Since Cal Crutchlow announced that he will be moving to MotoGP for 2011, to race with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, the old question of whether World Superbike riders can be fast on a MotoGP bike has raised its head. Ben Spies has certainly shown that he has been capable of being competitive since switching to MotoGP, but many people believe that this is down to Spies' exceptional talent, which he so clearly demonstrated by winning the World Superbike title at his first attempt, racing on tracks he had never seen before.
The comparisons with Spies are inevitable, as Crutchlow struggles on the bike that Spies was so dominant on, with both fans and parts of the media voicing their belief that Crutchlow has not yet shown that he deserves a shot in MotoGP. Crutchlow's former manager, and the man who helped him win the World Supersport title at his first attempt, disagrees.
Wilco Zeelenberg, currently managing Jorge Lorenzo to his first MotoGP World Championship, told MotoMatters.com that he believes Crutchlow will do just as well in MotoGP as Ben Spies has done. "I think Cal can be just as good as Ben," Zeelenberg said. The Dutchman said that what had impressed him most about Crutchlow was his temperament. "Cal has the right attitude," Zeelenberg told us, "He's a real racer."
There were clear differences between the Spies and Crutchlow, though. "I think Cal is capable of qualifying faster than Ben, but Ben is probably a bit stronger in racing," Zeelenberg said. The Dutchman pointed out that Crutchlow's performance this year was being disguised by the improvements in the other teams. "Cal has been faster at just about every track than Ben was last year," Zeelenberg commented, "It's just that the other teams have made a bigger step forward."
Zeelenberg also highlighted the risks for Crutchlow as he entered MotoGP, pointing to the experiences of the young British rider's current teammate. Zeelenberg pointed out that James Toseland had qualified 2nd on the grid in his first MotoGP race, just a quarter of a second off polesitter Jorge Lorenzo. However, a couple of big crashes during testing for 2009 had effectively ended Toseland's hopes of staying in MotoGP, sapping the confidence that is so vital for a rider at the very top of the class. If Crutchlow can avoid making that kind of mistake, Zeelenberg is fully confident that the young Briton will be fast right from the start.