“In the end I have given it my all 100-percent, but I don’t think I’m finished yet. My motivation is very high for 2020.”
By Eric Johnson
Cal Crutchlow arrived in MotoGP in 2011 and ultimately managed to score Rookie of the Year honours as a member of the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 outfit.
Tech3 Yamaha was where Crutchlow raced to his first podium finishes and pole positions with the French-managed team before moving over to the Ducati Team for 2014.
Signing up to race for LCR Honda the year after, Crutchlow’s greatest glory came in 2016 when he rode to a stunning victory in the wet at rain lashed Brno – the first British MotoGP Grand Prix winner in 35 years – and then followed that up with another win at Phillip Island, Australia.
Top Independent Team rider in 2016 and a podium finisher once again in 2017, Crutchlow remained with the LCR team in both 2018 and 2019 where the Englishman, despite starting off strong during the first half of the ‘19 season (Cal hit the podium three times), placed an off-song ninth overall in the MotoGP World Championship.
So now it is the very tail end of the month of April and MotoGP, as it is with virtually every other form of motor racing at the time being, has yet to hold the first race of the year. And Cal Crutchlow wants to get things rolling.
With MotoGP 2020 still out in the pandemic wilderness, Cal, along with wife Lucy and young daughter Willow, found their way out of England and in recent weeks, have been bed down in the outskirts of San Diego, California waiting for Dorna to tell him where to go next. On Sunday evening, this writer tracked down Crutchlow who was, for the most part, in a Golden State of mind.
“We’re doing good,” said the good spirited HRC pilot of his California walkabout. “We’re just trying to buckle down and hide from the coronavirus. We’re down near Santa Fe Springs and I’m glad you called.”
Cal, you mentioned in your text to me that you’re here holding station in Southern California. I thought you were back in the United Kingdom.
“Yeah, we’re down here in Rancho Santa Fe, California. As soon as they cancelled the first race, Eric, I said to Lucy, ‘The first race is going to be Austin, so let’s go to California because when the race happens, we’ll already be there.’ So we came here then, so we’ve been in California since before Austin. It’s been over a month now, at least. We’re down in San Diego, we have our house here and we’re enjoying the weather as much as possible and we’re really happy because we have a bit of land here. Lucy and Willow are not going out at the moment. They’re sort of on a lockdown thing. Willow can still go outside and she’s got the pool. Her and Lucy are here and hanging out and very happy, so that is good.”
What have you been up to as far as keeping occupied, motivated and burning time off the clock? I know you’re an avid cyclist…
“Well, I’ve been very, very lucky in that I’ve still been able to go out and cycle! As you know, that’s all I do. I enjoy to ride my bicycle and spend hours in the saddle over the week and here in California because we are able to go outside and I’ve been riding alone and keeping my distance from others. As you said, Eric, there is no set plan to go back to racing, so you just have to maintain. We just have to take it as it comes. I think there are more important things in the world at the moment than worrying about motorcycle racing. Having said that, we have to make sure that we are in good shape if it suddenly comes to the time that we’ll race in a few months, or towards the end of the season.”
What do you think my man? Will we get some MotoGP racing in this approaching summer or fall?
“I hope so. I really hope so. I think the FIM, Dorna and IRTA, the International Racing Teams Association, are doing a great job in regards to the situation, the rules for the bikes at the moment have been frozen so development can’t carry on, which has been completely fair for all the teams and all the manufacturers. And I think, and as I said, Dorna are doing a great job with keeping us up to date with what’s going on; they’ve been keeping us up to date with the local governments and other situations. I do think we’ll get some racing in towards the end of the season. I really hope we can and I hope we can get to racing that the fans can see, as well, but we have to make sure that it is safe to do so. If we have 200,000 people come out to an event, everyone needs to be safe before we think about opening up the doors. We race and we’re in the entertainment business. We’re in the entertainment business and there is nothing we like more than to race and to entertain the crowd at the circuits. Hopefully, we can get the racing underway, and once we do, the fans can come as well.”
While locked down in So. Cal., have you been in close communication with Honda and the LCR Castrol Honda race team?
“Yes, I keep in close contact with my team and with my manufacturer and HRC and I’m constantly speaking to all the members of the LCR Castrol Honda Team. I’m constantly talking with HRC and all the bosses in Japan to keep up with the situation and to keep positive about the situation, as well. Also, on the other hand, I’ve been speaking to my sponsors. I keep in daily contact with the people at Monster Energy (located in Corona, California) and I’ve spoken to Rodney as well (Monster Energy CEO). I mean it’s important in these times. Although they sponsor us to be in MotoGP, they are also great people and great friends and it’s nice to be able to check on them as well and make sure that things are well. What we can do for them during this time is to keep promoting and keeping the excitement going so that when we are able to start racing again. I like that type of thing and I like being competitive in all ways.”
There was some talk of you retiring in 2020. I spoke with Jonathan Rea a few days back and he too appeared to be contemplating retirement, however when the coronavirus pandemic hit and Jonathan made it back home to Northern Ireland to wait it all out, he wasn’t too stoked to be doing something close to nothing. Thoughts? I mean could this clampdown be something of a retirement “test” for you?
“Ah, I don’t know… I mean with regards to my situation, I’m happy with what I’ve done, I’m happy with what I achieved, I’m having a great career that I’ve enjoyed. It could have been better, it could have been worse, but in the end I have given it my all 100-percent, but I don’t think I’m finished yet. My motivation is very high. Even at the end of last year I also said I could continue in 2021 and I feel like I’m in a good position to do so motivated and the want to be able to continue is there, so I don’t think this break has changed anything in that aspect because we’re already talking to Honda about renewing even before we went racing this year. We’ll see how it turns out this year.”
You were termed as something of a test mule during the MotoGP pre-season tests. In fact, you did 64 laps at the Sepang test alone. How did you feel? How did the motorcycle feel?
“Well, I think Honda made a step in regards to the engine and the electronics on the engine. We had a little issue with the turning of the bike and in Qatar we finally found something that was maybe making the turning a little bit worse than last year, but that’s what it’s about: doing laps around the track every chance and giving information to Honda and the engineers there, who are very, very clever and work very, very hard for us. All of this is very important and very key to improving the bike and doing a lot of laps. For some people, testing can be not beneficial and doing too much might not be beneficial, but I feel I find the good balance with the guys with doing enough, but not too much. I can still give good information and give feedback to them and make sure that they get that information. I’ve always been the guy to test a lot over the years. Yeah, we just try our best. No doubt. Yes, I’m ready to go. My ankle feels good. I feel good. I feel trained enough. I feel healthy enough and ready to go when they say go. But on the other hand, we know that we’re not racing for a couple of months and you need to take the time right now to do things. As I said, you have to maintain your health and enjoy yourself a little bit, as well, in this period. Parts of it have been great. Willow loves ice cream and I love ice cream. We enjoy ice cream, but I’ll be ready to go when they say go, no doubt.”
Hey, I always wanted to ask you about this… Mike Hailwood, Geoff Duke, John Surtees, Barry Sheene, Phil Read an all of the spectacular history and success that is English MotoGP, does that stuff matter to you? Do you ever think about it?
“No, not really. Obviously, I know how important it was. When I say not really, I mean that I don’t look at the statistics. I just try and do my best week-in and week-out. To finally be the guy that got the win after 35 years was a great achievement. It was something that will go down in the history books. Barry Sheene won 35 years before, I was number 35 and it took 35 years to get it.”