With two pre­mier class vic­to­ries un­der his belt, Cal Crutchlow is al­ready the best Bri­tish GP rider since Barry Sheene... FACT!

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Best Brit Racers - By Si­mon Pat­ter­son MO­TOGP RE­PORTER ‘In 2016 Cal showed ex­actly what he’s ca­pa­ble of with two wins in a sea­son’

Cal Crutchlow has been the dom­i­nant Bri­tish pres­ence in the pre­mier class of bike rac­ing since he in­her­ited the man­tle – and a Tech 3 Yamaha – from James Tose­land in 2011, al­ready se­cur­ing a podium record that makes him the best Brit since Barry Sheene nearly four decades ago.

And while that is some­thing to rel­ish for the Coven­try na­tive, it was 2016 when Cal showed ex­actly what he’s ca­pa­ble of, over­com­ing a dif­fi­cult-to-ride Honda RC213V to take a tac­ti­cal vic­tory in the wet at Brno and then to back it up with a stun­ning dry win at Phillip Is­land.

With two wins in a sea­son – an im­pres­sive feat in it­self for a satel­lite rider (the last per­son to do that was Marco Me­landri back in 2005), he’s now firmly in the his­tory books as the best Bri­tish racer of his gen­er­a­tion and po­ten­tially even one of Bri­tain’s best ever rac­ers con­sid­er­ing who he beat on his way to those two won­der­ful wins.

But the LCR Honda rider is quick to down­play his suc­cess, say­ing that records and his­tory aren’t what mo­ti­vates him to go rac­ing. Of course, that might change once he re­tires and re­flects on his glit­ter­ing ca­reer. But for now he in­sists: “I’m not in Mo­togp 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 get 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.

“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.”

Part of that, though, might have come from a very dif­fer­ent set of pri­or­i­ties for Crutchlow this sea­son, as he and wife Lucy be­came par­ents to daugh­ter Wil­low just ahead of his Brno win – some­thing he ad­mits put rac­ing mo­tor­bikes and win­ning races into fo­cus.

“I’m lucky to have had Lucy with me for so many years. I al­ways have my feet on the ground. I don’t drive a Fer­rari – even though I could – and hav­ing a kid set­tles you down even more. I won in Aus­tralia and on the last lap I was hon­estly think­ing ‘f**k, those two are not here’ be­cause they were trav­el­ling to Malaysia to see me and were on the plane as I won the race. I’d won, but I was dis­ap­pointed they weren’t there. Your mind­set changes.

“If it was just Lucy and me there then I would have been much more ec­static than I was. The first thing you think is ‘I hope they landed OK.’ The win was the win and once I knew they were OK then I kind of en­joyed things a bit more - well, I went straight to the air­port to get the plane to

Malaysia. Things and your pri­or­i­ties in life change. Win­ning the race in Brno… I think do­ing that three years ago would have felt a lot dif­fer­ent to now. The feel­ing was noth­ing com­pared to when Wil­low was born. We know we are lucky.

“I be­lieve that a lot of the guys here don’t have kids firstly be­cause they can­not hold down a se­ri­ous girl­friend as they think a re­la­tion­ship af­fects their life. I think those guys also be­lieve a kid would af­fect their ca­reer. I was with Lucy and I was self­ish, but she was will­ing to put up with it. What I don’t un­der­stand is that some have 50 or 60 mil­lion Eu­ros in the bank, so why be so wor­ried about win­ning again? Mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ers are self­ish, me in­cluded.”

And while Crutchlow might have turned around a dis­as­trous start to the sea­son, crash­ing out of the ma­jor­ity of the first half of the year as he tried in vain to tame an RC213V that was miss­ing its ad­vanced elec­tronic con­trols, he still be­lieves that his ac­tual per­for­mance never changed.

“At the start of the year I hon­estly be­lieve 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 when 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… but I wasn’t rid­ing bad.

“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…’

“Ev­ery­body was say­ing it. It’s like 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 [round six, af­ter three DNFS, a 16th and an 11th in the pre­ced­ing races]. I rode around be­cause Lu­cio came to me be­fore and said ‘you have to fin­ish.’”

But while the al­ways self-con­fi­dent 31-year-old might have main­tained his own be­lief in him­self dur­ing a rocky start to the sea­son, he found some of the back-stab­bing crit­i­cism hard to take – even if the feel­ing in­side the pad­dock was dif­fer­ent.

‘At the start of the year I hon­estly be­lieve I was rid­ing bet­ter than I was at the end’ ‘My pace was good at that time and for what­ever rea­son it wasn’t con­vert­ing into re­sults’

“Even at the time of the poor re­sults I was still in line for the fac­tory ride if Pe­drosa was not go­ing to stay be­cause HRC know my po­ten­tial on the bike. There is no­body else – apart from Marc and Dani – that has the same po­ten­tial on this bike. They want to pro­mote younger rid­ers and the guys com­ing up like Bas­tian­ini, but put them on my bike and you’ll see how hard it is.

“It is not the same as jump­ing on the Yamaha and I think Zarco and Fol­ger will do al­right. I’d love to pick up the likes of Pol and Bradley put them on this bike and see where they’d fin­ish be­cause I know about the pack­age they had at Tech 3; I rode it. Dani is good be­cause he has been there so many years and he un­der­stands it. Marc is just a freak; he doesn’t re­ally un­der­stand it that much, he’s just fast. I don’t think there is any­body else who can do a bet­ter job than me on the Honda.

“I think the me­dia un­der­stand sit­u­a­tions and rac­ing a lit­tle bit whereas fans are com­pletely dif­fer­ent. It’s like foot­ball; they’ll sup­port you if you’re win­ning but if you’re los­ing they don’t give a s**t. I’m not talk­ing about ev­ery­body be­cause they are many great fans out there and who will be loyal no mat­ter how many times you crash or have bad re­sults: they’ll al­ways be your fan.

“But then you have the peo­ple who say ‘he’s use­less, fin­ished, blah, blah’ and then you win and they want a selfie and a hug. You have to be able to ac­cept that. Peo­ple will ei­ther like me or they don’t but I tell the truth…and that’s the truth. Un­less it comes from my close-knit group of peo­ple – my wife, Chris­tian, Bob, my old man­ager, my friend Jake, my team – when they say I am not do­ing some­thing right or I’m up­set­ting peo­ple then at the end of the day what oth­ers say or think does not af­fect my life one bit.”

Now that he’s tasted suc­cess in Mo­togp, you wouldn’t ex­pect any less of such an ul­tra-mo­ti­vated per­son as Crutchlow than to go out and try even harder for more wins. But, with no huge change in his strat­egy go­ing into the 2016 sea­son, it may be a case of wait and see what’s pos­si­ble once the new cham­pi­onship kicks off again.

“I won a race – two – which is more than four or 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. Ev­ery­one aims to win the cham­pi­onship but the re­al­ity is that it’s go­ing be dif­fi­cult for me.

“I aim to win a race ev­ery year but I said to my­self ‘this year I re­ally want to have one’ and 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 I was rid­ing strong – but I was not rid­ing a good bike. I should have won when I was at Tech 3 but I had to wait a bit longer.

“I feel that I can stop right now and be happy. Will I? I don’t know. If I wake up and de­cide I don’t want to do it any more then I won’t.”

Cal’s wet wether win at Brno was the first elite­class GP win for a Brit since Sheene’s in 1981

Just look at Cal’s eyes to see the fo­cus re­quired to ride a Mo­togp bike

A tricky Pop­mas­ter ques­tion leaves Cal bam­boo­zled

Wil­low’s ar­rival has given Cal a new set of pri­or­i­ties in life and helped his fo­cus

“What the hell has hap­pened to that cat’s tail?” Cal is still ad­just­ing to Manx life

A close-fought bat­tle saw Cal take the WSS ti­tle from Eu­gene Laverty

Mo­togp suc­cess at­tracts even more race ad­mir­ers

Cal took six podi­ums with Tech 3 Yamaha

Af­ter some WSB suc­cess on the R1, Cal made the move to Mo­togp in 2011

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