CAL ‘I CAN WIN AGAIN’
Inside story of first GP win Why Marquez is ‘a freak’ + Cavendish on Cal
He may have won the Brno Motogp race and ended the UK’S 35-year wait for a premiere class win, but it was back with a bump for Cal Crutchlow when he returned home after his historic win.
While you’d expect the partying to have only just stopped and the phone ringing off the hook for interviews, that’s not what MCN found when we visited him at his Isle of Man home.
There were no signs of celebration when we arrived, instead we found Cal thoroughly engaged in the act of changing baby Willow Crutchlow’s nappy, already back and fully into the swing of domestic life at home with wife Lucy, his daughter and semi-adopted son and fellow Motogp rider Jack Miller!
“It’s strange – apart from answering a load of messages and stuff like that, I haven’t really thought about it since getting home! It does feel different, and I’ve waited a long time to be able to win a race, but it’s nice that when I get home nothing changes. Lucy and I are just the same, the house is just the same with an added trophy, and it’s been straight back into the routine of having a threeweek old baby. She doesn’t even realise that I’ve just won a race after 35 years!”
However, while it might have been a hugely significant result both for Crutchlow and for the UK, coming nearly four decades since Barry Sheene last achieved the feat, the Coventry native admitted that the historical impact of the win was less important than the personal satisfaction that he was able to take from it.
“I never look at statistics – if I did I’d be demoralised! But I’ve thought about it a lot – about being the first British winner. I wanted to be that guy, because I’ve been the guy that did the most in Motogp in this era, apart from Niall Mackenzie or Jeremy Mcwilliams maybe. With the podiums I’ve had, sure they haven’t been the same amount as Valentino Rossi or Marc Marquez, but I’ve had more satellite podiums than most people in the modern era, and it’s nice to finally be one of the winners too. Jack did it in great circumstances in Assen, so obviously I had to pull my finger out too!
“I’ve only looked at one statistic that was pointed out to me this week, that I’m the only rider to win in British Supersport, British Superbike, World Supersport, World Superbike and now Motogp. That in my eyes is a great achievement, and that’s pretty great. Even if someone else does it now, I’ll still be the first to have done it! It’s nice to be able to put that one in the memory bank – but really, does it change anything? No. But I still feel great that I’ve managed to achieve it.
“I’ve worked hard for it. I’m never a guy to blow smoke up my own arse, and I’m always the first one who when I make mistakes, I apologise to the people around me. I don’t want it to sound wrong when I say it, but I think I deserve it because I’ve worked so hard for it. Along with other people of course, my wife, Lucy has been in this since I was in BSB and all the way to now, and she’s seen all the highs and all the lows.
“There have been some lows too. I was the guy who moved from World Superbikes to Motogp. In the first year, I was fast, but I had no clue what I was
doing. Even now, I have no idea half the time. I have to think to myself ‘what am I even doing here with the best guys in the world?’ But it’s sheer determination that makes me competitive. I can understand the bike I’m riding very well, but that doesn’t mean I can ride it fast – I have to force myself to do that, unlike the other guys.
“I’m not the most naturally talented, but I don’t say that to big myself up – I say that because it’s the complete and absolute truth. I’m a lot more naturally talented football player than motorbike racer – because when I was growing up I rode my bicycle around the streets all day and played football all night. I was a lot more natural at that until I started to ride a bike at thirteen.”
And to make the win even more deserving for the Brit is the fact that it comes on the Honda, a machine acknowledged as one of the most difficult-to-ride bikes that the Japanese firm have produced in recent years.
Slow on top speed, corner exit and acceleration, the result is that the riders are having to often exceed the limits under braking to close the gap – something that Crutchlow admits might work for Marquez but doesn’t always work for him.
“I thought it was going to be easier than it has been, but I should have known from watching how hard it was going to be this year. Everyone wants to be around a factory Honda, because of how it’s assembled, how it looks – it’s a Honda. But riding it isn’t easy this year.
“But it’s difficult to say anything negative about the bike or the package if you crash, make a mistake, have a bad race – because Marc (Marquez) is leading the championship by 50 points! But you have to see the reality - Marc is a freak of nature. There are only two riders I’ve ever seen like that, to have speed, talent, consistency and to be able to ride something that shouldn’t be able to do what they make it do, and that’s him and Casey.”
And while some have said in the aftermath of Crutchlow’s win that only a lucky guess on tyre choice overrode the difficulty of the bike and the skill of his opponents to hand him the win, he’s quick to shoot back at his critics, saying not only was it not a fluke but that he believes he can do it again.
“There is always that guy saying ‘you wouldn’t have won if this person had been faster on the day, or this person did this on the day.’ That’s the way it is, and I feel great for what we’ve managed to achieve on the day.
“We’ve seen that it’s possible to win races though, and my next goal now is to win another. Do I think that it’s achievable? Yes, given that I’ve already nearly won two before. It just has to be under the right circumstances. If you’re only on a satellite machine, you have to be on really good form. You basically have to be having the best day of your life.”
Crutchlow’s win means that he heads into the British Grand Prix having won the previous race, something no other British rider has done since Mike Hailwood went to the Isle of Man TT as the winner of the Ulster Grand Prix 50 years ago in 1966.
“I thought I would get to Silverstone as a winner, but I thought the chance was a few years ago and not now – but to do it the weekend before builds the hype and builds the anticipation! The problem is that the fans expect you to do it again that weekend, and it’s not as simple as that! Of course I’ll try my hardest like I do for every single Silverstone, but it’s not that easy.”
“The funny thing is, I’ve never had to prove myself for a job or to the fans, and I need to prove myself even less now I’m in that select group of Motogp winners. I don’t feel any pressure to go to Silverstone to do it again; I’ve waited six years to do it and the chance of it happening straight away is quite unlikely. That doesn’t mean I don’t get up in the morning and think that I can’t do it again though! It won’t be easy but I’ll give it my best.”
But while that exceptional performance that he says a rider needs to deliver on race day may only come around once in a handful of races, there is one piece of good news going into the British GP, as Cal admits that he’s had that same feeling at Silverstone before – right up until Jack Miller knocked him out of fourth position last year.
“If there was one race that I thought I could have won before now though, it was Silverstone last year. I had one of those moments where I felt like I was floating; one of those perfect days. It feels like you’re looking at yourself from above; if you ask any top sports person after a perfect result, they’re picturing themselves out of themselves.
“I had one of them at Brno, but I had it at Silverstone last year too. I felt great, and then Jack was on top of me! I was upset afterwards, but that’s how it was. I can’t change the result afterwards and Jack didn’t mean to knock me off. I felt like last year was going to be a very good result, but we’ll try again this year, and going in as a race winner is something very special.”
‘If there was one race that I thought I could have won before, it was Silverstone’ CAL CRUTCHLOW ‘Of course I’ll try my hardest like I do for every single Silverstone, but it’s not that easy’