be_ixf;ym_202112 d_01; ct_100
Portrait images of Cal Crutchlow

Straight Shooting: A chat with Cal…

Jun 212016

If you want an honest, insightful and often entertaining opinion in MotoGP then there is no better source than LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow. The thirty year old mixes sharp wit, a fondness for banter and a willingness for cheek along with vast experience on the motorcycle-racing ladder through various championships up to MotoGP where he is now into his sixth campaign. Crutchlow embodies the steely self-belief and confidence that is takes to be a part of a sport that is demanding and ruthless and necessary to engage in a profession that is as spectacular as it is hazardous. The Englishman isn’t all talk either. A bustling all-action style means he is often one of the most attacking and ferocious on the asphalt and his reticence to accept nothing less than the best for him and his career means that he has bounced around three teams and manufacturers in three years to find the best chemistry to remain at the forefront of Grand Prix.

"I don't want a ‘career path’. Why would I be like all the others? I want to do what makes me happy."

Your comment in an interview recently about being the ‘Fernando Alonso of MotoGP’ was amusing and seemed off-the-cuff but was it also something you’d thought about? How timing over your movements in the sport has tended to skew a bit for you…

It wasn't massively off-the-cuff. It was true as far as I’m concerned! Don't get me wrong; I chose all the places I went and at those points in my career. If I had stayed one more year at Yamaha I feel I could have had a challenge for the top three in the championship. If I had stayed one more year at Ducati then I would have been a lot stronger than what I was and the bike obviously improved a lot. With Alonso – when he moved – everything the year after seemed to be better for that team or manufacturer! It’s almost the same when I came to Honda because things were not the same like they were in 2012, ’13 and ’14. That's not to say they have gone backwards but that the others have stepped up – and that includes the two manufacturers I was with before. Some people liked that comment and others didn't! I am very respectful to my current team and manufacturer because there is nobody working harder in this paddock to improve their bike than Honda.

Fernando didn't message you did he?

[Smiles] Maybe I am not as talented as Fernando and it was meant as a bit of a joke but there is some truth to it.

Can planning a career really be a hard task then? Can one wrong turn have a big impact…?

I’ve never really had a plan for my career. I went British Supersport, World Supersport, British Superbike, World Superbike and MotoGP in five years; there was absolutely no plan in that. I just did it because I wanted to and I’m the same now. If there option and I want to do something then I will. Sometimes, at the same moment, I think it is a good idea and sometimes afterwards I think it wasn't! But I made my own bed and I lie in it…and it is good fun that way! Honestly, I come racing to enjoy myself and what I do. If at one point I am not enjoying things then I can change them and I have done that. I don't want a ‘career path’. Why would I be like all the others? I want to do what makes me happy.

We’ve made some good deals.

Does that infuriate some people around you?

Not really, no. I have a great group of people around me doing my deals and I’m not saying it infuriates Bob [Moore] but then it isn’t an easy job for him when I say: “let’s do something else!” I’m sure he enjoys the challenge of that and the negotiation. I’ve had some great contracts - some fantastic contracts - in MotoGP and also World Superbike. We’ve made some good deals. A motorcycle racer now doesn't have to be just talented on the track, he needs to be doing different things away from the racing and creating media attention and I’ve done a good job with that, especially in the European market. From the Monster side it is good as well when you can create some headlines. I’m sure they don't want just a boring rider. Sure, I perhaps don't do things in the most logical way but I enjoy ‘my way’ and maybe in the next couple of years I will settle and stay with a team and manufacturer. I have a baby on the way and I am very comfortable with life now. It is nice to be able to have a bit of choice about what you want to do and not always be forced.

Generating that charisma: is it something to work on and think about? After all, like you said, being this way helps generate press and attention…

I make comments and it is like heaven to journalists because they can take things from them but half the time I don't mean anything by them. I don't think I have to go into press conferences with a good one-liner or anything like that. I’ve done pretty well out of the press over the years in MotoGP and I am not the most talented rider on the grid – for absolute sure. Will I win a world championship? It is difficult to see but I will always give 100% to do it. I think you need something else here in this paddock-


Exactly, and ‘me being me’ I haven’t changed. I remembered being told years ago that I came across as arrogant but I see it as me being normal. And I always tell the truth. I won’t lie about anything and if I think something is wrong then I will say it. Apparently that is me being arrogant…but it’s not. MotoGP is full of people who do not tell the truth. They go ‘around’ the truth to not get into trouble…or their team or manufacturer in trouble.

If I crash the bike then I am the first to put my hand up and say “I crashed it…”

Someone like Chad Reed [AMA SX & MX Champion] says he generally admires the way MotoGP riders speak their minds…

If I crash the bike then I am the first to put my hand up and say “I crashed it…” but if there is something wrong then I will be the first to say that as well. Some like that, some don't, but at the end of the day I’ve had a great career up until now and I won’t change the way I am. I love being in MotoGP and I love seeing the fans coming to watch the motorbikes. I think they would prefer me to be the way I am.

So if you were one of those fans how do you think you’d see yourself?

Erm…honestly I’d like to think I was someone who’d give some time and make an effort, even if things might be difficult and for the team also. I always give 100%...and to the end. We need fans to be here because if it wasn't for them buying motorcycles, drinks and everything else then we’re not going racing. We have to appreciate them and we do, honestly. Most of the riders do. For Valentino [Rossi] it is a lot more difficult than anyone else because half the time he cannot move. I get a lot of support in Europe and Japan, even in America. I think some fans see me as a normal person and maybe that isn’t the case for others. It is nice for me. For sure sometimes we’re busy and we cannot always stop for photos or autographs. We have a schedule here as well and it is disappointing when you cannot always do it but I try and stop for the kids because I remember being one and waiting also.

We are competing against each other.

Six seasons here now. Have things changed that much? I guess in this world you pass from season to off-season and it can feel like a bit of a time warp…

To me not so much-

Because you bounced around…

Yeah! And had some fun. You see the same people in the same teams and I could write the script of what they will say in the press conference and what the journalists will ask. It’s not a dig at anyone but people complain about MotoGP, the riders or the answers they hear but that's because they are not asking the right questions. People don't say or do things because they are scared of this person or that sponsor, and I’ll admit that when I was in Ducati I held back a little bit more. I like what’s happening for next year: the fact that Lorenzo is moving, that Rossi said he had ‘no balls’. That is how it should be. We are competing against each other. I get on with nearly everyone in this paddock – especially riders – I will shake hands…but when we get on the track it is a different story. Racing is racing. When the stakes are so high I can see why these three or four [top] guys are the way they are off the track.

The FIM rule brought in for 2016 controlling riders’ and teams’ statements on MotoGP seemed a bit excessive…

At the end of the day we were not told what to say. MotoGP is a good championship. Organising this series is not an easy job. You have seven-eight manufacturers screaming at you, twenty-two riders wanting ‘that’, everybody else wanting ‘this’; it is not easy. Then make the rules, then find the tyres…I think Carmelo and Dorna do a fantastic job putting it altogether. What happened in the championship last year ‘happened’ [in reference to Sepang and the Rossi-Marquez incident] and there is not much you can do about it. I think the rules about us talking were more about the penalties. I’m the first who isn’t always politically correct but there is a lot being put into this paddock and you have to respect sponsors, manufacturers and other riders.

Has MotoGP taken a toll physically? You’re 31 this year; do you ever feel it?

Honestly I would say I am fitter than ever…and I always train hard anyway. So I’m fit…but my body aches! I’ve had five years of that. Shoulder surgeries, my knees are f**ked, my arms are tired and have had operations and been damaged. Funnily, you still get out of bed and train though. I love cycling. You keep on coming back to race a motorbike. I am not old but I think every motorcycle racer is never fully fit; you are always riding with something. It [MotoGP] is stressful on the body…and the mind sometimes…but I wouldn't change it for the world.

We first did an interview when you’d won the Supersport World Championship in 2009 and you’ve changed quite a bit then mentally and physically – as you’d expect. What can you say about that evolution?

I’ve always trained a bit too hard and I’m sure there is nobody in this paddock at the same level. I never get tired on the bike, upper body, whatever. I’m not the most talented so I feel I have to work harder. I’m not like Lorenzo who can close the visor and be like a complete machine. I’m sure he has a lower heart rate than me when he’d riding but for training and cycling but I bet he wouldn't get close. I guarantee it. I’ve done so much over the years and I think that is to do with me believing that I have worked more than someone else to be ready. I like chocolate as well…! I never go to the gym and hardly ever have. I just ride the motorcycle. And I cycle; it is a big passion of mine and there was a moment when I was thinking of doing it [professionally] not for any reason but to do something else. I’m probably a bit too old to change now but I will do a race this year at a good level.

We’re both so excited and cannot wait until August.

So fatherhood. Are you going to have to come up with some different answers to the same line of questioning about how it will affect you this summer?

Nah…I’m really, really excited. I will have to change my mentality for sure. As everyone says, having a kid changes you and I’m sure it will and I’m ready for it. I’m a motorcycle racer so I am selfish and I know I am – not in rude or arrogant way to anyone – but if I want to go left then I will if it makes me faster or I think it will. I know I will change but I won’t in terms of my mentality to racing. I will sacrifice just as much but I will also have something else to provide for. It is exactly what I need at this point in my career as well. We’re both so excited and cannot wait until August.