‘If it hurts, I want it to hurt more’

Cal Crutchlow is one of Bri­tain’s great­est MotoGP rid­ers of all time. He tells us why he likes racing to hurt and why he has changed his mind about re­tir­ing at the end of this year


In­ter­viewed by:

WMat Ox­ley

E CON­DUCT THIS IN­TER­VIEW AT CRUTCHLOW’S OF­FICE IN­SIDE THE LCR Honda garage in Sepang pit-lane. It sounds glam­ourous, but re­ally it isn’t. The tiny space feels more like a po­lice in­ter­ro­ga­tion cell than a MotoGP star’s pad­dock sanc­tu­ary. Paint peels from the walls and, apart from a rick­ety ta­ble and chair, the only fur­ni­ture is a manky old sofa, like you might find in a crack den. The weather is typ­i­cally trop­i­cal, 34 de­grees Cel­sius out­side, so Crutchlow is sprawled across the sofa wear­ing noth­ing more than un­der­pants and some re­cently ac­quired tat­toos.

The 2020 season — if it ever hap­pens — will be Crutchlow’s 10th in the pre­mier-class of mo­tor­cy­cle racing. The man from Coven­try hasn’t won a MotoGP world cham­pi­onship but he is the only Bri­ton to have won a pre­mier­class grand prix in the past 40 years. And the only Bri­tons who have won more GPs than the 34-year-old are Mike Hail­wood, Ge­off Duke, Barry Sheene, and Phil Read. That’s some se­ri­ously ex­alted com­pany.

Crutchlow has made it this far through­grim de­ter­mi­na­tion, a fear­some abil­ity to shrug off pain, and a blind re­fusal to ad­mit de­feat. He’s not the kind of bloke with whom you’d want to have a fight.

‘I like to suf­fer,’ he says. ‘I have a hard­ness about me that if it hurts, I want it to hurt more, which is the worst pos­si­ble men­tal­ity you can have as a mo­tor­cy­cle racer, but it works for me.’

Crutchlow won the World Su­per­sport ti­tle in 2009, rid­ing a

Yamaha R6, which got him a ride in the fac­tory’s World

Su­per­bike team the fol­low­ing year, astride an R1. That season he won three races and had sev­eral teams chasing his sig­na­ture for 2011: both BMW and Honda of­fered £800,000 (Rs 7.2 crore). No doubt he could have en­joyed a very lu­cra­tive ca­reer in WSB for as long as he wanted.

But, no, that was the easy road and Crutchlow was more in­ter­ested in tak­ing the rocky road. Tech 3 owner Herve Pon­charal of­fered him £300,000 (Rs 2.7 crore) to ride a Yamaha YZR-M1 in the 2011 MotoGP cham­pi­onship and he signed on the dot­ted line.

‘I wanted to get to the top, not just get to the top cham­pi­onship and cruise around, I wanted to be the best in the world. I’m not the best in the world, but you have to have the be­lief and the de­sire to be the best or it’s point­less do­ing it.’

Crutchlow has tried hard to be the best, prob­a­bly too hard. Since 2011, he has won three MotoGP races, climbed the podium a fur­ther 15 times, and had nearly 200 crashes.

‘I sit there and think I could’ve fin­ished on the podium an­other 10 times if I hadn’t crashed out of half of them. I give it my all, no mat­ter what hap­pens, which means more to me than any­thing. But that’s also been my down­fall. Even if I don’t feel good with the bike in the race, I’ll keep push­ing and push­ing and push­ing. That’s just me and that’s why I haven’t fin­ished half the races I should’ve fin­ished.’

Crutchlow has al­ways had a cock­i­ness about him, but it’s race-face cock­i­ness, not nor­mal-life cock­i­ness. Even when he de­cided to turn take the hard road into MotoGP, he thought he had what it took to make it. Soon he wasn’t so sure.

‘I went to watch the Va­len­cia race at the end of 2010, be­fore I started test­ing with Tech 3 a few days later. I was look­ing at the chaps rid­ing around at the back — at the time it was peo­ple like [Hiroshi] Aoyama — and I thought these guys are rub­bish! Me be­ing me and hav­ing that killer in­stinct I said I can’t wait to getout there with them. Then, on the first day of test­ing, I didn’t even see which way Aoyama went. I thought this is a lot harder than racing a pro­duc­tion bike on Pirellis.’

The first half of his rookie MotoGP season was such a dis­as­ter — slow crash­ing — that he wanted to get out and re­turn to the rel­a­tive safety of WSB. Fi­nally, things came to a head at the US GP in July.

‘Hon­estly, it was a re­ally dif­fi­cult time, then I had a mas­sive fight with Herve at La­guna. I wanted to go back to Su­per­bikes. As a racer, you have doubts in your mind and I said to my­self I just can’t do this. Herve came into my mo­torhome and said some­thing like you’re be­ing beaten by [Karel] Abra­ham! So, I said, well, go and sign Abra­ham! And then we had the ar­gu­ment. I re­mem­ber him half leav­ing the mo­torhome and me half push­ing him out. We didn’t speak for a while af­ter that, but ever since then I and Herve have been great, great friends.’

The turn­ing point for Crutchlow was MotoGP’s change in tech­ni­cal reg­u­la­tions, from 800-cc en­gines to 1,000s in 2012.

‘When the 1,000s came, they were fan­tas­tic for me, be­cause I could play with the bike a lot more. The 800s were so ro­botic, com­pletely dif­fer­ent from what I’d rid­den be­fore. The su­per­bike moved around a lot, I used the throt­tle a lot more, I played with the brakes, and, although the elec­tron­ics were good, they weren’t the be all and end all. The 800s were like twist-and-go bikes and I couldn’t get my head around them.

‘I im­me­di­ately went a lot bet­ter with the 1,000s. I went well in pre-season tests, got a fourth at the first race in Qatar, an­other fourth at the sec­ond race at Jerez, and my first podi­ums at Brno and Phillip Is­land.’

Next the fac­to­ries came knock­ing. Crutchlow signed with Du­cati in 2014 — his first multi-mil­lion-pound pay­day — but soon re­alised he had no long-term fu­ture there. ‘I

knew the fol­low­ing year I wouldn’t be in the fac­tory team, be­cause Du­cati told me they’d al­ready signed [An­drea] Dovizioso and [An­drea Ian­none].’ So, he got out of there (with a big, fat pay­off) and joined LCR Honda, where he’s been ever since.

That gam­ble he took in 2011 has paid off hand­somely, with a year at Du­cati and then mul­ti­ple con­tracts with LCR and HRC.

‘I could’ve done five or six years in WSB at a mil­lion a year, but I make that and more in one year in MotoGP. But back then I wasn’t look­ing at MotoGP in mon­e­tary terms at all. I just wanted to be at the top; I didn’t care about any­thing else. At that point in my ca­reer, I wasn’t both­ered about tak­ing a salary cut be­cause me and Lucy [now Mrs Crutchlow] lived day by day, happy as any­thing. If we could pay the bills, have food, and be com­fort­able, we were happy, so I took the chance and jumped across be­cause I wanted to be at the top, I wanted a chance to be there. As things have gone on, I’ve got big­ger and bet­ter stuff, but I don’t blow my money. I’m not a Fer­rari or Lam­borgh­ini chap.’

I ask Crutchlow to list the rea­sons for his suc­cess, split­ting them four ways among skill, grit, brav­ery, and blood­y­mind­ed­ness.

‘My tal­ent is prob­a­bly 10 per cent and the rest is dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion; try­ing to get it done, try­ing to prove a point to my­self that I can do it.’

Crutchlow has had the for­tune and the mis­for­tune to have spent the last six sea­sons rid­ing the same mo­tor­cy­cle as MotoGP king Marc Mar­quez, ar­guably the great­est rider of all time. That’s why he is the best man in the world to as­sess the skills of the eight-time world cham­pion.

‘Peo­ple have no idea how spe­cial Marc is — he’s a freak of na­ture. He’s this freak that can get these results, week af­ter week, while rid­ing a bike that’s no­to­ri­ously the hard­est thing to ride. Marc is 100 per cent tal­ent. But he’s a bit like me — he’s got that dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion to grit his teeth and get on with it.’

Mar­quez is an­other who tastes a lot of as­phalt. Last year the Spa­niard fell off his RC213V 14 times, against Crutchlow’s 12. Both men un­der­stand that pain is part of bike racing. But ev­ery­one has their limit. Last year Crutchlow thought he had reached his, due to on­go­ing prob­lems with the right an­kle that he had man­gled at Phillip Is­land in Oc­to­ber 2018. At the end of last season, he ad­mit­ted he would prob­a­bly re­tire once his cur­rent con­tract ex­pired at the end of 2020.

‘I crashed out of the fi­nal race of last year at Va­len­cia and I said to Lucy in the mo­torhome: I’m done with this;I can­not bear this pain any­more. I’m go­ing to have an op and get the met­al­work out of the an­kle. Then we spoke to the sur­geons — the prob­lem is this nerve that runs over one of the plates, but they can’t take out that plate on its own, they have to take all the metal out. Even then they can’t guar­an­tee that the nerve will be good for at least a year. It will be bet­ter be­cause there’ll be less pres­sure on the nerve, but it may not set­tle down for a year or more, so I’d end up in the same boat. So, I started win­ter test­ing and the pain was hor­ren­dous.

‘Now the an­kle is all right be­cause I didn’t ride mo­tor­cy­cles in the win­ter, so I wasn’t get­ting any in­flam­ma­tion. I rode my bi­cy­cle a lot, but it’s not the same, be­cause you’re not bend­ing your leg and your foot all over the place.’

Which brings us to a lit­tle ex­clu­sive: Crutchlow has can­celled his plans to re­tire at the end of this season and may change teams for 2021.

‘Where I’m at I still think I’ve got a lot to give — I’m still fast and still com­pet­i­tive and I’ve still got the de­sire. But at some point, ev­ery­one has to stop, even Valentino [Rossi].

‘My main con­cern and pri­or­ity are my fam­ily.’ Hence the brand-new tat­toos on Crutchlow’s hands —“L” for Lucy and

“W” for Wil­low, their three-year-old daugh­ter, plus some ink to re­mind him where his wed­ding ring goes.

‘I want to see my daugh­ter go to school and I want to do things with her, week in week out. That doesn’t mean I can’t race a mo­tor­bike, but I’ve had a good ca­reer that I’ve en­joyed and I’m happy with what I’ve achieved, so I could stop now and do what I want for the rest of my life.’

And what might that be?

‘I’ve al­ways had a de­sire to get fat, in­stead of be­ing a slave to the racing diet. So, I’ll have a year do­ing that and then I’ll prob­a­bly look at my­self in the mir­ror and be dis­gusted!’

Most likely he will ride his bi­cy­cle — when he’s not racing, he reg­u­larly ped­als 65 miles (105 km) a day — and watch his eight-fig­ure busi­ness in­vest­ments swell in his bank ac­count.

‘I could live on that for the rest of my life, but I’m not a chap to sit around at home all

day. What I re­ally want to do is man­age [Du­cati MotoGP rider] Jack Miller. We get on re­ally well and I think he’s got that killer in­stinct to win the world ti­tle. And I’d say his tal­ent on a mo­tor­cy­cle is bet­ter than any­one’s. When he gets it right, he’ll be in­cred­i­ble.’

Our in­ter­view ends, Crutchlow pulls him­self off the gungy sofa and hob­bles to the other side room where he climbs into his war­rior’s ar­mour: hel­met, leathers, gloves, boots, and chest and back pro­tec­tors. His eyes change, from chatty bloke from Coven­try to axe-wield­ing ma­niac. I say my thanks and leave… 2019: 2018: 2017: 2016: 2015: 2014: 2013: 2012: 2011: 2010: 2009: 2008: 2007: 2006: 2005: 2004: 2003: 2002: 2001: 1999:

Race three of the vir­tual GP was an ac­tion-packed af­fair at Jerez. Here is what hap­pened

Zal Cursetji


WE WERE BACK FOR the mad­ness of the Vir­tual MotoGP and this time we were at Jerez in Spain for the third round. This week we had Danilo Petrucci of Du­cati Team, Miguel Oliveira and team­mate Iker Le­couna of the Red Bull KTM Tech 3 team, Tito Ra­bat on the Reale Av­in­tia Racing bike, Team Ec­star Suzuki rider Alex Rins with his new hairdo, Petronas Yamaha SRT phe­nom­e­non Fabio Quar­tararo, Mon­ster En­ergy Yamaha MotoGP rider Mav­er­ick Viñales, the Mar­quez broth­ers, Marc and Alex, on the Rep­sol Honda Team bikes, Francesco “Pecco” Bag­naia on the Pra­mac Du­cati, and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s test rider and first-timer, Lorenzo Savadori.

The race started and at cor­ner one we saw a num­ber of crashes fol­lowed by a num­ber of dif­fer­ent rid­ers tak­ing the lead. In the end, it was Pecco in the lead with Alex Mar­quez and Iker Le­couna fol­low­ing be­hind. Alex made a move but could not hold it and fell, giv­ing Iker sec­ond and brother Marc third. Marc, how­ever, had his hands full with the ma­raud­ing French­man, Fabio, who even­tu­ally took the de­fend­ing world cham­pion. Fabio be­gan to put pres­sure on Iker which did not re­ally pay off as Iker took a closer look at the pretty grass along with the French­man.

Marc was now in sec­ond due to the mad­ness by Fabio, but soon found him­self lead­ing a Mar­quez sand­wich with a blis­ter­ing Viñales in the mid­dle. A lit­tle scuffle saw the Mar­quez broth­ers switch po­si­tions with Alex now in sec­ond and Marc in fourth and Viñales still in be­tween. Soon, how­ever, Alex made a mis­take and was found hud­dled within the tyre wall, giv­ing the bril­liant Viñales sec­ond po­si­tion. Viñales was all busi­ness, set­ting the fastest lap of the race and eyes set on the race leader, Pecco.

The heav­ens started to sing their Mav­er­ick tune as we saw Pecco visit the side-line on his back­side, giv­ing Viñales the lead. Mean­while, in fourth place, Marc slowed down to al­low Danilo Petrucci to catch up and have a lit­tle fun. Petrucci saw red and took his own brand of red into the in­side of the Rep­sol Honda mak­ing his move. Un­for­tu­nately, the gam­ble did not pay off and Danilo sun-bathed by the side of the track. How­ever, none com­pared to the French­man, Quar­tararo, who seemed to be travelling the track at warp speed. With ev­ery fast lap, Quar­tararo also made fre­quent trips to check the fenc­ing of the race­track.

In the end, it fin­ished with Mav­er­ick Viñales tak­ing the vic­tory with Alex Mar­quez sec­ond, and Pecco Bag­naia tak­ing the fi­nal po­si­tion on the podium. Jerez was a fun time and we can­not wait for more.

We cover the mad­ness that went down in Mugello for the fourth round of the MotoGP Vir­tual #StayAtHome race

Zal Cursetji

NEXT UP, THE BOYS headed to Mugello for an­other round of the amaz­ing MotoGP Vir­tual GP with an­other new name join­ing the ac­tion. Mugello sees the Rep­sol Honda Team broth­ers, Marc and Alex Mar­quez, Tito Ra­bat on the Reale Av­in­tia Racing bike, Joan Mir of Team Ec­star Suzuki, Du­cati Team’s test rider Michele Pirro, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s test rider Lorenzo Savadori, Petronas Yamaha SRT star Fabio Quar­tararo, LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nak­agami, Pra­mac Racing’s Francesco Bag­naia, Mav­er­ick Viñales on the Mon­ster En­ergy Yamaha MotoGP bike, and a first-timer, Mav­er­ick’s team­mate, Valentino Rossi.

The scene is set for the fourth race of the year. Will we con­tinue to see the young­sters run away or will the golden oldies step up their game? The ac­tion

Re­port: started once again as soon as the rac­ers reached the first cor­ner with a big crash that saw race win­ners, Viñales and Bag­naia, eat­ing dirt along with the Ja­panese rider, Nak­agami. The may­hem ended with Fabio Quar­tararo run­ning away from the group, open­ing up a huge lead. The young French­man was fol­lowed by Marc Mar­quez, his brother, Alex, and the vet­eran Valentino Rossi, though Alex quickly made his move into sec­ond. Then Rossi had a mo­ment with the Honda of Marc and found him­self in the grass, re-start­ing down the or­der in eighth place. Mo­ments later, the same fate was shared by Fabio up­front who lost the front, giv­ing Alex Mar­quez the lead.

How­ever, “The Doc­tor” was not go­ing to let go that eas­ily and, within a cou­ple of laps, made his way back to fourth and at­tempted to catch the el­der Mar­quez. At the front, the sec­ond Honda was try­ing his best to stay in front of the ram­pag­ing Petronas Yamaha SRT mo­tor­cy­cle of Fabio Quar­tararo. In the end, the mad­ness of the ex­cit­ing duel took its toll and both Alex and Fabio were pick­ing them­selves up from the side of the track. We now had Marc Mar­quez in the lead with Alex on his tail. Fabio fol­lowed the two broth­ers; how­ever, the old leg­end was hot on his heels for that fi­nal po­si­tion on the podium.

Fabio was rid­ing at a blis­ter­ing pace and fi­nally caught up with the Hon­das ahead. The com­men­ta­tors were on the edge of their seats and dig­i­tal fans cheered on their he­roes. This was an ex­cit­ing time. The glee, how­ever, proved short-lived as Fabio once again at­tended pot­tery class rather than racing the dig­i­tal mon­sters. This al­lowed Rossi to take third, where he fin­ished his first Vir­tual GP. The race went down to the last cor­ner where Alex Mar­quez made a move on his brother, Marc, to take a much-de­served vic­tory with Marc com­ing in sec­ond. This made Alex the first dou­ble win­ner at this year’s #StayAtHome Vir­tual MotoGP race.

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