It has been a very tough year for Cal Crutchlow. Coming off the high of 2013, the year in which he scored four podiums, finished fifth in the championship, and looked certain to score his first win in MotoGP, his season in Ducati has been a massive challenge. Technical malfunctions, crashes, and a battle to find a way around the chronic understeer which plagues the Desmosedici. Crutchlow lingers in the middle of the pack, not fighting at the sharp end. This was not the season which Crutchlow had envisaged when he signed for Ducati.
In the first part of the interview with Crutchlow, published on Monday, he spoke of his battle to adapt to the Ducati, and of the 2014 season being his toughest year so far. He continues the theme in this, the second part of the interview, where he discusses his struggle to maintain his morale through the darkest part of his career, when the results refuse to come. And in the final part of the interview, he talks about how mental strength is the decisive factor in motorcycle racing, and discusses Jack Miller's ascent to MotoGP.
MotoMatters.com: I'm glad you mentioned morale, because that was something I wanted to ask you about. Last year, when we talked about Cal Crutchlow, it was about when you were going to win your first MotoGP race. Compare that to this year, and it's not, are you going to win, but are you going to get into the top ten. That must be very tough mentally.
Cal Crutchlow: Yes, it's demoralizing. The worst thing for me is, I take it personally, as in I think that I'm not doing something right. I mean, obviously, it's true, I'm not doing something right, but when I go home, I'm hard on myself. When I go out training, I train harder. For no reason, because it's nothing to do with that.
You know, I do sit there and think, you're getting paid a lot of money to finish behind a lot of guys who are not getting paid anywhere near as much as you. But I still feel I earned it, I earned my place in the factory team. And it's demoralizing for me to think, you know, it's OK to say, just go faster, but I can't. I'm not saying I don't know how, if I could go faster, I would. People are like, why can't you beat that guy, why can't you get into the top ten, why can't you be like Andrea Dovizioso or Iannone? If I could, I would, it's as simple as that. I'm not sitting there going, right, I'm having a few weekends off, I'm just going to cruise round.
I was speaking to Lucy [Crutchlow's wife and partner of many years - MM] the other day about it, I think the big turning point for me was Texas when I crashed. I've never been scared of crashing, ever, and I've been on the floor a few times in my career. Not as much as most, if you look at the other guys, I'm nowhere near the top of the list. This year, I've had a lot less crashes this year than I had last year or the year before. I also believe it's because I'm not taking the risks I was before, because my confidence has been knocked from that crash in Texas so much that I don't take the risks that I used to.
MM: Next year, you're going to be on a different bike. One of the most important things is going to be rebuilding your confidence. And again, learning a different bike. How do you find confidence? Does changing bike give you an automatic confidence boost? Does that eliminate one variable from the mental equation?
CC: I think there's a lot gone on in the background this year that's made my confidence not what it used to be. Not just riding the bike, the stuff off the track that's been going on, it's not been easy. I think that with the right team around you, and a good bike under you, you can get it back in an instant.
Because, sure, I look at Valentino [Rossi] and think, he went from being the same as what I am at Ducati really – don't get me wrong, he had some great podiums over the two years – but he also didn't have the best results over the two years, and then he went and won the last race at Misano. So I take confidence from that. Don't get me wrong, I'm not Valentino Rossi, I'm not a nine-time world champion. I don't say I'm like him, I don't say that I ride like him, I don't say that we're the same people, but I take encouragement to think that you can come back with no real problem. Because he came back and made the podium immediately in Qatar last year. And he was strong, he wasn't strong all throughout the year, but he was strong at the right times. He learned again throughout the year, and now he's as strong as ever, I believe.
So I do take encouragement from that to be able to come back. And the thing that I keep thinking is, 2011 was a bad year, as we know, but I finished fourth in the last race at Valencia in dodgy conditions, and then next day when we tested, I was second, when we moved to the thousands. That's one good result, and it shows immediately what you're capable of. And I went to the winter tests in Sepang and I was competitive, in the top five in both tests. I went to Qatar and qualified on the front row.
I think it takes one good day on a motorbike, or one good lap, or one good session, just to get, anything. Because at the moment, I've got nothing. I haven't done one good lap where I've thought, that was great. I haven't done one good session. As we were talking about the morale, you just need something to give you the encouragement. As I say, it could be just one good lap, I could put in an amazing lap at the test in Valencia, and feel the best I've ever felt, feel like I felt last year, or something like that. You don't know. But I don't worry – of course, you worry, why am I slow compared to the other guys – but I don't sit there and think, I'm going to finish the same as this next year, no way. Or else why would I carry on riding?
MM: You still believe that you can be competitive?
CC: Oh yes. No doubt about that. Because, why would be here otherwise? Because I could easily stay at home and have an easier life! I think that if I didn't want to be competitive or racing motorbikes, I don't want to be here riding around like I am now. Don't get me wrong, I'm trying my hardest, I'm giving 100%, but it just isn't working. But I don't believe I'll be in that position next year, or else I wouldn't have signed a deal to even stay. I could have done something else with my life that doesn't have the stress, the pressure, or anything else.
But I still believe we have the best job in the world, even when it's tough now, still, coming to a race and riding a motorbike around a track is something else.
MM: You're now a factory rider. Did that mean a lot more work for you, a lot more pressure than you expected, were you prepared for that?
CC: It's a difficult question, because I thought I would come into Ducati on equal terms. And it doesn't necessarily feel that way. But then again, what can I expect? I've chosen to leave, I wasn't getting good results. Ducati as a factory is a phenomenal factory. The people that work there are some of the cleverest guys I've ever worked with. Also on my side of the garage, very very clever with what they do. I've never worked for a team or with a team who work as hard as this, staying up till midnight, 2am. Tech 3, we used to be finished by 5:30pm, and the boys would be out cycling for the evening. These guys, they do not stop working. So there's no doubt the passion is there.
Yes, you could say that things are harder work, you have to do more work. With Herve, I think I did three PR days over three years. Here, it's a completely different story. I believe that I never came into the first part of the season in, I'm not saying the best of moods, that's a strange thing. We had to do a lot of traveling before the season started. We had to go to Germany, then Italy, then we went to Sepang for the test, I went to Italy, then Germany, then back to Italy, then to the Isle of Man, then to Qatar, all successive things. And I believe I needed that time to be focused on racing the bike. But that's to be expected, I'm not complaining about that, that's part of it. I knew it was coming. It's just that it's not the way that I would have preferred it. But don't get me wrong, being in a factory team is special. I work with some great people, I work directly with the people in the factory instead of going through a middle man, as such.
But yeah, I believe that when I was riding for Herve, it was a lot different environment, and probably something that I got too used to, to be honest. I never got mollycoddled by Herve at all, I got told when I was wrong, I got told when I crashed, I got told if I was out of place, but I knew – this is going to sound strange – I knew I was the golden child. But now, you feel the complete opposite. Which, as I said, I don't blame them for. I'm not angry for that, that's the way it works out, but I think with the team I'm going to next year, I think it will be a different atmosphere again. Having Jack [Miller] as my teammate as well, brings the fun back into it, I'm sure, and hopefully we can have a lot more competitive year than this year.