Cal Crutchlow

Cal Crutchlow Interview, Part 2: On The State Of MotoGP, The Benefits Of Being A Factory Rider, And The Joys Of Family Life

In the first part of our massive Cal Crutchlow interview, the Englishman spoke at length about his 2019 season, the 2019 Honda RC213V, and competing against Marc Márquez. In the second part, he turns his attention to the championship in general, the politics of the paddock, and the unseen advantages of being a factory rider in MotoGP.

Crutchlow also talks about his personal life, the role his wife, Lucy, and daughter, Willow, play in his life, and in his racing. He talks about putting Willow on a PW50, and about how having a child didn't slow him down at all, contrary to the common paddock mantra. And he talks about the role his injury played in how he views the prospect of retirement.

You can find part one of the interview here, which you should read before embarking on part two below.

Q: What’s your view of the state of the championship? Not any particular race, but the state of MotoGP.

Cal Crutchlow: I love what Carmelo is doing with the championship. People may agree with me or disagree with me. But I was in Ducati the year that they changed the electronics to the open class. Everyone looked at us like idiots, blah, blah, blah. But what Carmelo did with that CRT thing, everyone was laughing at it. They were getting lapped at some point, etc. But that’s where we are now. In the last three to four years, how many close races have you commented on? Have the world commented on? Have we as riders said, “F*****g fantastic. Loved it.” Hated being in the battle because there’s ten guys, but it’s a spectacle, it’s a thriller. So I think in that context, I think what he’s doing with the championship is amazing. What everybody is doing - not just Carmelo. But I think in general.

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Cal Crutchlow Interview, Part 1: On The 2019 Honda RC213V, Marc Marquez, And How To Beat Him

It has been a hard season so far for Cal Crutchlow. The LCR Honda rider started the year uncertain if he would ever be able to walk properly again, after a huge crash at Phillip Island in October 2018 destroyed his right ankle. Then, when he got to the Sepang test, he found the HRC engineers had made the Honda faster, but even more difficult to ride. Despite that, he still ended up on the podium at the first race, and then again at the Sachsenring.

In Austria, I sat down for a long and meandering chat with Crutchlow. The Englishman talks candidly and honestly about his season so far, how good Marc Márquez is, his life at home, and the choice facing him with regards to continuing to race or retiring. He talks about the politics inside the paddock, and the choices he faces in his life after racing.

It was long, and it was fascinating, so the interview will be cut up into three parts, published over the space of two days. Here is part one:

Q: First of all, it feels like you were expecting more from this season.

Cal Crutchlow: The problem is that the expectation is created by myself. But I knew in Malaysia test that it was going to be difficult, honestly speaking, because of my feeling with the bike. That’s not to say Honda have done it the wrong way or anything like that. It was just my personal feeling and opinion with the bike. I was struggling. I could make the lap time. I could be okay, but I couldn’t be what I felt I was last year. Turning the bike, my feeling with the front of the bike.

So already I was a bit sort of started on the back foot with regards to that. I hadn’t ridden the bike in the previous two tests, so I gave them no information. I never said to them that feeling, nor did the others. Then when we all got to Qatar for the test, I again felt the same, and so did Marc and Jorge. They said that they had the similar feeling to me.

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Opinion: Doing The Right Thing - The Different Trajectories Of Johann Zarco And Jorge Lorenzo

What are you to do if you find yourself stuck on a bike you know you can't ride? On a bike which you are convinced is trying to hurt you, and which you keep falling of every time you try to push? The obvious answer is you try to leave as soon as possible. But that simple answer hides a host of factors which make leaving not as easy as it looks. The cases of Jorge Lorenzo and Johann Zarco illustrate that very well.

First of all, why would a rider want to leave a factory ride? The pay is good, rarely less than seven figures. Riders have a chance to shape the bike and point development in a direction which suits them. They are treated, if not like royalty, then at least like nobility: transport is arranged and rearranged pretty much at their whim, picked up at their front doors before a race and deposited there again afterward. The pressure is high, but in a factory team, they do everything they can to take the strain and let their riders concentrate on riding.

That is little consolation when the going gets really tough. When you are struggling to get inside the top ten, despite giving your all to try to make the bike go faster. When you are crashing at twice, three times your normal rate. When factories are slow to bring updates to the bike. Or even worse, when they bring boxes and boxes of new parts, and none of those parts make much of a difference to your results.

Gravel rash on repeat

How tough can it get? In 2009, while Valentino Rossi was riding a Yamaha, he crashed 4 times during the season, the same number of times he had fallen the year before. In 2010, he crashed 5 times, though one of those crashes was enough to break his leg and take him out of competing for four races. In 2011, the year he switched to Ducati, he crashed 12 times. When you are not used to falling, that can put a real dent in your confidence. What's more, he scored just a single podium that year, compared to ten, including two wins, the year before.

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Austria MotoGP Friday Round Up: Marquez vs Dovizioso, Yamaha's Surprise Revival, And Jack Miller In Purgatory

Another track, another day of Marc Márquez dominance. He was only second in the Friday morning session, 0.185 seconds behind Andrea Dovizioso, but he had a formidable pace from the start. 22 laps all on the same tires, ending with a lap of 1'24.566, which was faster than Alex Rins in seventh, who had set a quick lap on a new soft rear tire.

In the afternoon, Márquez stepped up the pace, this time keeping a soft rear for the full session instead of the medium he had used in the morning. This time, at the end of his 23 laps on the same soft rear, he posted a lap of 1'24.708. 23 laps is just five shy of race distance. If Marc Márquez is going that fast that late in the race, he will be a hard man to beat.

The Repsol Honda garage was busy, too. In the afternoon, Márquez finally debuted the updated aero package he had tested at Brno, consisting of larger upper wings, and slightly broader lower wings. Fitting the fairing meant hiding the bikes behind screens to protect their naked form from prying eyes, or rather, prying cameras. But the fairings, they cannot hide. Nor the carbon frames neither.

More grip

That last lap by Márquez was set on the combination of carbon frame and new aero, though his fastest lap was set on his first run in FP2, on the old frame with the old wings. Though he was coy once again about talking too much about the new frame and the new aero, he did offer hints at what the new frame did.

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Brno MotoGP Test Round Up: Yamaha's New Bike, Honda's Chassis Mystery, Suzuki's Swinger, And Ducati Working For 2019

Testing is a difficult business, and Monday tests are the worst, especially if your problems only manifest themselves when the grip is low. The race on Sunday lays down a nice layer of rubber, and by the afternoon of the test the next day, there is so much rubber on the track that traction is never an issue. If you have traction problems, you have a brief window in the morning where you can replicate those problems. That window also falls when the track is coolest, which means more grip again. You can't win.

The grip on Monday morning at Brno gave a brief window for those who were struggling with grip, riders like Danilo Petrucci, manufacturers like Yamaha. Petrucci found a small improvement in that time, falling back on a setup they used last year which helped in braking, but he illustrated the problem he faced with an example. At the end of the day, when there was plenty of rubber on the track, he was faster than he had been all weekend. "At the end today, I did two or three quite fast runs, in the 1'56s, and I never did a 1'56 all weekend."

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Brno MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Why Delaying The Start Was The Right Decision, Marquez Crushes The Opposition, And Moto2 Silly Season Starts

Race day at Brno felt chaotic. The chaos was controlled, for the most part, and expertly managed when circumstances allowed. But Sunday was filled with the unexpected, the surprising, the fearsome, as well as the best motorcycle racers in the world. It was a strange day.

It started in Moto3. John McPhee had a problem on the grid with his pit lane limiter, which meant he was painfully slow off the line. The miracles of racer reflexes meant that almost all the grid avoided him, despite the fact that McPhee started from the front row of the grid. Almost, but not quite: Yuki Kunii, starting from eight rows behind McPhee, saw the Petronas rider a fraction too late, and clipped the rear of his Honda very hard.

McPhee could continue, though he had to retire shortly afterward with severe and painful contusions on his left leg, but Kunii was thrown off his bike. He was lucky to only break bones in his hand. It was a bizarre and unusual accident, and a reminder of just how dangerous the start of each race can be.

Moto3 and Moto2 saw a lot of fallers, Saturday's rain having washed most of the rubber off the track, taking the grip with it. Then just as the podium ceremony for Moto2 was underway, it started to rain, gently at first, and then a sudden downpour. The paddock and the front straight from the final chicane and all through the first corner was soaked.

The view from the outside

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Brno MotoGP Friday Round Up: Mixed Messages, A Bumpy Track, A Surprise Soft, And The Silly Season Revolution

It is always hard to tell where things stand in MotoGP on a Friday. The track is green, riders are working through the tire allocation to assess the best choice, factories with new parts will send the riders out to test them, to get feedback in the least important part of the day. Teams are still working through their checklist of ideas, some of which won't work, but having crossed an idea off the list, that can send the rider in the right direction. Or not.

It is even harder at a track like Brno, where a lap takes the best part of two minutes to complete. For a race which is 21 laps long, six laps counts as a long run during practice. Trying to assess race pace from six laps during FP2 is a very tricky proposition indeed. And as FP2 is usually the session where new parts are tested – the idea is, first establish a baseline with your existing setup, then put the new parts on to try at the end of FP1 or sometime during FP2 – that makes identifying patterns even more difficult.

What we did learn is that the Brno track is incredibly bumpy, more bumpy than it has been in the past. There are bumps at some crucial points in the track: Turn 3, the left hander at the end of the short back straight. Turn 8, in the stadium section. The chicane of Turn 11 and 12 and up the hill. Turn 13, the first corner of the final chicane before the finish straight. Complaints were shared equally, but opinions were divided on whether the track was becoming unrideable.

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Sachsenring MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Why Marquez Wins, Ducati's Decline, Viñales' Resurrection, And Impressions Of MotoE

Some things changed at this year's edition of the German Grand Prix, held at the Sachsenring. The race was organized by the ADAC, the German equivalent of the Automobile Association, instead of the former promoter, a local organization based at the circuit. The difference was immediately evident: the event appeared to run more smoothly and more efficiently, and some of the old peculiarities ("we've always done it that way") replaced with things that actually work. It felt like a much better Grand Prix, without losing any of the charm which had marked it out before.

Then there was the inaugural round of MotoE, the new electric bike racing class which joins the MotoGP series. History was made on Sunday morning, when eighteen Energica Ego Corsa motorcycles lined up for the first ever all-electric motorcycle race. The race was shortened from 8 to 7 laps after being declared wet, and then red flagged after 5 laps when Lorenzo Savadori crashed out at Turn 8 after being clipped by Eric Granado.

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Sachsenring Saturday Round Up: On Injury Heroics, Confusing Race Pace, And Marquez' Master Manipulation

It has been a pretty brutal weekend for the MotoGP riders at the Sachsenring. With less than a week to recover after a punishing race in Assen, everyone is stiff, sore, and tired. But those who crashed in Assen or had a physical problem have it doubly tough, having to deal with the tight and tortuous layout of the Sachsenring circuit.

Such conditions inevitably create tales of motorcycling heroism. Taka Nakagami is one such, the LCR Honda rider still badly beaten up after his crash at Assen, where he was taken out by Valentino Rossi. Nakagami has a badly damaged left ankle, but is trying to ride anyway.

Having an injury on his left ankle is one of the worst possible injuries at the Sachsenring, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because is mostly left corners, meaning that the left ankle is bearing much of the load for a large part of the lap, riders leaning much of their weight on their inside leg through the corner. And secondly, because there is so much gear shifting to do, riders going up and down through the box through the tight and twisty circuit.

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Sachsenring MotoGP Friday Round Up: Blocked Laps, Honda's New Frame, And Marquez Applying Pressure To Quartararo

What was the big surprise on Friday at the Sachsenring? The fact that there were no real surprises. The first day of practice played out pretty much as you might expect based on the first few MotoGP rounds of 2019. Marc Márquez put in a push on FP2 to wrap up top spot at the end of the first day, a third of a second clear of Alex Rins on the Suzuki.

Besides Márquez, Rins was quick, as were the Yamahas of Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Viñales, and even Valentino Rossi. Cal Crutchlow got into the top 6, just behind Pol Espargaro – the KTMs and the Hondas were the only bikes which could gain a chunk of time from using the soft rear tire – while the Ducatis are not far behind.

Fabio Quartararo felt he could have been quicker, if he hadn't come across his teammate while he was chasing a fast lap. The Frenchman came up behind Franco Morbidelli, who was cruising around the tight interior section between Turns 2 and 3. For a few minutes, Quartararo was fuming, waving his arms in the air and gesticulating wildly.

Blocking party

After the session ended, the Petronas Yamaha SRT rider was a touch more contrite. "I was upset for five minutes," he said. "But you know it's really special, when you put a soft tire in, it's the best moment of the day. You make all the work, and that's the most fun part of the day. Fortunately we can't really make a good lap time with these tires, but that's OK. I was too angry, I should be more calm in these conditions."

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