Cal Crutchlow Interview, Part 1: On The 2019 Honda RC213V, Marc Marquez, And How To Beat Him

It has been a hard season so far for Cal Crutchlow. The LCR Honda rider started the year uncertain if he would ever be able to walk properly again, after a huge crash at Phillip Island in October 2018 destroyed his right ankle. Then, when he got to the Sepang test, he found the HRC engineers had made the Honda faster, but even more difficult to ride. Despite that, he still ended up on the podium at the first race, and then again at the Sachsenring.

In Austria, I sat down for a long and meandering chat with Crutchlow. The Englishman talks candidly and honestly about his season so far, how good Marc Márquez is, his life at home, and the choice facing him with regards to continuing to race or retiring. He talks about the politics inside the paddock, and the choices he faces in his life after racing.

It was long, and it was fascinating, so the interview will be cut up into three parts, published over the space of two days. Here is part one:

Q: First of all, it feels like you were expecting more from this season.

Cal Crutchlow: The problem is that the expectation is created by myself. But I knew in Malaysia test that it was going to be difficult, honestly speaking, because of my feeling with the bike. That’s not to say Honda have done it the wrong way or anything like that. It was just my personal feeling and opinion with the bike. I was struggling. I could make the lap time. I could be okay, but I couldn’t be what I felt I was last year. Turning the bike, my feeling with the front of the bike.

So already I was a bit sort of started on the back foot with regards to that. I hadn’t ridden the bike in the previous two tests, so I gave them no information. I never said to them that feeling, nor did the others. Then when we all got to Qatar for the test, I again felt the same, and so did Marc and Jorge. They said that they had the similar feeling to me.

I do think it has improved a little bit. I think you get used to it. Maybe it’s not like, we’ve brought something and suddenly it’s got better. They’ve tried many, many things to improve that area. But for Marc it feels okay. For me I still feel not fantastic with it, but I can ride. I can make the podium. I can do a good job. But I don’t think I’m as fast as I could be if I had a better feeling with the bike. What works for one guy or a couple of guys doesn’t always work for another.

So I don’t think in any way that I definitely didn’t expect to go to Qatar and start on the podium, but I did. I was 14th in the morning warmup. I was in Q1. I was feeling the same always, bad, what I felt already. Then suddenly I made a podium. So I thought, maybe there is a possibility to be up there. Then I went to Argentina, again second-fastest guy on the circuit to Marc, but I jumped the start. Then we went to Texas. Still all with the same feeling. The thing is in Argentina we steered the bike with the rear of the bike sliding.

Q: So basically the problem is the feeling from the front?

CC: My feeling is that I don’t turn as well as last year.

Q: Can you describe that?

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Fantastic first part!  Love Cal’s candidness when it comes to the Honda and MM.  

I'm not a Crutchlow fan.  Some of the stuff he says in the press just has me shaking my head.

But that interview was different.  He was very candid and honest about the situation.  That's an enjoyable read; I'll definitely follow the upcoming articles.  Great work, David.

Looking forward to the rest of this! Interesting to see how much data the HRC riders and crew share amongst themselves. Of course for CC the problem is that it works both ways -as he is learning, MM’s knowledge and skills are not standing still either. It takes a special kind of person to rock up time and time again on Sunday knowing that their only serious chance of winning depends on MM making a mistake. Then again, CC isn’t the only one on the grid with that particular problem ;)

I think by now everybody in the paddock recognizes that Marc Marquez is the best there is and ever has been. Dovi has given him the most competition but even Dovi suggests MM is the best. So much so that he searches and searches for unique little strategies to reduce Marquez' native advantages. A good example of that is the last race when Dovi would pull up alongside MM on the main strait and lift to take away the counterattack at the corner. Nobody does that... Regarding CC, I sure wish he didn't fall off as much as he does. I am not a big fan of his, but I still want him to finish his races strong and avoid further injuries.

Major props for Cal "showing up" week after week super competitive with his ankle injury still impeding him and knowing quantitatively he's competing with the greatest racer in MotoGP history (his words; I don't know nearly enough to affirm this.)