Zeelenberg: "Crutchlow Can Be As Good As Spies"

Since Cal Crutchlow announced that he will be moving to MotoGP for 2011, to race with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, the old question of whether World Superbike riders can be fast on a MotoGP bike has raised its head. Ben Spies has certainly shown that he has been capable of being competitive since switching to MotoGP, but many people believe that this is down to Spies' exceptional talent, which he so clearly demonstrated by winning the World Superbike title at his first attempt, racing on tracks he had never seen before.

The comparisons with Spies are inevitable, as Crutchlow struggles on the bike that Spies was so dominant on, with both fans and parts of the media voicing their belief that Crutchlow has not yet shown that he deserves a shot in MotoGP. Crutchlow's former manager, and the man who helped him win the World Supersport title at his first attempt, disagrees.

Wilco Zeelenberg, currently managing Jorge Lorenzo to his first MotoGP World Championship, told MotoMatters.com that he believes Crutchlow will do just as well in MotoGP as Ben Spies has done. "I think Cal can be just as good as Ben," Zeelenberg said. The Dutchman said that what had impressed him most about Crutchlow was his temperament. "Cal has the right attitude," Zeelenberg told us, "He's a real racer."

There were clear differences between the Spies and Crutchlow, though. "I think Cal is capable of qualifying faster than Ben, but Ben is probably a bit stronger in racing," Zeelenberg said. The Dutchman pointed out that Crutchlow's performance this year was being disguised by the improvements in the other teams. "Cal has been faster at just about every track than Ben was last year," Zeelenberg commented, "It's just that the other teams have made a bigger step forward."

Zeelenberg also highlighted the risks for Crutchlow as he entered MotoGP, pointing to the experiences of the young British rider's current teammate. Zeelenberg pointed out that James Toseland had qualified 2nd on the grid in his first MotoGP race, just a quarter of a second off polesitter Jorge Lorenzo. However, a couple of big crashes during testing for 2009 had effectively ended Toseland's hopes of staying in MotoGP, sapping the confidence that is so vital for a rider at the very top of the class. If Crutchlow can avoid making that kind of mistake, Zeelenberg is fully confident that the young Briton will be fast right from the start.

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from Wilco that might add some unneeded pressure on the young man. Then again, Zeelenberg knows him fairly well and that could be just exactly what he needs. Time will tell. I'm looking forward to it, I think he's got the talent to do well. I wish him well.

What specific variety of confidence makes a consistent winner. Clearly there are some people very confident in their ability such that being on the 'wrong' equipment is their only bar from glory. Something else usually still separates them from the top.

Confidence is crucial, but so is keeping young enthusiasm in check (to a degree). Jorge is a much better rider now that he has settled down. Let us not forget how much time he spent getting off the bike when he first arrived at the big show (a famously photographed high-side-cartwheel-ankle-breaking event in China comes to mind.) Cal appears to have the demeanor required to balance confidence and enthusiasm, and I think he'll do well. Perhaps he might not do as well as Ben has, but quite respectable nonetheless.

He mentioned in a press conference w/ the Miller Motorsports Park people that he would be seeking advice from Spies and Edwards (if he remains at Tech3).

If he goes in with the same mentality as Ben did then that's a good thing.

that MotoGP was a time trial.

Wilco sounds like he is reading out of Puig's playbook. For an X-racer he should know better. There is much more to racing than lap-times (which at many times Cal was NOT faster than Spies). "CC is capable of faster qualifier, but Spies is a bit stronger in racing"...hmmm..what's more important?

How about track conditions, bike & tire developement since 2009? By this time in '09 Spies had 388 points to CC's 218.

More importantly, what about racecraft? If CC is "all that" why has he only won 2 races? Wow..he's a "real racer"..how unique.

Comparisons from year to year between riders is as misleading as comparisons between era's. Sadly, WZ's "big-ing up" CC more likely portends Toseland like outcomes, we'll see.

What's more important? I'd say that they both play big roles.

Look at MotoGP this year - if someone like Pedrosa qualifies on the front row, let alone P1, then it's almost inevitable that they will get a flying start, lead the race for the first lap and stay there until the end.

So... what's more important?

Thats were you get points in case you didn't know. Besides your great qualifier CC has converted 4 poles into..1 win. If pole plays such a "big role" why didn't he win at all 4?

If qualifying is SO important..how did Pedrosa come from 5th to win Indy?

In addition CC is out qualifying geriatrics on weekend passes from the home...Biaggi, Haga, Checa, Corser, Xaus etc. With age comes wisdom &..CAUTION.

I do know that the race is where riders get points, thanks. Looks like you missed the point completely... I didn't say that qualifying is SO important. History shows that good qualifying and good race day performance are what's needed to consistently win championships.

The point is - that there is no point in having one at the expense of the other.

there is NO relationship with qualifying well against washed-up old guys in another series to how Spies is qualifying at tracks he has never seen against MUCH faster competition.

Further, Rossi (& others) have oft times found "something" raceday & gone on to finish much higher in the race than qualifying would suggest.

It is called "qualifying practice" for a reason...they are still working on setup DURING qualifying & usually only go for a "flyer" late in the sesson. What if a rider is blocked & is really much faster than his time suggests? He could start a few rows back & pass...it has actually happened.

Zeelenburg's comment surely can't be taken as put-down to Spies' qualifying anyway...he is just trying (unsuccessfully) to make a specious (no pun) argument for his rider; who'll I'll wager will NOT see a front row qualifying next year.

After all, he is Cal's agent and got him the MotoGP deal. An agent should be talking about his clients like that. If your agent doesn't believe in you, no one will.


,, a bit of a let-down in WSBK after all the hype,, especially after his great run in WSS. Fast on occasion, but if you can't string 18+ fast laps in a row, then it doesn't matter how you qualify. I still see struggles for 10th place in his first GP year.

exactly. in the MMP conference crutchlow could not go for 5 minutes without mentioning wilco in a positive light. i don't want to downplay crutchlow's skills but i think everyone can truthfully say they were surprised when the tech3 crutchlow move was announced...

He's dreaming. CC is fast but I don't think he has shown any where near the same level of skills that that Spies has. Good luck to him, but I think he will get a shock.

That's hilarious. One of the standouts from the miller WSBK round was a question posed to Cals team manager via one of the announcers before the race. When asked what the main difference was between Cal & James vs Spies, he said that Spies was much smoother with his control inputs where James and Cal were more abrupt with the brakes and throttle. I think that tidbit of info says a whole lot to the difference between the riders.

I wonder how Ben feels about WZ's comments?


probably doesn't give a flying fuel injector what Wilco says. ;)

I'm going to assume WZ felt the need to defend his boy after all the "how will you do compared to Spies", "Can you match Spies' record...", etc.

Cal would probably prefer WZ not harsh the paddock before he gets there, however.

Well, come on now. It's obvious that Cal is a WSBK champion that dominated the entire field of more experienced riders in his rookie year by also setting the pole position record and now is moving into MotoGP with a lot of confidence...oh wait, no, that was Spies. Yes, right. Well the world is full of big mouths isn't it?

Ben came over to Europe and didn't know the tracks and kicked ass. What's CC's excuse? Crutchlow wins two races in WSB and now he's Moto Gp material? This smells of a bad BBC plot.

Given the circumstances, unfortunately, Cal is going to be compared to Ben and theres not much Cal can do about.

I believe Cal is a quick rider and look forward watching him in GP. Reading his comments, theres something about him that reminds me of Casey... so let's see if rides like Casey, too...agressively on the limit.

I  held a bit of a clean up, and deleted some of the least constructive comments. I'm sure we'll see exactly how good Crutchlow is soon enough next year.

Cal faster than Spies at most tracks this year? I would never have even thought that, I guess he's right about the other teams making more progress than Yamaha.

I think it's been mentioned in a previous interview - but whoever was going to come into the Yamaha WSBK squad after Spies was always going to have a tough gig.

Thats the most ridiculous interview ive read in a while. What an asshat he is. You simply cant compare Spies to any of these guys really. Everyone in the paddock from what I have read think he was a beast. I dont get the energy, intention, or race focus that I got from Spies.

What it is right now he's guaranteed to not win the championship, says he doesnt like the R1(remember not winning championship), but think the R6 is the best bike ever (note:championship title won on it).

I think people should shut up and let the racing speak for itself. Especially managers.

Well see how Crutch goes next year wont we.... :/

Cal has proven that he is a great rider. Ben has proven that he is something a bit special and a cut above, probably in the order of Vale, Jorge, Casey and this year, Dani.

As someone has already said, it's virtualy impossible to compare riders that aren't on the similar machines on the same track on the same day.

Only time will tell us whether Cal can step up his game (and he needs to) to match Ben's performance. I wish him well. Lord knows MotoGP needs more competitive riders.