep his ankle immobile, and with no weight on it. He hopes to start moving it again soon, and will start cycling again this week. But with a typical recovery period of between six and twelve months, Crutchlow has been forced to miss all testing this year.
The LCR Honda rider is aiming for a return at the Sepang test on February 6th, three months after his surgery. The chances of the Englishman being 100% are slim, but he should be fit and strong enough to manage testing and prepare for 2019.
Below is a statement taken from the LCR Honda press release:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin after the Malaysian Grand Prix:
Stefan Bradl is to replace Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda at the next round of MotoGP at Sepang, a week from today. As HRC's official test rider, Bradl was the easy choice to take the place of the injured Crutchlow.
Crutchlow was ruled out of Sunday's Australian Grand Prix after a huge crash at Turn 1 during FP2 on Friday. His right leg took a beating in the fall, fracturing his ankle in three places. Crutchlow was flown to Melbourne, where an external cage was placed on his ankle to fix the bones in place while the swelling subsides. Crutchlow is due for further surgery on Thursday to have the bones plated.
That rules Crutchlow out of the race at Sepang, and makes him doubtful for the Valencia race in three weeks' time. A decision on Valencia will not be made until much nearer the event, but it is conceivable that Crutchlow will decide to sit out the race, and focus on being fit for the last test of the year at Jerez at the end of November.
Stefan Bradl will take the place of Cal Crutchlow in the LCR Honda team at Sepang, and if the Englishman is not fit to race at Valencia, then at the final race as well. Bradl would have been present at Valencia anyway, both because of TV duties with the Austrian Servus TV, and for the first post-season test at Valencia on the Tuesday and Wednesday after the race.
Phillip Island is a magnificent circuit. Perched on the edge of the Bass Strait, it is a visceral thrill in a spectacular setting. It is fast, flowing, the very essence of what a race track is supposed to be. But all that glory comes at a price. It is also a dangerous place. When you crash at Phillip Island, then it hurts, and more often than not, it hurts a lot.
Veteran US journalist Dennis Noyes points out that in the 1990s, the FIM commissioned a study into crashes at various tracks. The track with the most crashes, Estoril, had the fewest serious injuries. The track with the fewest crashes was Phillip Island. But it was also the track with the most injuries. The difference? Estoril was the slowest track on the calendar, thanks to a couple of tight turns, while Phillip Island was the fastest. Newton's second law is immutable, and enforced 100% of the time.
MotoMatters.com, in association with Motor Sport Magazine, is proud to feature the rider insights of 1983 and 1985 500cc world champion Freddie Spencer. After every MotoGP race, Fast Freddie will share what he saw and learned from the race.
After Marc Marquez wrapped up the 2018 MotoGP title at Motegi, Freddie Spencer takes a look back at the race. But before he starts on that, he has a few words to say on the fact that he will be the Chair of the FIM Panel of Stewards from next year.
"The secret," said Niki Lauda, "is to win going as slowly as possible." That racing maxim, first recorded by legendary writer and broadcaster Clive James (and how did I miss that he wrote about F1 in the past?) is as true now as it was back in 1984, when Lauda stated it to a press conference in Portugal. And as true as in the early 1950s, when Juan Manuel Fangio may have first uttered it.
If you want to see that maxim in action, watch a MotoGP race in 2018. The action is often thrilling, usually tense, and always absorbing. Race after race, we see podiums separated by tenths of a second, not tens of seconds. The reason for that is simple. The field is close in terms of rider talent and bike performance, and the Michelin tires can be applied in many different ways, except for one: if you try to take off and disappear at the front, you risk using up the best of your tires, and being caught in the latter stage of the race.
So MotoGP has become a chess game. A battle of minds, as much as machines, of brains as much as bodies. Riders pace around one another like wolves around a herd of caribou, watching out for any sign of weakness, waiting to pounce and destroy their prey. And sometimes, getting it wrong and suffering a severe kicking from their intended victims.
Nature vs nurture
Qualifying is a tricky business at the best of times. Having qualifying just half an hour after FP4 – that is, if you don't have to pass through Q1 – makes it even more complicated. That final session of practice is the only chance to work on setup without worrying about getting through to Q2 – and in my book, makes it the most interesting session of practice all weekend. But that also means that if you want to compare two different setups, FP4 is the session you do it. After FP4, you have thirty minutes to get two bikes ready for qualifying, with identical setups.
There is little room for error. Should you, say, crash in FP4 on the bike with your preferred setup, as Marc Márquez did at Motegi, then it makes qualifying complicated. Even if you get the bike back to the pits quickly, your team probably won't be able to get the bike back ready to race in time for the start of Q2. And if your second bike uses a very different setup – some combination of a different rear link, a different offset, different rear shock, say – then your team might not have time to change it all back again to the way you want it.
Will we see a Ducati vs Honda showdown at Motegi? After the first day of practice at the Japanese track, it looks like that is still on, though we lost one potential protagonist. Jorge Lorenzo went out to test how well his injured wrist would hold up, but found his wrist unwilling to play ball. He did two out laps, but couldn't cope with the immense strain which the braking zones at Motegi – the toughest on the calendar – put on him. After those two laps, Lorenzo decided to withdraw from the Japanese Grand Prix.
"Yesterday my feelings weren’t very positive and unfortunately today I had confirmation not only of the pain, but also that there was a serious risk of making the fracture worse," he said afterwards. "On hard braking I couldn't push with my left wrist and I had a lot of pain in the left corners and especially in the change of direction. I wasn't fast, I wasn't comfortable and I wasn't safe, so there was no meaning to continue."
Despite the loss of Lorenzo, Ducati are still in a very comfortable position, Andrea Dovizioso having finished the day as fastest, despite sitting out FP2. The Italian wasn't alone in that choice: Marc Márquez, Cal Crutchlow, Pol Espargaro, and Jordi Torres all elected to skip the afternoon session, which started out damp, the track never really drying out fully by the end of the session, though half the field managed to squeeze in a couple of slow laps on slicks on a drying track at the end of the session.