Cal Crutchlow

Misano MotoGP Test Friday Notes: Much Work For Yamaha, Honda, KTM, and Michelin

The Misano MotoGP test may well turn out to be more important than it might seem at first glance. Perhaps precisely because it was a private test, and the teams could work in some privacy away from the prying eyes of most media. The pit lane was closed, and there were virtually no media present, with the honorable exception of Italian stalwarts

It meant that factories could test early versions of their 2020 bikes with relatively little interference from outside, other than the usual crowd of engineers from rival factories gathered round as they warm up their bikes. And that is precisely what Yamaha, Honda, and KTM in particular spent their time doing, while Ducati and Suzuki debuted a few parts which may or may not see use next season.

New rubber

It wasn't only the motorcycle manufactures. Michelin also brought two updates, a rear tire with a different casing to help improve performance, which was also tested at Barcelona and Brno, and a new front tire with a stronger casing, to help give support in braking. Both tires received positive feedback, the riders praising the front in particular.

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Misano MotoGP Test Thursday Notes: Yamaha Lead On Busy Day Of Testing

The advantage of a private test is that work can take place away from the prying eyes of the media. Some of the MotoGP manufacturers, most notably Yamaha and Honda, have taken advantage of the fact that the two-day test at Misano is private, and have debuted various new parts for both this year and next. With the pit lane closed to the media, the factories can work more freely.

The work going on means you can set little stock by the order on the timesheets. The two satellite Petronas Yamaha riders were fastest, but as they have mainly been working on race setup, this should hardly come as a surprise. Nor should the fact that Marc Márquez was third fastest, the Repsol Honda rider always fast under all conditions. But riders such as Alex Rins were not focused on a single fast lap, and so comparisons are difficult.

Yamaha had the most intriguing test program. Factory riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales had a lot of parts to test. Both riders tried a second version of the 2020 engine they debuted at Brno, and though it was a slight improvement, much more was needed. "The step is not as big as we need, but in the right direction," was Rossi's verdict, while Viñales was a little more pessimistic, saying it was not the step they had been hoping for.

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Silverstone MotoGP Preview: A New Surface, And More Mindgames From Dovizioso on Marquez

This time last year, the entire paddock was stood in the rain, looking at the skies, and wondering how we were ever going to have a MotoGP race at Silverstone again. After a brief shower of torrential rain on Saturday put more water on the track than the new surface could drain away, making the track unrideable and creating conditions which saw a series of riders crash at the end of Hangar Straight, Tito Rabat coming off worst as Franco Morbidelli's wayward Honda smashed into his leg and destroyed his femur.

With the forecast for rain later on Sunday, the race was rescheduled for an early start, the lights due to go out at 11:30am local time. But the rain came earlier than forecast, and was heavier, and the track never dried out. There was standing water at several sections around the track. We waited, and we waited, and we waited. And we looked at one another and asked, have you heard anything? And every time we heard about a possible start time, or a time to evaluate track conditions, that was contradicted or retracted ten minutes later.

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Cal Crutchlow Interview, Part 3: On His Future, Life After Racing, And The Drudgery Of Travel

In the final part of our marathon interview with Cal Crutchlow, the LCR Honda rider opens up about the possibility of retirement, and his plans for the future. He talks about wanting to move to California once he stops racing, seeing it as a good place to raise a family. He speaks about the arthritis which he, like most other riders, suffers with, and why this is a reason to seek out a warmer climate.

Above all, he talks about life after racing. About how he plans to get fat, and then cycle all the weight off again. About his business interests, and his aversion to travel, and why that makes it unlikely he would go into team management.

Before you read this final installment of our Crutchlow interview, it's worth catching up with the first two parts, to read about the 2019 Honda and his experiences this season, as well as his insight into his family life, and why that has led him to a decision to not seek another contract.

Q: Does this make you think about the end of your career, and how much longer you want to go on? Willow is going to be going to school in two years’ time?

Cal Crutchlow: I had this question actually from Matt Birt yesterday for the Silverstone preview. So if you want to beat him you need to get this interview out before. He asked the same question. Of course I’m thinking of retiring. That doesn’t mean I come into every race weekend not giving my 100% or slowing down. But as I told you when I extended my contract a year ago, that I feel it will be my last contract. If you ask me now, do I think it’s my last contract? I would say it depends how the rest of this season goes and next season. But I’m also not going to actively seek something…

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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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