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Cal Crutchlow at the 2016 MotoGP round 18 in Brno, Czech Republic

The Winner: Chatting with Cal Crutchlow on the MotoGP Effect

Dec 012016

It took 31 year old Cal Crutchlow seven season of education, graft, circumstance and negotiation of the sticky elements of MotoGP to finally dowse Great Britain’s parched ‘dry spell’ and drag up Barry Sheene’s name. The LCR Honda rider clinched victory in the Grands Prix of Czech Republic and Australia to end almost four decades of waiting for UK fans in the premier class of the world’s fastest motorcycling racing series, and since the iconic #7 last prompted the national anthem to ring out from the top of a 500cc podium.

For Crutchlow 2016 was a whirlwind. Firstly of frustration in the opening rounds with a spate of crashes, as the team, rider and Honda tried to adjust to new spec tyres and electronics. Results picked up with further development then fatherhood arrived with the birth of daughter Willow before sporting milestones were hammered into place.

Was this year quite a mind-boggling time for you? Both for becoming a father and that emphatic turnaround on a professional level?

Hmmm, not really, you know. At the start of the year I honestly believed I was riding better than I was at the end. It was just that nothing went my way. I had to jump off the bike in the race at Qatar otherwise I would have been fifth or sixth. In Argentina I crashed on a wet-patch, like six others. In Austin I crashed pushing too hard. In Jerez I had a rear tyre that should not have been on the grid. I had no points basically. Was it four points? I don't even know what the f**k I had. My pace was good at that time and for whatever reason it wasn't converting into results. Only my team and Honda knew the situation. Everyone else was saying ‘blah, blah, blah, you’ll retire at the end of the year, you’re done…’-

Were you really getting those vibes?

Everybody was saying it. It’s like [Jorge] Lorenzo. He was also ‘done’ in the middle of the year and look at him in Valencia. This is just part of sport and you need to be able to take it on the chin and come back stronger. The only race this year were I felt I performed terribly was Mugello [Italy]. I rode around because Lucio came to me before and said ‘you have to finish’. Plus at Mugello I ran a 320 brake disc at a 350kmph front straight when I should have run a 340 but I was told I had been crashing because of the front brake…which was not true.

Why the crashes then?

We were pushing too much with the front of the Honda because we had no other advantage. In Sachsenring, Brno, Silverstone and Australia what were they [the critics] saying then? I had a great second half to the year but I honestly believe that the first part could have been the same if the circumstances had been on my side.

Is it fair to say that this year was a bit of a breakthrough and that you arrived to a point you’d been striving for since you came to MotoGP?

I won a race – two – which is more than four-five other factory riders this year. I had an objective this season and I always keep my goals, as such, close to my chest because they are personal. For sure everyone aims to win the championship but the reality is that it’s gonna be difficult. I aim to win a race every year but I said to myself ‘this year I really want to have one’ and I was pleased I got one in the wet and another in the dry. I don't think I am better this season than any other. Even in the Ducati year [2014] I was riding strong…I was not riding a good bike, simple as that. I should have won when I was at Tech3 but I had to wait a bit longer.

Lastly are you aware that you’ve firmed your legacy in this sport and left a mark. You’ve made a footprint regardless of what happens next…

Yes…but I don't care too much about it. I’m not here to look at numbers and say ‘I won this amount of races or had this amount of points or podiums…’ I never look at statistics. I just try my best on the day and that's it. If I feel at the end of the day that I have the best result I could make and my team has done their best then I’m happy. If that's an eighth place then so be it. But if I feel I, or the team, could have improved then I might be more disappointed. I don't care too much for the end of season stats. At the end of the day I’m not Barry Sheene and I’m nowhere near his stature and stuff like that; I’ve won two MotoGP races! What I will say is that everyone goes on about the ‘British Battle’ all the time and there is no battle as far as I’m concerned. We are not even in the same speed and if they [the other Brits in MotoGP] jumped on my bike so you’d see. It is always hyped up…but I will say I would have been very pissed off if I hadn’t been the first to get the win because I feel like I deserve it a lot more. I’ve never had a lucky podium or something given to me. I don't want to take anything away from those guys because I enjoy sharing the track with them and I’m good friends with Bradley. It is not a dig. It is about feeling like you deserve something. I feel that I can stop right now and be happy with my career. Will I? I don't know. If I wake up in two weeks time and decide I don't want to any more then I know it won’t.