The Candid Cal Crutchlow Interview, Part 2 - On Morale, Following Rossi's Example, And Being A Factory Rider

It has been a very tough year for Cal Crutchlow. Coming off the high of 2013, the year in which he scored four podiums, finished fifth in the championship, and looked certain to score his first win in MotoGP, his season in Ducati has been a massive challenge. Technical malfunctions, crashes, and a battle to find a way around the chronic understeer which plagues the Desmosedici. Crutchlow lingers in the middle of the pack, not fighting at the sharp end. This was not the season which Crutchlow had envisaged when he signed for Ducati.

In the first part of the interview with Crutchlow, published on Monday, he spoke of his battle to adapt to the Ducati, and of the 2014 season being his toughest year so far. He continues the theme in this, the second part of the interview, where he discusses his struggle to maintain his morale through the darkest part of his career, when the results refuse to come. And in the final part of the interview, he talks about how mental strength is the decisive factor in motorcycle racing, and discusses Jack Miller's ascent to MotoGP. I'm glad you mentioned morale, because that was something I wanted to ask you about. Last year, when we talked about Cal Crutchlow, it was about when you were going to win your first MotoGP race. Compare that to this year, and it's not, are you going to win, but are you going to get into the top ten. That must be very tough mentally.

Cal Crutchlow: Yes, it's demoralizing. The worst thing for me is, I take it personally, as in I think that I'm not doing something right. I mean, obviously, it's true, I'm not doing something right, but when I go home, I'm hard on myself. When I go out training, I train harder. For no reason, because it's nothing to do with that.

You know, I do sit there and think, you're getting paid a lot of money to finish behind a lot of guys who are not getting paid anywhere near as much as you. But I still feel I earned it, I earned my place in the factory team. And it's demoralizing for me to think, you know, it's OK to say, just go faster, but I can't. I'm not saying I don't know how, if I could go faster, I would. People are like, why can't you beat that guy, why can't you get into the top ten, why can't you be like Andrea Dovizioso or Iannone? If I could, I would, it's as simple as that. I'm not sitting there going, right, I'm having a few weekends off, I'm just going to cruise round.

I was speaking to Lucy [Crutchlow's wife and partner of many years - MM] the other day about it, I think the big turning point for me was Texas when I crashed. I've never been scared of crashing, ever, and I've been on the floor a few times in my career. Not as much as most, if you look at the other guys, I'm nowhere near the top of the list. This year, I've had a lot less crashes this year than I had last year or the year before. I also believe it's because I'm not taking the risks I was before, because my confidence has been knocked from that crash in Texas so much that I don't take the risks that I used to.

MM: Next year, you're going to be on a different bike. One of the most important things is going to be rebuilding your confidence. And again, learning a different bike. How do you find confidence? Does changing bike give you an automatic confidence boost? Does that eliminate one variable from the mental equation?

CC: I think there's a lot gone on in the background this year that's made my confidence not what it used to be. Not just riding the bike, the stuff off the track that's been going on, it's not been easy. I think that with the right team around you, and a good bike under you, you can get it back in an instant.

Because, sure, I look at Valentino [Rossi] and think, he went from being the same as what I am at Ducati really – don't get me wrong, he had some great podiums over the two years – but he also didn't have the best results over the two years, and then he went and won the last race at Misano. So I take confidence from that. Don't get me wrong, I'm not Valentino Rossi, I'm not a nine-time world champion. I don't say I'm like him, I don't say that I ride like him, I don't say that we're the same people, but I take encouragement to think that you can come back with no real problem. Because he came back and made the podium immediately in Qatar last year. And he was strong, he wasn't strong all throughout the year, but he was strong at the right times. He learned again throughout the year, and now he's as strong as ever, I believe.

So I do take encouragement from that to be able to come back. And the thing that I keep thinking is, 2011 was a bad year, as we know, but I finished fourth in the last race at Valencia in dodgy conditions, and then next day when we tested, I was second, when we moved to the thousands. That's one good result, and it shows immediately what you're capable of. And I went to the winter tests in Sepang and I was competitive, in the top five in both tests. I went to Qatar and qualified on the front row.

I think it takes one good day on a motorbike, or one good lap, or one good session, just to get, anything. Because at the moment, I've got nothing. I haven't done one good lap where I've thought, that was great. I haven't done one good session. As we were talking about the morale, you just need something to give you the encouragement. As I say, it could be just one good lap, I could put in an amazing lap at the test in Valencia, and feel the best I've ever felt, feel like I felt last year, or something like that. You don't know. But I don't worry – of course, you worry, why am I slow compared to the other guys – but I don't sit there and think, I'm going to finish the same as this next year, no way. Or else why would I carry on riding?

MM: You still believe that you can be competitive?

CC: Oh yes. No doubt about that. Because, why would be here otherwise? Because I could easily stay at home and have an easier life! I think that if I didn't want to be competitive or racing motorbikes, I don't want to be here riding around like I am now. Don't get me wrong, I'm trying my hardest, I'm giving 100%, but it just isn't working. But I don't believe I'll be in that position next year, or else I wouldn't have signed a deal to even stay. I could have done something else with my life that doesn't have the stress, the pressure, or anything else.

But I still believe we have the best job in the world, even when it's tough now, still, coming to a race and riding a motorbike around a track is something else.

MM: You're now a factory rider. Did that mean a lot more work for you, a lot more pressure than you expected, were you prepared for that?

CC: It's a difficult question, because I thought I would come into Ducati on equal terms. And it doesn't necessarily feel that way. But then again, what can I expect? I've chosen to leave, I wasn't getting good results. Ducati as a factory is a phenomenal factory. The people that work there are some of the cleverest guys I've ever worked with. Also on my side of the garage, very very clever with what they do. I've never worked for a team or with a team who work as hard as this, staying up till midnight, 2am. Tech 3, we used to be finished by 5:30pm, and the boys would be out cycling for the evening. These guys, they do not stop working. So there's no doubt the passion is there.

Yes, you could say that things are harder work, you have to do more work. With Herve, I think I did three PR days over three years. Here, it's a completely different story. I believe that I never came into the first part of the season in, I'm not saying the best of moods, that's a strange thing. We had to do a lot of traveling before the season started. We had to go to Germany, then Italy, then we went to Sepang for the test, I went to Italy, then Germany, then back to Italy, then to the Isle of Man, then to Qatar, all successive things. And I believe I needed that time to be focused on racing the bike. But that's to be expected, I'm not complaining about that, that's part of it. I knew it was coming. It's just that it's not the way that I would have preferred it. But don't get me wrong, being in a factory team is special. I work with some great people, I work directly with the people in the factory instead of going through a middle man, as such.

But yeah, I believe that when I was riding for Herve, it was a lot different environment, and probably something that I got too used to, to be honest. I never got mollycoddled by Herve at all, I got told when I was wrong, I got told when I crashed, I got told if I was out of place, but I knew – this is going to sound strange – I knew I was the golden child. But now, you feel the complete opposite. Which, as I said, I don't blame them for. I'm not angry for that, that's the way it works out, but I think with the team I'm going to next year, I think it will be a different atmosphere again. Having Jack [Miller] as my teammate as well, brings the fun back into it, I'm sure, and hopefully we can have a lot more competitive year than this year.

You can read the first part of the interview here. And you can read the final part of the interview here.

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Not one good lap, not one good session... and then, right after the interview, fifth on the grid and third in the race!

I really like Cal and hope he finds success, but I worry that he's setting himself up for disappointment by referencing Rossi's return to Yamaha as an indication of how one can bounce back from a bad stint with Ducati. There's a big difference between taking your whole historically championship winning crew from one factory team BACK to the factory team where you have already won multiple titles and leaving a factory team and crew behind to join a new crew on a satellite team with a bike you have zero experience with. Oh, and it probably helps just a little if you're Valentino F*****g Rossi.

Even with all of these things working in his favor, Valentino's current success required a major change in riding style and (arguably) firing Jeremy Burgess. Again, I wish Cal all the best, but he should probably find more relevant inspiration.

i think Cal references Vale more as an example of an individual being able to return to their former status/position given the right machinery and less as comparison of what he's capable of.

And those rays of optimism are absorbed wholeheartedly by someone in Cal's position. They have to be, it's part of the process.

I understand the need to find hope wherever you can, Cal just seems particularly prone to setting his expectations too high only to be crushingly disappointed. It just seems like it would be easier for him to maintain his morale if he didn't always convince himself that the solution to all of his problems was right around the corner.

It is a shame he didn't get more feeling with the bike earlier. Even though there was a good deal of luck involved in getting on the podium, it was there to see all weekend that he was riding the bike better. Looking back at the race his positioning on the bike, just looked like the guy that rode the wheels off of that tech3. Great guy, very honest, quite funny, I hope next year goes brilliantly.

....he will regret leaving Ducati. I think that 2015 bike+1 year of experience on D16 would put Cal exactley where he belonges. At the sharp end. Not shure that LCR can provide so competitive bike as next years Duc in a factory team will (most probably) be.

In a way, I hope to be wrong, on the other side, i would like to see a competitive D16.

The trouble is, once your team know you've lost trust in them they lose trust in you, and there's rarely any way back from there. If Cal had stayed at Ducati I'd say he'd have been treated as number 2 to Dovi, and be told to shut up and take the check. Sometimes you have to do the wrong thing just to keep your self-respect.

....he lost confidance and left Ducati as soon as he could. But IMHO he should resist the temptation. If we compare the situation with Valentinos a few years back, Rossi pushed trough both years, and never has he seen such progress as this years bike has been developed. IMHO Rossi would not have left Ducati in this exact situation, with improving bike and Dall'igna on board. But Cal felt insicure and left despite Dovis podiums.

Is there any other rider in the paddock that is more self-conscious and insecure about how he compares to other riders than Cal? He is incessantly comparing himself to other riders. Just go through any interview with him and simply count the number of times he merely mentions the other riders’ names.

Last year and into this year he makes sure to remind everybody under the sun that he adapted his riding style to be like Jorge’s. At different times last year he (contradictorily) also said he rides like Stoner and Vale as well. This year, he’s made sure to remind everybody that Dovi had problems on the Duc his first year just like him, and that if he had a second year on the Duc he’d definitely be doing better too just like Dovi. He complains he can’t lean the bike over as far as Dovi and Iannone. It’s just one comparison after another.

Just in this interview alone look at how many times he dwells on his standing compared to other riders:

“I've never been scared of crashing, ever, and I've been on the floor a few times in my career. Not as much as most…”

“You know, I do sit there and think, you're getting paid a lot of money to finish behind a lot of guys who are not getting paid anywhere near as much as you. But I still feel I earned it, I earned my place in the factory team.….People are like, why can't you beat that guy, why can't you get into the top ten, why can't you be like Andrea Dovizioso or Iannone?“

“Because, sure, I look at Valentino [Rossi] and think, he went from being the same as what I am at Ducati really….”

Then to admit that you can’t handle having an established teammate like Dovi and that you essentially need to have a rookie as a teammate (like Bradley Smith at Tech 3 and soon-to-be Jack Miller at LCR) so you can be the “golden child?” If that doesn’t scream insecure, I don’t know what does. Whether his comparisons to other riders are legit or not is beside the point, it’s the fact he brings it up non-stop. Just be your own person Cal and don’t worry quite so much about the other riders, it’s a little bit pathetic.

"Then to admit that you can’t handle having an established teammate" : I don't know where you got that idea from this interview, but sometimes it's so obvious from peoples post's that they are a fan or do not like the guy. You are obvious part of the 2nd group.

I don't know that you can count that post as being form a 'hater'

I like CC a lot and he's definitely one of the guys I pull for. As we've all seen, when he's in a good mood (fast) he's a very funny, positive guy. But, Herve said he was extremely insecure and that's all I could think about when reading the interview.

I hope he suits the Honda, because it's definitely 'supposed' to be at the same level as the Repsol bike, so, no excuses! and I think Cal's up to podiums and maybe the occasional win.


You have to maybe be a little bit naïve not to read between the lines.

“this is going to sound strange – I knew I was the golden child. But now, you feel the complete opposite. Which, as I said, I don't blame them for. I'm not angry for that, that's the way it works out, but I think with the team I'm going to next year, I think it will be a different atmosphere again. Having Jack [Miller] as my teammate as well…”

But as far as whether I’m a Crutchlow fan or detractor….I don’t hate the guy, I just don’t buy into his BS the way a lot of his fans do. What Cal fans say is “refreshing” about his attitude, I actually find stale and tired. He complains to no end just the same as Stoner and Lorenzo did/do. The only difference is he doesn’t do it in the same whiny, pissy, toddler-like way of Casey and Jorge. He’ll do it with some snark and dry British sense of humor but don’t get it twisted, it’s still the exact same complaining. Casey and Jorge developed reputations as complainers, but Cal has skated by.

And I just find it rather humorous that he feels the need to compare himself against every rider by cherry-picking little tidbits from each rider to say, “Look, I do 'X' exactly like Jorge. I do 'Y' exactly like Vale. I do 'Z' exactly like Dovi. See, I belong in MotoGP because I’m just like those guys.” He always feels the need to compare himself to other riders to justify his existence in MotoGP.

"whiny pissy toddler-like"
I would say that phrase is more likely to describe how you view people than the almost complete strangers (relative to you) that you are talking about.
As for crutchow, he seems to like to share his inner thought processes with whoever wants to hear, in general i enjoy the insight but sometimes i agree that it doesnt really provide anything new.

He also seem to be trying to convince everyone that he should be there, but honestly he doesnt need to do it with words, the pole positions and podiums do a much better job. If they dont come in 2015 on the Honda then all the reasons in the world aren't going to keep him on a competitive bike

This has probably been said before but I'll give it a go.

Based on comments on this site when his move to Ducati was announced, his supporters were divided. Half were hopeful of the (very slowly) rising star that was the Ducati Desmosedici. The others had their head in their hands screaming, "Why? O why?! DEAR GOD WHY?!?!" I count myself among the latter and we were right.

And if it was obvious to a half-dozen Cal Crutchlow supporters, it was probably obvious to the man himself. Therefore his right - but obviously not his ability - to complain should be limited.

That said, Ducati would have made him promises: our machine is being fixed; it's only a matter of time; invest your efforts in us and we will invest in you; etc. Therefore the man retains some ground to protest. Only he should have had them commit to vehicle performance obligations in their contract. Then he would be a much richer man.

You don't suddenly become a slower rider, Cal has had enough to contend with and I think he certainly knew what he was letting himself in for. This may have had an adverse effect on his confidence from the outset with Ducati and who could blame him?
He had no other choice really, he could have stayed with Tech3 and done similar things to 2013 but that takes you nowhere. He'd have been out of a job this year in all probability and still looking for that Honda ride or even accepting a Ducati ride and ending up going through the same thing as this year.
I have every confidence that he'll be up to speed pretty quickly with the Honda, he's a tough cookie and knows what he's up to now!

"He had no other choice really, he could have stayed with Tech3"..

IIRC, Tech3 had a contract with Bradley Smith for MotoGP 2014, and Yamaha wanted Pol Espargaro in Tech3 for 2014.

It may have been 'spun' in some other way, but I don't think Cal had a real chance to stay at Tech3.

Perhaps someone remembers better than I?

Herve said it was Cal's choice whether to stay or not in 2015, but he made that decision the year before when he signed a one year contract rather than two years. Remember? Cal thought he had a deal with Ducati the year before but they backed out. So he signed again with Tech3, but only for one year for 2014. Once he signed for only one year, he effectively was out for 2015.

I also remember Cal's incessant complaints about not having a factory bike, but his bike was capable of poles and podiums. Well he has a factory bike in 2014!

I still would like to know how much closer to a factory bike the Honda will be vs the Tech3. And even if it is the same, he still has much tougher competition to get on the podium. Does anybody think Cal can beat MM93 and DP26 on equal machinery AND beat Jorge and the resurgent Valentino AND beat an ever improving Pol AND I suspect that the Ducatis with their advantages will be right there in the mix as well. And don't forget about Redding on the same bike but already with one year riding that chassis.

My prediction is that a podium will be a very tough target next year (I previously said he will get his ass handed to him) because he will have to change his style again. You can't ride the Honda like you ride the Yamaha and it will take a bit of time. I hope not too much time as I want another competitior at the top fighting with these guys.

Agreed, again - well said Marc1's.

And these come to mind. First that the gap between the front group (Aliens) and the next group (Astronauts?) can close some and this is good. Also that a rider getting into the 2nd race w the Astronauts is of a ton of value. Skipping repeating the gripe re tv coverage here and rearward (grrr!). That race merits consideration on its own terms differentiated from the front eh? Once in a while they pip a podium. Over a longer view a rider can get themselves into a top notch ride from there. Or develop a bike with the factory to get into the front pack. What A.Espargaro and Dovi have done with their respective bikes and teams to solidify being one of the 5 or so Astronauts is amazing! It pains me not getting to see A.Espargaro on a Honda or Yamaha (and perhaps hesitantly also 2015 Duc) - HE has shown, more than anyone else this season, Alien potential based upon his performance on the Fwd Yamaha. That said, if he can put the Suzuki into the same results he has the Fwd Yamaha this season that strikes me as Alien. Both bikes are 3rd pack-ers running 10th to 15th (Pilots?).

The riders dropping out of the 2nd Astro pack like Beautista and Bradl are the flip side of the A. Esoargaros and Dovisiosos. There is not a lot of joy and flourish in the 3rd and 4th pack races. What of all this and Crutchlow? He took a satellite Yamaha (which most would agree was at a greater deficit than the current Tech 3) into the Atronaut to Alien gap. He got on a Factory seat in which he could, theoretically, work with a factory to do that again and it is not working out. He is now getting onto Bradl's bike...currently 9th in the championship. Bradl, along with Smith, is tagging along at the back of the 2nd Astro pack.

Can Cal put Bradl's bike up into the front of the 2nd group with Dovisioso? Will he beat both Tech 3 bikes? Close the gap to the Aliens? Equal his performance with Herve? I think he can. I very much look fwd to watching him battle w Pol Espargaro and co. That Astro pack is its own race, Moto1 perhaps, and I love it!

Cal's manner of speaking in public? No problem w it. I enjoy it. I wish he and more riders could open the 'mouth throttle' even more. Insecure? Some of what others are seeing as insecure I am seeing as a good guy that takes a larger and outside perspective, externalizes rather than tucks things away, 'shows up as himself,' and is real and relational. Besides, is what we want/need now a good PR guy? A future commentator? Nah...give us a RIDER!

Cheers mates!