“If I look back to the start of January I had 20% of the movement I used to have,” he explained after a brighter Saturday Qualification where he took a slot that was sixth on the grid and just half a second from Pole Position. “I’m probably at 70% now. It doesn't hurt. I just can’t bend it enough. Even on the straight to try and put it back on the peg is a massive effort for me. To come off the rear brake I have to physically lift my leg and put it back. With how I use the brake in the middle of the corner on the right hand side, get off the brake and then get the foot back on the peg is what I am struggling with at the moment.”
Crutchlow’s resistance is typical of the generally battered state of a MotoGP racer. Safety advancements in helmets, leathers and other protective garments mean that athletes are regularly sliding on asphalt and are tumbling into the gravel, and while they often stand unhurt then is still a multitude of bangs, abrasions, strains and other aches to deal with. Crutchlow, a man with eight years of MotoGP, knows this only too well.
“Everybody here does a great job to recover and ride the bike - and ride injured - but I don’t think anybody could have come back from this the way I have,” he said of the most serious problem of his career. “Maybe Marc [Marquez], with his shoulder as we know. But I don't think there are many people who would have put in what I've put in to be able to get back to being competitive.”
A potential answer to Crutchlow’s discomfort was the option of a thumb operated rear brake, mounted to the left side of the handlebar and a popular alternative for a number of Grand Prix racers over the years who have suffered similar mobility issues. Cal again revealed the difficulty of having to re-train the brain with hardly any margin before the Qatar lights were switched on.
“I’ve ridden for fifteen years using my right foot and if I try to use a thumb brake I’ll lose a second a lap because you are thinking about it and it’s not natural,” he explained. “I use the rear brake so much and I put so much pressure on it that if I do that with the thumb then I lock the bike and I’m out of control. I know we need to adapt and learn new things but considering – not the discomfort – but the severity at which I could not release the rear brake on my fast lap I lost probably 3-4 tenths because I never made the corners. I would need to use it over a period of time.”
Losail was the start of a new chapter for Crutchlow in his fifth term with Honda. He now carries some of the same sort of titanium that normally carries him (“I should get it out at the end of the year…I have to speak with the surgeon”) but showed some of the customary grit he is renowned for.
“It was not an easy road. At the start it was okay, to sit and watch the MotoGP races was fine, I accepted it,” he admitted of the period of being on the sidelines. “But when I couldn't walk it was difficult. I could ride my bicycle all week no problem, but I couldn't walk. Having no normality of life, I didn't know if I'd be able to walk again. They told me I would…but if you are in that much pain you don't know yourself. First of all I wanted a normal life and to be able to walk and I can. It's just a bonus that I can still race motorcycles.” A bonus for MotoGP fans as well.