Cal Interview with Crash.net – April 2020
Cal Crutchlow is preparing to start his 10th season in MotoGP this year and while he had been weighing up retirement the delays to the start of the 2020 campaign have given him time to think about his career and next steps.
The three-time MotoGP race winner opens up on what keeps him motivated, Honda’s developments and strengths plus what he hopes for in the future.
Crash.net: First up Cal, are you a biker or an athlete? Have you ever stripped an engine for example?
Cal Crutchlow: I’m an athlete. I have never stripped an engine but I would definitely say that I’m a biker at heart as I love everything to do with motorcycles.
Crash.net: I believe that as a younger man you considered a number of sports to participate in, what tipped it for bike racing?
Cal Crutchlow: I’ve always loved bikes but it’s just that I didn’t start until late. I played football at a good level, but a time came when I had a lot of knee injuries. I was racing at the same time and enjoying it ever more so I went for that instead and was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to pursue it.
Crash.net: Is it something you enjoy in general or only when you succeed?
Cal Crutchlow: Sure I enjoy it more when I succeed but I love racing bikes regardless. I don’t actually enjoy riding motorbikes away from racing, it’s the competition I love. Competing means you have highs and lows but that’s what makes you keep coming back. Well, for me anyway.
Crash.net: Jeremy Burgess said Mick Doohan loved the winning whereas Valentino loved the racing, which one describes your attitude?
Cal Crutchlow: I would have to say that I love the racing because winning isn’t easy in MotoGP, and I have only won three races. I wish I could win them all but of course that is not going to happen, I will certainly always try though.
Crash.net: Has having Willow changed how you feel about bike racing, not necessarily on track but mainly in terms of the somewhat extreme lifestyle required by racing?
Cal Crutchlow: Yes it has, of course it has, but it doesn’t change my mindset with regards to going fast, trying to do my best or taking risks. It definitely changes your priority’s in life though, previously I could just do whatever I wanted to go fast and get to the front.
I had done all those years in MotoGP without winning, so I was doubly focused on doing the typical selfish sportsman thing to try and attain my goals, but then Willow came along. The extreme lifestyle is certainly tough; travelling, racing and event but it’s also what you make it. I think we do a good job as a family of managing it.
Crash.net: Your career is interesting in that you’ve blown through series, never staying in any of the championships for long apart from MotoGP. Was that a conscious career management strategy?
Cal Crutchlow: I wanted to get to the best championship in the world as soon as possible so always had my eyes on that goal and was very lucky to have great opportunities along the way to be able to do that. I bounced through championships as I went along because I didn’t want to get stuck and I’d like to think it paid off for me. Right from the start, I always wanted to ride a factory Honda and now here I am riding for LCR and HRC so I guess the plan worked.
Crash.net: What was bigger for you, your 2009 World Supersport title win or MotoGP podiums and wins?
Cal Crutchlow: That’s a hard one as winning World Supersport started everything for me so has a special place in my heart, but I would have to say a MotoGP podium because it’s one of the most difficult things to come by in racing.
Crash.net: Fans often say how much they like frank opinions but whenever riders put this into action they are criticised for it, how do you feel about that?
Cal Crutchlow: I just will never lie. Maybe people think it’s about being frank but it’s not. If I get asked a question I just answer it truthfully, for me that’s the only thing that counts. I don’t have it in me to stand there and lie or say something which I feel to be dishonest in an interview or to a question.
I think most people appreciate me for being honest in this way but unfortunately some also take it the wrong way. That’s OK though as everyone is fully entitled to their opinion on anything in life, not just racing or what riders say.
Crash.net: Will you be reading the comments at the end of this interview?
Cal Crutchlow: No because it makes absolutely no difference to my life whatsoever. I learnt a long, long time ago to not bother myself with things like that. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the nice comments because I do but it’s just that I don’t take it to heart. Criticism can also be a positive thing as it makes me more determined to improve myself.
Crash.net: The Honda is seen by many as a very edgy bike – how do you relate to it? Is the new bike better?
Cal Crutchlow: It’s precisely because of its edgy nature that I enjoy riding it, you can’t relax for a second and that fits well with my style. I don’t think we have done enough mileage on the new bike to understand everything yet, but I think on the engine side and electronics we are stronger than last year.
We’ll continue to work in a good way on the chassis with HRC to give them information to improve the feeling. Some tracks it feels better than others and in Qatar we really struggled on the first two days but the last days I think we found something more positive.
Crash.net: It looks like you have to ride close to the limit on it, does that make it a tiring bike to ride?
Cal Crutchlow: Yes, the bike is more physically demanding than the others that’s for sure, so when you get a good result on it I feel it means more. One of the reasons it is like that is because we can push so much in the braking zone as it is a very strong point of the Honda. You can brake later and harder and force the bike more. On a bike like that the concentration level has to be 100% all the time.
Crash.net: Do you feel that the direction of development is too focused on Marc Marquez?
Cal Crutchlow: I think HRC does a great job of listening to all the riders, but Marc has won lots of championships and is simply the best in the world right now. Given that he can win championships on the bike as it is, why would they change if that is the aim of racing?
Crash.net: Would it be an idea to develop the bike in two directions simultaneously with one being the edgy Marc style bike and the other aiming for a smoother Yamaha-like feel?
Cal Crutchlow: I don’t think that would help honestly. It’s very hard to develop one style bike let alone two or three. I think it is down to the rider to try to ride what they have underneath them to the best of their ability, it’s really down to the rider to make the difference.
Crash.net: You seem to grind out a lot of laps in testing, is it a pleasure or a duty?
Cal Crutchlow: Honestly, I don’t really like testing too much, I prefer to race. I just do a lot of laps testing to try to improve, give the best information to my team and HRC as I can for the sake of the greater good. I have always been able to test things fast and understand them well which is why I often have to get through such a big workload in testing.
Crash.net: Do you enjoy the nerves and tension of the public MotoGP show or would you be just as happy to race behind closed doors for this season? Are you someone who finds the grid nerves difficult?
Cal Crutchlow: I don’t find the nerves on the grid so bad, of course we are all nervous, but I feel OK. My first year in MotoGP was definitely worse than now but I learnt that you can’t change what is going to happen in those first laps. You can plan how you want it to go a million times in your head but you can’t control others around you or what they will do so I always try to just take it as it comes and work it out after the first laps and not do my track work on the grid.
As racers we love to race in front of fans, it’s the ambience and atmosphere they generate which makes it worthwhile for us. In the end we are in the entertainment business so racing without anyone there would not be what any of the teams, riders or fans would want.
What is going on in the world at the moment is a very sad thing and I hope it can be better for everyone soon. The most important thing is people’s health and I know MotoGP, Dorna, FIM, and IRTA are doing a great job trying to make it possible for us to get racing again as soon as we can. We can only take the government’s advice and decisions and accept them and that’s the correct thing to do. For the time being I hope that everyone stays at home and respects what is being asked of them.
The sooner we can understand how to stop this virus the sooner we can all enjoy pleasures like sport again. I keep up to date every single day on news and I’m always thinking about and sending my support to those affected by this.
Crash.net: What factors would influence you to retire and which would influence you to stay?
Cal Crutchlow: I plan on racing again next season and I plan to be competitive again. I still love what I do and am still very motivated, that’s all I can say at the moment.